Cochise County: Fat Mojave Green Rattlesnake Happily Hogs the Trail


It’s summertime, Mojave green (or simply Mojave) rattlesnake time on our southern Cochise County, Arizona, acreage. The fat fellow hogging the trail late this afternoon, though…I mean, wow, that was one well fed reptile, filled to repletion from the buffet of this “rodent bonanza” year.

At least, we’re guessing that’s why the snake was so full. This year of 2015, after a super warm winter unworthy of the name, we’ve seen more pack rats, desert cottontail rabbits, and jack rabbits running around the place than ever before in our homestead’s brief seven year history.

Just how full was he (or she)? Take a look.

Fat Mojave rattlesnake.

Fat Mojave rattlesnake.

Here's looking at you, kid.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

Fortunately, though we’ve already had to terminate two Mojave rattlesnakes this year because they were too close to the house and represented a potentially fatal threat–especially to my disabled wife, whose balance isn’t good and whose eyesight isn’t much better–this Fat Albert of the rattler world was safe, at least for now. Though definitely on our property, he’d positioned himself for a late afternoon sunbath just far enough away from the residence to be cool. Besides, the way his head was pointing, he’d be moving on north, away from us, when he decided he’d been there long enough.

There was one small problem, though. He didn’t mind me circling him quietly at my standard range of fifteen feet, snapping pictures, but I couldn’t safely pass him on the dirt street, either. It’s a one lane track, and he was stretched out across a fair portion of it. I began pondering the brush on either side of the road, wondering how much paint I’d lose if I broke trail with the Subaru Outback.

That wee challenge was met by my stepson; minutes after I braked for the snake, Zach came down the road in his big red Dodge truck. “I’ll be glad to break trail for you,” he said. I immediately took him up on his offer. He’s an expert in this sort of thing; his big, heavy duty work boots made short work of a few dead mesquite branches and we were good to go. Other than lifting its head slightly to track my movement when I was circling it, the pit viper had not moved a muscle. Certainly it was not alarmed, merely digesting in utter contentment.

Once the photos were up on the computer, it became clear that the three foot (more or less) Mojave had ten rattles plus the button, though the base rattle (next to the tail) was partially hidden under the snake’s current coat of skin.

As always, we’ll point out here that the number one easiest way to identify the ultra deadly Mojave (or Mojave green) rattlesnake is by the black and white “coontail” bands on the tail. If those bands are roughly equal in width, the animal is a western diamondback rattlesnake, like the kind that bites Maddie in the classic movie, True Grit. But if the white bands are noticeably wider than the black, you’re looking at a Mojave…which packs a super lethal cobra type of venom or, in certain cases, both “regular” and “hi test” venom.

Greenish tint (not always present) and white bands much wider than black bands, definitely a Mojave rattlesnake.

Greenish tint (not always present) and white bands much wider than black bands, definitely a Mojave rattlesnake.

Why our land supports more Mojave (green) rattlesnakes than any other snake species, we have no idea, but it’s certainly the case. Last year (2014) was an amazing exception in that we didn’t have one snake sighting (on our property) of any sort from the first of January through the end of December. Aside from 2014, however, we’ve never gone without spotting at least three of them on site, plus a few more on the main dirt road that runs up to the highway. In the same area, we may see one nonvenomous (and highly helpful) Sonoran gopher snake per year…occasionally two…and that’s it except for a mountain patch nose snake that came through one year, a rare western diamondback, and once (our first year here) some sort of black snake (probably not a king snake, which will eat rattlers).

We’re like Mojave Central, or at least it seems that way, sometimes. Karma, perhaps? After all, I was raised on a ranch in Montana at the foot of Rattler Hill….

One final note: I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Other sites (though not the scientific sites) discussing Mojave rattlesnakes tend to go on a bit about how the snake is aggressive toward humans. We have not seen that; every Mojave we’ve encountered has been as peaceable as possible. You can’t afford to step on one, of course, or you’re going to get bitten, but that’s a given. Some of the online tales do make it rather clear that the “aggressive” snakes have been pretty seriously alarmed by vehicles coming within inches of running over them or someone deliberately stirring them up just to see what would happen. Well, duh; tread on me and I’ll probably rattle a bit and try to bite you, too.

Which won’t work well for me as I don’t have any teeth, but that’s another story.

