Ever see a rattler? In the wild?
There are 32 known rattlesnake species and between 65 to 70 subspecies. All are native to the Americas, though each species and subspecies have regionally limited ranges. Some regions have more than others. For instance, out of twelve types of snakes found in Baja California, six are rattlers.
Our first encounter with a rattler was at South Dakota’s Badlands National Park in 2007. We were on a trail that was mixture of asphalt and boardwalk. It was a readily accessible trail on the main park road, with a lot of signs warning about rattlesnakes. What stood out for us on this trail was a child, not closely monitored by his parents, venturing off the trail. I wrote about it later that day.
There had been quite a few signs all over the park to watch out for rattlesnakes.
But — really — you never — ever — see any, so why should anyone be concerned.
The chances of a kid coming across a snake on a trail are pretty small, especially a rattler.
Unless — of course — unless he steps off the trail, where he shouldn’t be, when Mommy isn’t watching.
It’s not a great photo, but that is the rattler we had seen just a few minutes earlier.
I think that we did tell the mother that we had seen a rattler in the area earlier.
The other time we saw a rattler was two years later at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado on the Knife’s Edge Trail near the campground. Most of the trail was fairly wide, following an old roadbed, but has started to narrow. The rattler was in the brush on the right side of the trail when we heard its characteristic sound, the rattle, that sound we’ve all heard many times in the movies and on TV.
The rattlesnake really blends in well in the brush in the image below.
Of course, the rattlesnake blended in very well with the vegetation along the side of the trail. In the closeup crop on the right, I’ve outlined the head and tongue and added an arrow pointing to the rattle.
We didn’t turn around and go back down the trail. There was still a ways to go yet, so, from a safe distance, I started scuffing gravel and rocks toward the snake with my foot. After a little bit of that, it uncoiled and slithered into the brush, still rattling until it was a good ways off the trail.
Rattlesnakes are predators, but people have little to fear from them under most circumstances. Their prey is small animals that they can swallow. Rattlers are a potential hazard in that they may strike out defensively if surprised or provoked. Given the opportunity, like most snakes, they will avoid humans.