The Mojave Green Rattlesnake: Not All Babies Are Created Equal

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I stormed through the front door, calling out to Pam in her room as I headed for my bedroom, “Gotta recycle a little rattlesnake! A baby, under a foot!”

“What kind?”

“Mojave green or western diamondback,” I replied. “Can’t be sure yet. It was under the oil drip tray when I picked the tray up. Didn’t even see it till I went to put the tray back. Looks like it’s got a full belly, eaten a mouse.” I snagged Dad’s old single shot .410 shotgun from the corner by my bed and headed back out. It’s never cleaned, dirt being what holds the 55-year-old snake charmer firmly together. There’s always a 3-inch shell stuffed with #6 birdshot in the spout and 9 more in the cordura bandoleer duct-taped to the stock. No safety; just haul the hammer back and you’re ready to rock.

The old man’s been gone since 1997, but firearms are forever.

Screw diamonds.

Also, curse the photos on this page. This happened in August of 2011, at a time when the cheap Vivitar digital camera was on its last blurry legs but we had no cash whatsoever to purchase a decent picture taker. In November of that year, our money lightened up. I bought the Canon PowerShot that rides in its case at my left hip to this day. But until then….

Okay, so that’s by way of apology in advance. The photos below are terrible, but they’re being published anyway because of the importance of the information. In other words, you’re not going blind.

What? The excellent photo at the top of the page? That was taken with the Canon, in September of 2013.

Okay, back to the story.

Whenever the portable generator needs its oil added or changed, the drip tray gets to go to work. Not for the main oil dump–which goes into an open-topped barrel known to be hazardous to the health of a stray mouse every now and then–but just to catch a drip from the funnel when I hold it over the tray to see if the crankcase is full yet. The tray could get wiped down thoroughly and stored inside the semi trailer, but hey, that’s too much like work.

So, being pretty much a redneck at heart, I just leave it atop a little hollow out back where some earlier visitor to this land once parked a car with a leaky crankcase (or some such) and left a spot of oily dirt. It never needs to be clean, so why not?

Can you tell I’m not into white-glove inspections?

Back to the baby Mojave green. These snakes are considered the deadliest rattlers in the world, packing a neurotoxic venom similar to that produced by the cobra.

Yep. The little critter was still peaceably digesting its meal, making no trouble at all, doncha know? But it still had to go. Not only does my wife have COPD–meaning that she has trouble breathing on a normal day–but after puppy-dogging me back out to the Snakelet Place, she reported a brand new problem.

She couldn’t see the snake.

“This one is way more dangerous to me,” she admitted, squinting to make out the reptile from a distance of maybe 20 feet. “I’d have been looking for something bigger. And I can’t see–oh, now I can sort of make it out. I’d have stepped right on it.”

Not good.

My honey’s vision is not doing that well of late. She’s the one who spotted the 30-incher I shot earlier in the year, but that Mojave green rattlesnake was within four feet of her and moving at the time.

Note the distended belly full of compressed mouse. The easiest way to differentiate between a Mojave green and a western diamondback is the tail--mostly beneath the snake.

Note the distended belly full of compressed mouse. The easiest way to differentiate between a Mojave green and a western diamondback is the tail–mostly beneath the snake.


Several of us  have recently discussed using a line of kerosene-soaked earth as an "anti-snake fence". One thing for sure: This Mojave green considers dirt soaked with used motor oil a comfy mattress.

Several of us have recently discussed using a line of kerosene-soaked earth as an “anti-snake fence”. One thing for sure: This Mojave green considers dirt soaked with used motor oil a comfy mattress.


The little critter had not moved in the ten minutes or more since losing the cover of the oil drip tray--and in fact seemed essentially unable to do so.

The little critter had not moved in the ten minutes or more since losing the cover of the oil drip tray–and in fact seemed essentially unable to do so.

Okay, photo shoot done. Time to terminate. I set myself spiritually–silently, most of the time–apologizing for the necessity of the action…and fired up the disintegrating ray.

That’s no exaggeration. You’ve seen those disintegrating rays in science fiction movies, right? Well, that’s exactly what happens when a load of #6 birdshot in a tight pattern hits the head of a snake. The head literally disintegrates. Not a happy ending for the reptile, true enough, but a lot better way to go than the exit path taken by the mouse.

Having trouble picturing the disintegration?

Here, let me show you.

See that hole? That's the impact crater from the shotgun blast, fired at close range (8 feet or so). It measures about 2 inches across and goes that deep as well. The tiny white specks? Disintegrated head pieces.

See that hole? That’s the impact crater from the shotgun blast, fired at close range (8 feet or so). It measures about 2 inches across and goes that deep as well. The tiny white specks? Disintegrated head pieces.

In the above photo, there’s a light-colored thingie toward the lower right. That’s a piece of snake stomach skin blown off by the birdshot on its way to the snake’s head. I was careful to avoid hitting the tail, identification of the species being important to us, but a bit of collateral stomach damage didn’t matter.

