Rattlesnake Removal and Rescue in the Phoenix Area

Once the weather warms up a bit more, rattlesnakes will begin to come out of their Winter hiding spots and our rattlesnake removal season will begin again. Time for a refresher on what to do if you see a rattlesnake, how they are removed and relocated, and how to keep snakes away.

For immediate rattlesnake removal and snake rescue:

  1. Call the 24/7 Snake Removal Hotline: 480-237-9975

  2. Watch the snake from a safe distance until help arrives

  3. Don’t approach or try and catch or kill the snake yourself.

We are available all hours of the day to catch and remove snakes from your property anywhere in the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas. When you call, you’ll be asked some basic information, like your zip code and what the snake looks like, and someone will be on their way immediately.

It may be scary for you, but the snake is also scared and will try to get away if it thinks that it’s been discovered. That’s why it’s important to find a safe place to hang out and watch the snake directly until someone arrives to remove it. Often, the snake is scared to move because it may feel that its camouflage is doing the job, and to move would give it away to the “predator” (in this case, you). The moment the threat is gone, the snake will often quickly slip away to a nearby hiding area, or just leave the property entirely. I can’t stress enough how important and helpful it is to watch the snake until we get there … many snakes have escaped when the home owner figures the snake is asleep and leaves it alone.

Once help is on the way, everything else will be taken care of by us. There is no reason to approach the snake to capture or kill it. Sometimes neighbors want to help and come over after we’ve already been dispatched. Though they may think this is just the neighborly thing to do, they are just putting themselves in danger needlessly, when the situation has already been responsibly handled by you, having called a professional to safely and humanely relocate the snake.

Rattlesnake Removal

Rattlesnake removal calls need to be answered and serviced quickly. While snakes may hang around an area for days, the most effective situation is to have the snake removed and relocated by a professional snake rescue organization immediately. We are used to being called late at night and early in the morning, so if you need to have a snake removed, don’t hesitate.

Some snakes that are removed aren’t rattlesnakes at all, or even native to Arizona or the United States. Occasionally, we will get a call for a Burmese Python or Boa Constrictor that has either escaped or been released by irresponsible owners. In these situations, we capture the snake as usual, and find homes with an experienced keeper or snake rescue organization. These snakes are never relocated to the wild after being captured – this is both for the safety of the snake and the native snakes that could possibly be infected by disease or parasites carried by the animal, among other reasons.

Sometimes there are multiple snakes to be removed …

As you watch the snake and wait for a removal expert to arrive, be aware that in some circumstances, there may be more than one snake present. During the Spring, especially, rattlesnakes are coming out of Winter den situations, and are looking to court and mate. During this time, it is much more likely to run into multiple rattlesnakes together, and to find a female of breeding age is also to find males nearby looking to mate.

During the late Summer and Fall, rattlesnakes give birth to live young. We remove all snakes together and hold them until the first shed, usually just a few days away, then release them all together to proper habitat. If you do see a rattlesnake with babies, be especially careful as the little ones move around and may not all be in the main group.

What happens to them after a snake removal?

They are released, sometimes after getting a drink of water. This is not only our preference as Arizona citizens who appreciate wildlife and want it to survive, but the rule of law according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Rattlesnakes rescues are not to be released more than 1 mile from the capture site, and it is recommended that they are released only 1/3 of a mile away. Some low cost options just move them to the edge of the property and dump them over the fence.

This means that the process of removing a rattlesnake and relocating it to a place where it will both survive and not return to the yard can be complicated. While it’s easy to just dump the snake out on the ground and be done with it, this isn’t good for the snake or the home owner.

Rattlesnakes are actually very fragile animals, and will die if their body temperature gets above about 105F-110F. Anyone that’s run out to get the mail on a Saturday in Phoenix knows the ground gets much hotter than that very quickly. Rattlesnakes need to have deep, cool cover available to them in order to survive, so snakes just moved out and left to crawl off on hot days will almost certainly not survive. Then, too, those that do could just crawl into the neighbors yard, or try and return to the area where they were before.

