Holiday Rattlesnake Awareness Guide for Visiting Family

It’s finally cooling off out there and rattlesnakes have mostly ended their surface activity for the year. They’ve gone to their Winter dens to wait out the cooler temperatures – but those dens can often be places close to (or in, under, or next to) home. If you live in a place where rattlesnakes do, especially if you have had rattlesnake encounters near the property, it’s good to have a little bit of information for visiting friends and family who aren’t as savvy as you are. This isn’t meant to scare anybody away (or may be it is! [insert mother-in-law-joke here]), but create just enough awareness to make sure everyone has a good, safe time and there’s nothing to worry about for those grand-babies from cooler climates.

  1. Do a pre-visit check of the yard for rattlesnake activity. This one is a no-brainer. A couple of days before they arrive, spend a half hour looking around the yard to see if there’s anything suspicious. Shed snake skins, odd holes that weren’t there before, and weird-looking poop could mean there’s a rattlesnake that’s decided to spend Winter in your yard. Places to be especially aware of are pool-filter areas, near and under sheds, and in the garage. If you live in a manufactured home, or a home with easy access to the foundation, that’s another area to look. If you’re not sure, this is something that we can help with.
  2. Just a simple awareness statement. When everyone arrives, just give a quick statement about being aware. A quick “Just so you know, rattlesnakes do live around here, so always keep an eye out” will do, and may give you something to talk about on the way home from the airport. You might want to go over some of the basic rules of living in the desert that you do every day. Things like “don’t reach anywhere you can’t see” and “don’t go outside at night without shoes and a flashlight“. Different relatives may have different tolerances for all the snake talk, so feel it out and give the appropriate amount of information to keep everyone safe without ruining turkey day.
  3. Keep the kids out of the garage. After Thanksgiving is a common time for people to get into the storage to dig out Holiday decorations. Rattlesnakes commonly use garages as den sites (this is something we handle all Winter long), so be aware that stuff that you haven’t touched all year, i.e. dusty decorations, are great places for these sleepy snakes to hang out. While the actual hanging of decorations might be fun for the family, actually retrieving them from storage is a better solo job for you.
  4. If you are within a quarter mile of any construction project, be especially aware. Many rattlesnakes that we are called to capture during the Winter have been disturbed at their chosen Winter refuge, and end up wandering into nearby neighborhoods trying to survive. If there is any construction project nearby, including road expansion, or and minor residential construction like digging a pool or removing an old shed, be especially aware. When native desert is torn up, the animals that have lived there have no choice but to find a new place to go, regardless of how cold it is outside. If you are in this situation, you may want to give an extra note of caution to your visitors.
  5. If you have a snake fence, check it out. Are there any holes in it? Are you using the right size mesh? Are all gaps 1/4″ inch or smaller? There’s no better time to check out the snake-proofing work than before visitors arrive, so you can confidently say that the yard is protected. Here is a simple test you can do at home in a few seconds to see if your snake proofing is doing its job.
  6. Keep our 24/7 hotline number available. In the event that a rattlesnake does show up while family is there, be ready to handle it in the safest and most effective way possible: call an expert to help (nobody wants to spend the holiday in the hospital ICU). If a rattlesnake does show up, call 480-237-9975 any time for immediate removal.

To help, we have a seasonal discount on Property Inspection Services for the rest of November. If you want to have a rattlesnake expert come to your property and check things out before friends and family arrive, call 480-237-9975 or email info@rattlesnakesolutions.com. Same-day service is available in most cases upon request.

Phoenix Badass Suggests Making Hatband From Wild Snake

A local badass named Mike Davis saw a post of a rattlesnake on his Facebook feed Tuesday morning, and sprung into action.

“Looks like a hatband and a pare(sic) of boots”, commented Davis on the photograph post of a wild Blacktailed Rattlesnake.

The rattlesnake was photographed by a local hiker and posted to a popular Facebook group. Dozens of likes and comments poured in within minutes, highlighting the beautiful coloration of the snake and how gracefully it blends in with its environment. Davis, who’s only hat is a baseball hat found in the Salt River during a tubing session and does not benefit from a hatband, noticed something disturbing.