And it turned out to have a scientific benefit: A portion of the distended stomach was sheared away as cleanly as if done by a medical examiner’s scalpel, revealing the stomach contents to be–yep, definitely mouse, mouse fur and all.

The tail, with the white bands of the “coontail” being much wider than the black bands, provided the ID: A Mojave green, all right.

With the home security and forensics aspects covered, it was finally time to recycle. The snake-and-mouse, two-two-two-for-one meat package was hauled on a shovel blade to an open area some 100 yards or so east of the Border Fort and left for the buzzards. Not literal buzzards; it might be the ravens who snack on this one. Or the ants; they were showing great interest. Or one of the night scavengers; the desert is always clean as a whistle, come sunup.

One more note regarding the danger of these little rattlesnakes: They can’t rattle yet. Rattlesnake rattles are composed of leftover skin-bits from each time a skin is shed as the snake grows. This one had only the brownish tip in place; shaking its tail would have produced no more sound than you shaking your finger.

Babies can be cute little things, but baby Mojave green rattlesnakes have the potential to ruin your entire day.

All babies are not created equal.

The body was thrown 3 feet from point of impact by the shotgun blast. Note the stomach "forensics"; the gray is mouse fur. Also, note the wider white bands near the tail.

The body was thrown 3 feet from point of impact by the shotgun blast. Note the stomach “forensics”; the gray is mouse fur. Also, note the wider white bands near the tail.


A sense of scale. Those are my fingers.

A sense of scale. Those are my fingers.

The oil drip tray, back in place. This morning, it housed a rattlesnake for the first time in 2 years and 4 months. Was I in danger when I picked it up? No...but next time, I may flip it with a shovel first. We'll see.

The oil drip tray, back in place. This morning, it housed a rattlesnake for the first time in 2 years and 4 months. Was I in danger when I picked it up? No…but next time, I may flip it with a shovel first. We’ll see.

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2 thoughts on “The Mojave Green Rattlesnake: Not All Babies Are Created Equal

  1. Two weeks ago a juvenile Mojave Green killed my beloved Shephard Mix with one bite to the nose. Stanley was 12years old and partially deaf. He could not hear my warning cries as he ran over to smell the snake. Within minutes he was paralyzed and had collapsed. His heart stopped and he stopped breathing within 90 minutes. We live in a rural area and over one hour drive from any veterinary care. After he collapsed he was no longer responsive. The snake was killed by my Siberian Husky. There was some residual swelling noted on Chewey’s face where the snake had bitten him. I guess the snake had injected all of its venom into my Sheppard and had none left for my Husky. Of note: We buried our beloved Sheppard in the desert, but it seems like the venom is acting like embalming fluid. None of the desert animals are interested in dining on him. At times the shallow grave is disturbed and I did see two small bite marks on the carcus but no feasting ensued.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Maria, but that’s got to hurt. All I can say is, “Yay for Chewey!” And I’d guess you’re exactly right; the snake was undoubtedly out of (or at least very low on) venom when he bit the Husky.

    We moved in May from Arizona back to my home stomping grounds in Montana, currently residing in the town of Deer Lodge, so no longer have to watch for Mojaves. On the (Montana) ranch where I grew up, we did have prairie rattlers and I nearly got killed INDIRECTLY by one of those when I was a kid, about age 7 or so. Dad still used mostly real horsepower then, not getting his first tractor until a few years later, so all of our hay was put up loose, not in bales. I was up on the wagon, just staying out of the way of Dad (on the ground) and the hired man (on the wagon).

    Dad was pitching forkfuls of hay up onto the wagon; the hired man was placing them to make a workable load. Unaware, Dad threw up one forkful that had a rattler in it. As you can imagine, the snake was buzzing like mad in the air, the yell-and-swat by the hired man with his pitchfork at the venomous hay startled me backward (I did already know exactly what that buzzing sound meant)…and I fell off the top of the load, landing safely on the ground despite the drop of something like 8 to 10 feet because at that age my bones were basically rubber.

    What nearly killed me was not the landing impact but the fact that on the way down I missed impaling myself on a rather pointy steel jack-post which held up the front of the trailer when the team wasn’t hooked up. Missed it by maybe an inch, if that. I was FULLY aware of the close call but never ever said one word about that to my parents. There’s such a thing as too much honesty.

    We have a pet cemetery out in the desert, too, a few dozen yards from the Border Fort (which is up for sale). Two beloved cats lie there, and also a beautiful little songbird that showed up dead near my truck one day with what appeared to be a single tiny puncture wound in the side of its breast. None of these small animals were ever disturbed by even the rooting javelinas, but we did cheat some. The cats lie under concrete stucco headstones and the bird got plenty of rocks piled on top. No venom to warn critters away, so we had to go old school.

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