Rattlesnakes have a home range, and we try to relocate them to suitable habitat on the far side of that range. While it’s mostly just a guess where “home” is for a snake, we can make some pretty good assumptions based on our field research and knowing where and how to find rattlesnakes in the wild. This involves finding the nearest natural drainage or wash, and assuming the snake’s activity is in some way associated with it. In the wild, drainages can be a hub of wildlife activity, providing shelter opportunities, moisture, and generally cooler temperatures than the open desert. Using Google Earth, we estimate an appropriate area where the snake has the best chance to survive, and hike it to this spot to release it. The snake is released right into the cover area, and we never leave until we are sure the snake has crawled fully out of the sun or the reach of predators.

Here is a video of a rattlesnake release after a removal in the Phoenix area, with many more details about this process and the careful detail required to keep snakes safe and away from people.

So won’t they just come right back to the house?

It’s certainly possible, but it can be prevented. First, we try and find a location that offers everything the snake needs to survive after the ordeal of relocation. Deep caves, areas near water and hunting opportunities, and places where snakes have actually been found during scouting trips or signs of snakes are there let us know that the release point is good for rattlesnakes to live. Research on translocation of some species of rattlesnakes show that new areas can be incorporated into the home range, and the snakes don’t lose weight or die if done correctly.

The next step is to try and figure out why the snake showed up in the yard in the first place, and what can be done to correct it. Sometimes, it is very obvious … snakes need what all animals need; food, water, and shelter. Provide any of these items, and wildlife will show up to take advantage of it. We work with home owners to keep snakes out of the yard for good by identifying things that brought the snake that was removed to the home to begin with. Finally, rattlesnake fencing can be installed to create a physical barrier to remove all doubt.

What kinds of things could be attracting snakes to the yard?

That means that anything that attracts rodents will also attract snakes. Even well off-property, scent trails left by rodents can be tracked by rattlesnakes that want to eat them and end up in the yard. Many things attract rodents, too. Common situations that we have removed rattlesnakes in ambush near include outdoor dogfood storage, bird feeders, compost bins, messy garbage areas, and BBQ islands. If rodents are present, rattlesnakes have good reason to show up, too. Rattlesnake removal is always an option, but just keeping them away is best.

Finding a place to hide is an important part of a rattlesnake’s survival in the Arizona desert. Rattlesnakes removed from homes are often just using the structure for shade. Landscaping features can also play a part. A common area we are called to remove rattlesnakes from are decorative rock piles with poorly sealed concrete, near pool areas and the edges of property. Any sort of debris, too, should be cleaned up so that there are no opportunities for snakes and other wildlife to live there. Remember, even if an area isn’t good for a snake to hide in, if rodents can use it, then it is useful to a snake. Keeping your property as clean and orderly as possible will help keep it from being used by snakes. This can be difficult to control in a neighborhood, however, since not all properties are properly maintained, and just one extra-messy yard can bring rodents and snakes into all of the surrounding homes.

Water is also essential, and snakes often come into yards to have a drink when it’s freely offered to them. Swimming pools are an obvious source, but there are a lot of other common water sources. A leaky hose, bird bath, or decorative pond are all likely attractants for snakes. We’ve done hundreds of rattlesnake removals to homes with a dripping spigot. If you have any issues with the landscaping plumbing, they can attract snakes.

Rattlesnake removal is not a Do-It-Yourself activity

Even if you’ve seen someone do it or watched some YouTube videos, there is quite a bit going on during a rattlesnake removal that isn’t always obvious. There is a right way, and a dangerous way. There is no learning curve, and a mistake can land you in the hospital or worse. Of course, the snake often suffers from mishandling as well. It is simply not worth the risk to attempt rattlesnake removal without proper training.