“All these comments are all about how pretty the snake is and not about the real deal, Mike Davis”, he noted in a telephone interview. “I have seen 2 rattlesnakes in my 25 years in Arizona so I know my stuff. Women in Phoenix need to know that I’m a wild outdoors real man that’s not afraid to needlessly slaughter wild animals for absolutely no reason. They eat that sh*t up.”

Though admitting that he’s never made boots, or even owns any, Davis is confident that his appeal to the hatband community will cause his personal brand to skyrocket in the minds of his community.

“I’m sure I’m the only person to have ever said ‘hatband’ on a rattlesnake picture before. That’s the kind of wit you can’t buy in fancy stores in California.” he said of his ingenuity.

Davis, who ran screaming from the last rattlesnake he saw as it slept under a tree nearly 20 feet away, continued “These snowflakes who said to buy a hatband at Walmart just don’t know how to impress my dad, I mean women.”

When asked if he would do it again, Davis advised not to overdo it, and mix it up. Top suggestions for next time include comments relating to “good eatin” and various shotgun references.

Be On Watch for Rattlesnakes Displaced by Rain

Immediately after a heavy rain, like the one that swept through the valley last night, we often receive an increased number of snake removal calls.

Rattlesnakes often use holes in dry washes and drainage systems to hide from the intense, dry heat of the early Summer. When the rain suddenly appears, those that have not yet left their hiding spots are sometimes caught in the rising waters and end up in odd places. Sometimes, the rain is just enough to make their chosen hiding spot undesirable, and they’re forced to move on. That means they sometimes head for the nearest available cover as the day heats up: alongside homes and buildings with suitable overhangs to protect from the sun.

Be extra aware if you live next to a wash, drainage area, or other places that are dramatically affected by the rain. If you live on the edge of the desert and have sections of your property that have flooded, especially areas with full cover like sheds and decorative rock features, you should also be cautious.

This is all normal, and temporary, and just one more thing to keep in mind as we all go out to pick up fallen palm fronds and survey any damage to our homes from the storm.

Does the rain mean that there are more rattlesnakes than normal?

Nope. Rattlesnakes don’t spontaneously appear from the dirt when touched by rain. While higher average rainfall can, over a period of years, lead to a higher survival rate of young rattlesnakes, and help keep the adults already here well-fed and alive, more rain doesn’t mean more snakes. It may bring cooler temperatures and more suitable conditions for snake activity … and human activity, so there may be an increase of encounters. The idea that a season of heavy rain means more large rattlesnakes will be out there is false.

Is this green snake a real thing?

The latest misinformation festival to rise from Facebook’s boiling froth of low critical thinking skills and starving egos is this series of photographs:

These show a bright, neon green rattlesnake, reported to be from Colorado. The bright green coloration has caused these photos to spread all over Facebook as a sighting of the much dreaded Mojave Green rattlesnake, which has mysterious super powers of chasing after people and attacking for no reason (not really).

It’s not a Mojave Rattlesnake.

This photograph is not a Mojave, which does not live in Colorado. It is a Prairie Rattlesnake. As covered elsewhere, Mojave Rattlesnakes may be green, but are also tan, brown, and everything in between. Green coloration is not an indication of Mojave anything … in fact, other species are often much more likely to be green, like the Blacktailed Rattlesnake (also often misidentified as a Mojave) and Prairie Rattlesnake, as in this case.

Is the color real? Sorry to disappoint, but you probably already know the answer. No, this photograph is doctored and enhanced. There are very green rattlesnakes out there, even Prairie Rattlesnakes that come close to this hue, though this particular neon glow is fake.

It’s fake everyone. We can go home now.

How do I know? I have unleashed the mysterious forces of “zooming in” on the photo. Here’s what I saw:

Other areas along the edge of the body were also missed.

Based on that sample of color, here’s an approximation of the color of the snake … a much more reasonable color for a Prairie Rattlesnake.

If you still have doubts, please contact us.

I have a bright pink Grizzly Bear available for sale.

Should you use a pressure bandage for a rattlesnake bite?

According to authorities on toxinology, no.

A lot of information out there about what to do if you’re bitten by a rattlesnake is vague on the topic. Most these days will correctly advise not to use a tourniquet, but are less clear when it comes to compression or an attempt to slow the progress of venom throughout the body.

