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.
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.
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.