A common thing we see are snakes that are improperly picked up with snake tongs (one tool we use to capture snakes). These tools are meant to gently grasp a snake so it can be captured and relocated. Too often, snakes are picked up in a death-grip by the tongs, in fear that that the snake could escape them. This causes the snake to thrash around in pain, causing the grip to become even tighter. They are also often picked up just behind the head and gripped as tightly as possible, again causing the snake to thrash around and injure itself. If a snake starts thrashing around with it’s mouth open when being picked up by tongs, they are being used improperly. This is of course deadly for the snake, and makes a much more dangerous situation for the person using the tools.

While some people certainly do learn to capture and remove snakes by themselves, it’s something best left to those with the experience to do it safely and ensure that the snake will survive the encounter.

Why do we charge for rattlesnake removal services?

This comes up quite often, actually. We do charge a modest fee for our snake removal services. This is, after all, the capture, handling and transport, and release of a potentially deadly pit viper. We also bring many years of experience and expertise tracking and finding rattlesnakes in the wild, and can translate this activity into your yard to see things that other snake removal services can’t. We also give back to the community by offering dozens of free educational presentations to communities and groups around the state. We feel that this is a professional service to the public that is worthy of compensation. Some day, we hope to work with cities to provide our rattlesnake removal service to the community as a public service, but in the meantime, we are a small, family-owned business.

Extreme Specialization of the Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake [video]

One of the most beautiful snakes in the world is also one of the most common to see in the Phoenix area. Their specialized color adaptation is so strong that snakes found on the South side of Phoenix are completely different than those from the North valley. Even though these may be the most common rattlesnake on South Mountain, most Ahwatukee residents that we serve have never seen one until the moment one has shown up in the yard.

Great Basin Rattlesnake Eating Her First Meal of the Year [video]

Here’s a great basin rattlesnake I filmed a couple of years ago, eating a Piute Ground Squirrel. The coolest part is, I saw her there the next year in exactly the same place, doing the same thing. What a great place to hunt, for both of us!

Seeing a rattlesnake eating is one of the coolest, and fairly rarest, things to see in the wild. For as many rattlesnakes as our team sees out there each year, actually seeing a rattlesnake eating and being able to film it only happens a few times.

Great Basin Rattlesnakes are found in Arizona, but only in the very Northern part of the state, in a region known as the Arizona Strip. In most of their range, they’re the only species of rattlesnake around, and there can be many of them. The den where this video was filmed, for instance, has at least 187 individual rattlesnakes that I have counted so far!

Rattlesnakes closer to the Phoenix area eat in a very similar way, but their prey is different. In the low desert, rattlesnakes eat for another reason, too, and that is water. During the hottest time of the year, water is very scarce, and rattlesnakes must eat rodents who can produce water from the food they eat in order to get a drink.

These snakes in Idaho have it made. This species of rodent is very common in the area, and most of the snakes there have no problem finding prey to eat. As a matter of fact, a way to find dens is to look for dead rodents that have been envenomated by the rattlesnakes, but then are never found by them.

Help Us Stop a House Bill to Allow The Shooting of Snakes Within City Limits: HB 2022

Update: Here’s a petition from Advocates for Snake Preservation.
https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/we-dont-need-shooting-in-our-neighborhoods-stop-hb2022

—-

Recently, a bill has been introduced that would allow people to shoot guns within city limits, as long as they are firing in the direction of a snake or rodent. Personally, I don’t feel comfortable with people in apartment complexes, in populated areas, near schools and shopping areas, and right next door firing guns in random directions. There’s also the dangerous precedent that this sets for our native wildlife; to be treated as pests rather than something to be respected.

If you’d like to help, email members of the committee, or state Representative Jay Lawrence to let them know your concerns.

Here is the relevant information.

RE: House Bill 2022
AMENDING SECTION 13‑3107, ARIZONA REVISED STATUTES; RELATING TO FIREARMS.