The issue here is complicated. A properly applied compression bandage may slow body-wide symptoms, but the key word here is ‘properly’. Studies have shown that this isn’t often the case, and trapping venom that destroys tissue in one area can be much more dangerous overall.

Some information out there is also not clear which continent it refers to. Bitten by a Black Mamba? This information isn’t for you … a neurotoxic bite that isn’t actively turning tissue to dead goo has different rules. If you’re in the United States, you’re most likely wondering about bites by our species of vipers (rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, copperheads), so don’t get confused by an article out of Australia or the Middle East.

It may not sit well with many that there really is no first-aid for rattlesnake bites, but really, just focus on getting help.

Please don’t take my word for it, read the position statement:

Pressure_Immobilization_After_North_American_Crotalinae_Snake_Envenomation_-_JMT.

It’s 119F outside. Where are the rattlesnakes?

Each year, when temperatures are highest and humidity is lowest, rattlesnakes mysteriously disappear from hiking trails. Our snake removal hotline is quiet, and people are more worried about keeping the air conditioning running than rattlesnakes.

But rattlesnakes are cold blooded, don’t they like the heat? A comment I often see on Facebook threads is that snakes love heat, the hotter the better, and when temperatures soar over 100F is when they are happiest. Really, this is completely wrong, and reptiles have just as much trouble in this excessive heat as other animals. It’s even deadly in many cases, and  so they do what you’re probably doing right now while reading this: hiding someplace cool and waiting for it to end.

Estivation … kind of like the Arizona version of hibernation

If a rattlesnake doesn’t have a good place to hide when it is this hot, it’s in big trouble. A rattlesnake will die when its body temperature gets too far above 110F (Klauber, pg 418-420). If you try and get the mail barefoot at 9am, you know how tough it is for them. This also means that at temperatures reaching 119F like it did yesterday, just being outside in the shade is lethal to most snakes.

They have no choice but to find deep cover and wait it out. This is a method of estivation; reptiles hide in cool, safe places until conditions are more favorable. You’re probably familiar with hibernation, where animals hide from extreme cold until Spring … this is similar in concept, but in this case, an escape from hot, dry conditions. While it’s this hot, rattlesnakes hide and wait for the rain to come cool things down.

Where do rattlesnakes hide when it’s hot?

Rattlesnakes choose anywhere that offers stable, cooler temperatures as estivation sites. This could be underground in rodent burrows, natural caves in drainages and mountains, or riparian areas with higher humidity than surrounding areas.

They can also choose man-made spots to hide, like under homes or in abandoned buildings. A common place that we find them this time of year is in the garage, which is nothing but a cave if left open at night or not properly sealed. They may also use cool, wet areas in the backyard to beat the heat, like shaded pool filter areas and decorative landscaping. Generally, however, this time of year is low-activity for rattlesnakes, and you’re not as likely to see them out and about.

Some rattlesnakes do make an appearance at night outside of their chosen estivation sites, hoping for the one source of water that may be available to them: rodents. Some native rodents can actually produce water from seeds that they eat, meaning that to a rattlesnake, eating is the best way to get a drink. If you know where to look, these brutal conditions can have a restrictive effect that makes finding rattlesnakes incredibly predictable.

When do rattlesnakes go back to their normal activity?

When the monsoonal rain comes to the desert, the higher level of humidity brings stabilization to temperatures. That’s the signal to leave estivation sites and get out there. What happens next is the busiest rattlesnakes will be all year, from about mid-July until October, when they eat, give birth, and are generally quite active. Much of this activity is still at night when temperatures are more reasonable, but they are often seen in the early mornings on trails, and in the case of at least a few people each morning, on the front patio.

But for the next few weeks, rattlesnakes have much in common with the people of Arizona, and are indoors complaining about the heat and texting their friends in cooler climates with photos of their car thermometer freakout. Well, in spirit anyway.

Are these rattlesnake eggs?

Every Spring, a common question comes in on our hotline: “Are these rattlesnake eggs? Can you come get them?”

Early on, years ago, I would get excited at the prospect of picking up some snake eggs from a home owner’s flowerbed and hatch them into … who knows! Gophersnakes? Kingsnakes? Not knowing exactly what could come out was half the fun. Or, so I thought. After 7 years in business, only one case of these nests of rattlesnake eggs actually ended up being snake eggs.