"Just chilling, bro.  Don't tread on me!"

“Just chilling, bro. Don’t tread on me!”

If you look closely at the tire tracks, you can see where I backed up the Subaru a bit before getting out of the car to take pictures.

If you look closely at the tire tracks, you can see where I backed up the Subaru a bit before getting out of the car to take pictures.

8 thoughts on “Cochise County: Fat Mojave Green Rattlesnake Happily Hogs the Trail

  1. They used to creep me out, too. I still don’t care to handle them; you would never find me taking on even the most mild mannered nonvenomous snake as a pet. But if I have even a little distance between us, I’m now comfortable with most of them. I’m pretty sure if a man eating rock python (from Africa, but they now have them in Florida) were to show up, I’d get right back into panic mode in a hurry.

  2. You have never seen snake panic, until you see David. He is terrified of them. Went to see Dennis today. He is doing really well. In rehab and weak as a kitten, but mentally sharp today.

  3. I don’t like snakes. Our garden variety black snakes freak me out. One day I was mowing the back yard and one jumped on my foot. Apparently, I disrupted his resting spot. I screamed and he skedaddled.

  4. Since I’m currently living in Florida I’m freaked now about man eating snakes… The one I saw years ago partially exposed under a sidewalk I intended to walk on was bigger around than a softball and brightly colored. No idea what it was or how long… I had a 3 foot alligator to distract me from asking about the snake. The men had its mouth duct taped shut and were going to put it in the pond in front of me. I was going to talk them out of it as I didn’t want to think about alligators in the pond by the cafeteria. Yuçky memory… Don’t remember what they did with the alligator it was at Tampa Bay Downs in the 90’s be a giant gator now yuçky. Walking away from the snake is when I saw 2 guys with gator all taped up…yuçky memories just yuçky snakes, alligators.. I’m an idiot why do I live in Florida? Lol at myself

  5. Becky: I seem to remember you telling me about David’s snake panic. VERY good to hear the Dennis news, especially the part about him being mentally sharp.
    Sha: For whatever reason, black snakes in particular always make me stop and think twice, even at a distance. I’ve never had one show up close enough to jump at my foot, but that would most likely freak me out, too. I do know what you mean about man eating snakes in Florida, not to mention gators, etc. Oh, and malaria packing mosquitoes, yellow fever…wait; am I getting carried away here? I was born in Florida but have always considered it a good state to be FROM. (Not slamming Florida, folks; I’m just one of those fellows who will never be completely comfortable in the tropics.)

    Says the guy who lives in the southern Arizona desert with an amazingly dense population of Mojave green rattlesnakes, the deadliest rattlers in the world. But at least they don’t get as big as Eastern diamondbacks. Yet, anyway….(Cue Twilight Zone music.)

  6. Luckily, I am not overly scared of snakes, and have not been bit by one in spite of frequent walks in tropical forests and stays at my dad’s old ranch where we would find snake shed skin in the bathrooms and closets after a long absence, when I was a kid. My strategy is to use a walking stick, and as an adult I would see snakes at a distance, but not close up as I took walks in the mountain forest. I read somewhere that the thumping of the stick makes them move away… though I don’t know if your huge greenback would have paid attention to my stick…
    The prettiest snake I saw was a green snake that stood straight up in the air about a yard up, some 10 yards from me in a grassy area. Yes, I stopped and breathed deeply, since I often took my kids there… 🙂 locals told me the green snake was poisonous and tended to hang in trees, waiting for prey.


  7. Manny, I do love walking in forest country, but tropical forest? I’m thinking…not so much. Having a pretty green poisonous snake eyeball me from either the grass ahead or a tree overhead would probably not make my day one bit.

    However, today I did get some pictures of what I considered, “The coolest snake ever!” Not green, but pink, a coachwhip or red racer, about 5 feet long. Spotted it drinking from a tiny mud spot underneath a water drip out back, a leaky water valve I need to replace. Don’t have time tonight, but some of those photos will most certainly be featured in my next post. I have 9 Mojave green rattlesnake posts, never a shortage of material for those, but this is the first red racer I’ve ever seen, and it’s very welcome. Turns out it eats all sorts of critters, including rattlers.

    They’re supposedly aggressive if you mess with them, but hey, who isn’t? I don’t believe this one even knew I was there.

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