[FULL TEXT] HTTPS://LEGISCAN.COM/…/…/ARIZONA-2017-HB2022-INTRODUCED.HTML

Rep. Jay Lawrence
602-926-3095
jlawrence@azleg.gov

http://ld23jaylawrence.com
https://twitter.com/jlawrenceLD23
https://www.facebook.com/JayLawrenceforHouse/

Committee (email or call these people):

Paul Boyer
PBOYER@azleg.gov
602-926-4173

Kirsten Engel
KENGEL@azleg.gov
602-926-5178

Eddie Farnsworth
EFARNSWORTH@azleg.gov
602-926-5735

Mark Finchem
MFINCHEM@azleg.gov
602-926-3122

Sally Ann Gonzales
SGONZALES@azleg.gov
602-926-3278

Daniel Hernandez
DHERNANDEZ@azleg.gov
602-926-4840

Anthony T. Kern
AKERN@azleg.gov
602-926-3102

David Stringer
DSTRINGER@azleg.gov
602-926-4838

Maria Syms
MSYMS@azleg.gov
602-926-4860

While form letters can be useful, individual letters and arguments are better. Form letters are often treated as one letter and accepted/dismissed as one. We have a lot of experienced, knowledgeable people interested in this, so please take time to email, tweet, or FB Rep. Lawrence on this issue.

For an example of the argument, here is my letter to the committee:

Here is what I am sending. If anyone wants to use or add to any argument made here, please do.

Dear Mr. Lawrence,

I am writing in regards to House Bill 2022: Creating an exception to statute 13-3107, Unlawful discharge of firearms, to allow discharge of firearms within municipality limits with the purpose of eliminating rattlesnakes or rodents.

I am the owner of Rattlesnake Solutions, a local rattlesnake education and conservation group. My team are frequent visitors of Scottsdale and serve your constituents on a daily basis. I am also an amateur herpetologist with specialization in local rattlesnake species, and a regular educational speaker at regional parks and wildlife-oriented organizations. I have 15 years of daily experience with the conflict that exists between our growing urban areas and native wildlife. I believe my knowledge in this area can be helpful to you when considering HB2022.

First, I very well understand the fear that some people feel about snakes. It is deeply rooted in our culture. To many, including, I believe, your constituent whose experience has fueled the creation of HB2022, this may seem like a common sense issue. However, the facts do not justify our fear or the perceived danger that snakes pose. In fact, the promotion of irresponsible wildlife handling methods actually creates new threats, and exacerbates existing ones.

Based on my professional experience, it is my estimation is that HB2022 will actually result in an increase of venomous bites within urban areas, and create the possibility for additional injury in the form of firearm-related accidents.

Please consider the following:

Each year in the United States, an estimated 7,000-8,000 people per year are bitten by venomous snakes, resulting in 8 to 15 deaths. The bite victims, as well, are often intentionally handling the snakes, herpetologists and professional handlers, and others who are not accidental bite victims. It is estimated that, of bite victims in Arizona, roughly 1/3 are attempting to kill, capture, or harass the snake. Bites managed by the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center show 50% to 70% of bites happen to individuals in performing these actions.

This leaves bite victims that are accidentally bitten by snakes that are not seen, or not seen until after the bite has occurred. This means that individuals who would take action themselves under the exception offered by HB2022 will intentionally place themselves into the highest bracket of bite victims. Rattlesnakes are quite capable of delivering a venomous bite even after being shot, and if the numbers show anything, it is that subsequent handling and photo opportunities are irresistible.

In Arizona, there are numerous methods to safely handle the removal of snakes. In Scottsdale, in particular, this service is performed free-of-charge by the Fire Department, in addition to non-profit organizations such as the Arizona Herpetological Association and Phoenix Herpetological Society. Additionally, dozens more entities exist to service your constituents in the event that wildlife needs to be removed. With all of these options available across the state, there is no added safety to gain from allowing a homeowner to shoot a snake. HB2022 encourages behavior that any herpetological professional, emergency response, or venomous snake specialist would believe to be reckless and dangerous. If someone sees a snake, and chooses to keep their distance rather than approach it (armed or otherwise), all danger is negated. Rattlesnake bites are not a significant threat to Arizonans living in areas potentially affected by HB2022.