So what are they? Surely rattlesnake eggs, right?

These days, after having going out to examine a few nests of these “snake eggs”, I don’t even need to see them: they’re quail eggs. That’s right, not rattlesnakes, or snakes at all, but cute plume-headed quail in progress. Quail are common all around the city, even in well-developed areas. This week alone, I’ve found quail eggs under garden-hose boxes, in a variety of bushes, and a pool pump area.

Here’s a photo texted to me by a person wondering who owns these babies. See the spots and shape like a mini-chicken egg? That’s all bird.

What do rattlesnake eggs look like?

The answer to this question is why I can so definitively respond with an absolute “they are not rattlesnake eggs”, even before getting a description or photograph. Rattlesnakes don’t lay eggs, they give live birth. Rattlesnakes, like some other snakes you may be familiar with like the Boa constrictor and Gartersnake, are ovoviviparous. This means that they carry and hatch eggs internally, and give live birth to already-squiggling little babies. This is one of the things that makes rattlesnakes so cool, is that they enjoy some of the benefits of having live birth. These include actually meeting their babies, unlike many reptiles, and having a chance to actively protect them for a period of time before they head off to make a living for themselves.

Of course the discovery of mysterious eggs activates the same imagination that is also seen when identifying snakes themselves; every snake not immediately known to be a Diamondback is automatically the infamous Mojave green. There’s something interesting here in the way our minds work, that unknown eggs are seldom suspected to belong to pigeons or other birds, but rattlesnakes. The same is true of any unknown sound in walls, especially if that wall is located right behind the bed, and of course any mysterious holes that appear in the yard.

Do all snakes give live birth? What do snake eggs look like?

Only some snakes find advantage in giving live birth. Many, like our common gophersnakes and kingsnakes, do lay eggs. Not surprisingly, snake eggs are long. They’re also leathery and soft to the touch, unlike bird eggs. They don’t really leave them laying around on the surface, like birds do, so they aren’t often seen. The single instance where these “snake eggs” ended up actually being snake eggs, was a nest of (probably) gophersnake eggs that were turned up while digging in the garden.

Here are some photos of actual snake eggs, in all their long, white, leathery glory:

© Brandon Harmon

Now Hiring – Snake Fence Installer

This job has a realistic potential to earn you $50/hr. More if you are motivated. It is based on a per foot and per item basis rattlesnake proofing yards. The right candidate will receive up to 10 jobs worth of training with me at a $20/hr rate.

You must have your own tools (listed below) and a truck. All materials will be provided to the installer with no out of pocket expenses. You must have references, be able to legally work in the United States, and be able to pass a background check. If you occasionally don’t show up for jobs and are frequently late, do not apply. The system I have developed over the last 5 years is great and therefore must be protected. You will need to sign a non-disclosure agreement and a no compete clause.

Our customers have to have a great job done, and that is what we do. An incomplete or poor-quality job can be a dangerous situation for our customers. If you are not an attention-to-detail person, then do not apply. You will be frustrated that you will be called back to the job to fix it. We do it right the first time.

It is hot work outside, and we have a 105-degree cutoff for safety. You must be willing to be trained how to find and safely remove snake, including rattlesnakes, from yards. It doesn’t happen often while on a job, but it has happened. If you are scared of snakes, this probably isn’t for you.

This is not a full time 40 hrs. per week job. You will be paid weekly as a 1099 contractor. You can work your other jobs as well. But I can potentially get you 2-3 jobs per week from March to October. Then it slows down for the winter.

Tools needed (may not be a complete list, but close)

  • Cordless impact driver
  • Cordless hammer drill
  • Hammer, tool belt
  • Circular saw
  • Aangle grinder (cordless is best)
  • Utility knife, drill style mortar mixer
  • Tin snips, small clamps, channel lock pliers, side cutters
  • Trenching shovel, gravel rake, tree pruners and small limb saw
  • Gloves, work boots, knee pads, and a sun hat.
  • Misc. other tools and items.

Please send your resume (doesn’t have to be fancy) to rattlesnakefence@gmail.com.

The Reality of the dreaded Mojave Rattlesnake

Spring is here, and the annual Mojave Misinformation migration has begun. BS stories and local lore travel from the deserts of California though the Sonoran desert, stopping along the way to feed on the excitable click-bait of local news networks. Eventually this misinformation ends up in Eastern New Mexico, where brand new misinformation is born in places where this species doesn’t even exist. If you watch carefully, you can catch a glimpse of these “facts” as they pass through social media pages and community groups. The herd leaves its droppings along the way in massive amounts; be careful not to step in piles of “them is good eatin” or “need a new hatband” if you are in the outdoors.

The dreaded “mojave green” rattlesnake: monster of the desert …

Mojave rattlesnakes, or “mojave green” rattlesnakes, tend to get the most misinformation out of any species. This is speculation, but from what I have seen with the stories that form around other species, this is a case of personal communication. That is, this snake has a reputation for being overly aggressive and “nasty”, and is therefore a better conduit for people that would like to tell the world something about themselves. That could be a way to tell others that they are brave or adventurous, after tales of confrontations with the mojave monster and their fight to survive the attack, or just how much it doesn’t bother them to come into contact with such a menace on a regular basis. These individuals may also have stories of catching a record-sized fish that slipped away before anyone could get a photo, and has certainly been stalked by numerous mountain lions … and possibly bigfoot.

But of course, the real damage caused by intentional creation and spread of misinformation is that it can alter the context, though which people may perceive an encounter with a mojave rattlesnake, and how they remember it. A cloud of misinformation can distort that perception, and a person with an artificially increased sense of fear can actually remember things that didn’t happen, or remember them very differently. This distortion effect is well documented. That means that if a person spends years hearing and reading stories that are exaggerated in nature, it can change how they actually see a snake when it happens, and change the memory as well.

In this way, this sort of misinformation that transcends to local lore can create a cultural fear, where being scared of rattlesnakes is not only expected as a “common sense” mentality, and is even a point of local pride. Becoming educated on the matter becomes more difficult in these conditions, as the barriers are also social. I have experienced, personally, throughout my years of speaking in public about the reality of rattlesnakes, how this social barrier challenges education. When I am confronted with a story told about a 15′ Mojave Rattlesnake biting through a tractor tire, I cannot easily correct that statement with facts without accusing that person’s grandfather of being a liar.

Here are a few of the “facts” that regularly circulate on social media

  1. The “Mojave green” rattlesnake is a not a hyper-aggressive, separate species of rattlesnake. Mojave Rattlesnakes can certainly be green, and even the brown ones look kind of green compared to the dull grey of their Western Diamondback counterparts. However, this can lead to confusion, where people misidentify any rattlesnake they see with a green coloration as a Mojave. A good example are the Blacktailed Rattlesnakes, found in mountains and regions where Mojaves either do not range, or do not use. Another are the reports of Mojave green rattlesnakes being found in parts of Eastern New Mexico where they do not live. When asked for photographs of them, I am emailed pictures of killed Prairie Rattlesnakes, with also look green. The reality is that, while Mojave Rattlesnakes are often green, the color green is not a good indicator for accurate identification.

    Not green.
  2. Mojave Rattlesnakes are not aggressive. This one is a semantic issue, for the most part. An aggressive animal is one that prompts a fight … it comes after you, throws the first punch, initiates the interaction. Mojave Rattlesnakes are, in reality, very defensive. This may mean that they can rattle and strike with more enthusiasm than other types of rattlesnakes, but this is a defensive behavior. That is, it’s started by you. Even accidental acts like stepping on a rattlesnake, though an accident, are initiated by the foot doing the stepping. After that interaction has begun, a Mojave Rattlesnake may, as part of its defensive behavior, even advance towards a person, either to get away or defend itself from its perceived attacker. Perception, as well, can be distorted by fear. Our minds do not always tell us the truth, in favor of escape from a perceived dangerous situation. (Rachman S, Cuk M Behav Res Ther. 1992 Nov;30(6):583-9) Mojave Rattlesnakes, in my experience with them, are definitely more touchy as a whole, but nothing that will take aggressive action. In fact, if rattlesnakes of any species were truly aggressive, and engaged in intentional attacks on people walking by, none of us would ever survive a hike in the desert.

    This is defensive behavior, not aggression.
  3. Mojave rattlesnakes are not coming out earlier this year. This is a story that local news throughout their range, and even in places where they aren’t found, like to run every single year. Rattlesnakes of all species are coming out right on time this year, as they have every other year this particular bit of misinformation has surfaced.

    Mojave rattlesnakes are coming out right on time.
  4. There is no such thing as a “mojave red” rattlesnake. The desire to use the term “mojave” can be so strong, that it’s oddly made its way to other rattlesnake species as local common names. “What is this rattlesnake that isn’t green and isn’t a diamondback? Well, I won’t impress anyone with saying I don’t know … so it must be a mojave … red!”. The most common rattlesnake to get the name are actually Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnakes, who appear red or pink in much of their range.  However, I have also seen instances of Red Diamond Rattlesnakes, Panamint Rattlesnakes, and Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes get the “mojave red” treatment. In reality a mojave is a mojave is a mojave, red, green, or otherwise.

    Not a “mojve red” rattlesnake.
  5. Mojave Rattlesnakes aren’t as big as many people claim. The largest confirmed Mojave Rattlesnake ever recorded is 48″ long, or 4 feet long (Schuett, Feldner, Smith, Reiserer, Rattlesnakes of Arizona, pg 568). Reality is that people just aren’t great at estimating size, especially at distance, from memory, or of an animal that causes anxiety or fear. Claims of a rattlesnake measuring a full third or more of the largest individual ever documented are common, which begs the question: why are the snakes researchers, scientists, students, or any of the many, many thousands of individuals that are documented so small? Weighing the entirety of both scientific documentation and anecdotal evidence by informed individuals with reports by a populace that loves to distort facts regarding rattlesnakes: there isn’t much of a question what is happening here. Mojave Rattlesnakes are a medium-sized snake, and an adult is usually in the 3′ range. My apologies to your uncle with the stories; it didn’t happen.

    This adult mojave rattlesnake was around 3′ long.

This post could go on and on, and perhaps it should. There are many, many more myths about this animal than this group, but this post and associated graphic may address the majority of posts I see on social media about these misunderstood snakes. Really, Mojave Rattlesnakes are not so bad. Viewed in context of wide-spread misalignment on reality, cultural pride in our “dangerous” animals, they are very scary indeed. The next time someone claims that an 8′ mojave rattler done chased their horse for a half a mile, remind them that you know better, and most other people do too.

Bird Netting Sucks

This is something we have to do many times each year, and it’s never fun for anyone. This Western Diamondback Rattlesnake was found by a home owner in the East Valley sitting in one spot, and reportedly not moving for a few days. Brandon went out to check it out, and here’s what he found: a snake tangled in bird netting, still alive, but doomed without intervention.

Rattlesnake stuck in bird netting – this stuff kills!

 

Brandon brought it to our facility in North Phoenix, net and all, for the careful and dangerous work of getting it cut out of the net. While being cut out of the rest of the fence, the snake got further tangled. The nylon netting was cutting into the body skin, and all around the head, mouth, and neck.

Ouch 🙁

 

The snake was obviously stressed, striking at any opportunity, which is more than understandable. Normally, these jobs are difficult, but are a standard process: remove the netting in layers while controlling the head by either pinning it down, or even better, using a tube. The tube is the clear plastic device seen below, which can be used to safely manipulate rattlesnakes without needing to actually touch the pointy end.

The ‘fun’ part

This one, however, was not so easy. The netting was all around the head, even in its mouth at this point, to the tube was not much more than a shield. Lot’s of careful scissor snips and position changes later, most of the body was free. Removing the final strands from the mouth itself, however is the most difficult and dangerous part. Using the tube, hook, and another long tool not pictured here, the final strands were cut away until the snake was able to free itself.

Free! The snake has no outward damage and is not bleeding, so left with Brandon to go back and be released to another part of it’s probable home range in the East Valley. Hopefully this is the last bird netting this little guy will ever see. I can’t imagine that will be the same for us this season.

It’s not just snakes and us that hate this stuff, too. Over the years we have seen many dead animals tangled in them, each slowly starving or dying of exposure in the desert sun. Birds, big and small, rabbits, and more lizards than I can count. The dead animals caught in the nets may also attract other animals that are looking for an easy meal, who are then also caught in the net and die an agonizing death. If you use bird netting or know someone who does, please be aware of the often unseen danger that these pose to the wildlife, and evaluate if this is the best and ethical way to keep birds out of the garden.