There is also the added danger of additional firearm discharge in populated areas. Does HB2022 consider densely populated areas of the city, apartment and condo complexes, and areas near schools? There is also consideration for law enforcement, and how to handle the introduction of legal gunfire in highly populated areas, fired with only the requirement that it be directed towards an animal. It is my hope that the concerns of the community has been considered in the creation of HB2022.

I know that, personally, I would have great concerns if my own neighbors were firing at rats in their backyard, rat-shot or otherwise. HB2022 must assume a common responsibility and understanding of firearm safety, which seems at odds with the purpose of 13-3107. I personally do not trust that every gun owner within city limits possess the level of safety awareness to prevent accidental gunfire mishaps. This is a high price to pay for what is essentially a feel-good action for some individuals who choose to ignore safer options.

My intention is not to convince anyone of the value of our native wildlife, especially in areas of urban conflict. I realize that these are not animals appreciated by many; it’s expected, and this nature of this irrational fear needs to be considered. It is my personal opinion that personal responsibility is an important factor here, being the choice for many to create homes within desert habitats and maintain naturalistic landscaping. This is a choice made by many of your constituents, and all the beauty come caveats of being a good citizen and neighbor.

If I or my organization can provide any information or aid on this matter to your staff or constituency, please assume you will have whatever help is needed. Likewise, I have a desire uphold the safety of Arizonans; HB2022 will not acheive that goal.

I will end with 2 links. One is an unfortunate incident where a child was killed by a police officer attempting to kill a (harmless) snake with a gun. The second is the complete list of venomous snake related deaths in the United States. Please take note of the number from Arizona who would have been helped by HB2022 in the last 20 years.

http://www.foxnews.com/…/oklahoma-police-kill-5-year-old-bo…

https://en.wikipedia.org/…/List_of_fatal_snake_bites_in_the…

Respectfully,

Bryan Hughes
480-694-3020

Snake Educators: Stop Saying “Herp” and Preach Beyond the Choir

Herp. What does that word mean to you?

If you’re someone who knows about and enjoys reptiles and amphibians, it’s a great word. It’s short for ‘herpetology’, duh. It’s synonymous with an obsession you probably developed before you learned to tie your shoes.

If you’re anyone else, this isn’t the case. It’s a place in our language already reserved: a sexually transmitted disease, or counterpart to “derp”, meaning stupid, doing something stupid, or a stupid-looking face.

We all suck at talking to the right audience.

There’s a documentary I saw years ago, about the (still) ongoing debate between Creationists and everyone else in our century, called Flock of Dodos. With the amount of overwhelming evidence in support of evolution, how can a debate still exist in 2016? The answer isn’t as easy as blaming religion and blasting conservatives for classroom politics. The real culprit is that scientists often suck at talking to people. The documentary makes this pretty clear: science education suffers from the assumption that being correct matters.

The same is true for activists and educators who operate under a false belief: factual information makes a difference, when given to an audience that does not value facts. There seems to be an idea out there that, to the person who blasts every snake he sees with a shotgun purely for the fun of it, a few well-placed facts will change his mind … that to that personality, citations will make a difference, and that if these particular facts don’t do the trick, more facts will for sure. Education certainly matters, but the singular tactic of preaching to the uncaring does nothing. To this individual, education must be sold. How do we sell information to an audience that doesn’t care? Marketing.

Think Like a Marketer

Bad marketers assume. They guess what people are interested in, what they want, what they care about, and why they care about those things. I see so many educational communications and groups making the same mistakes. These groups never ask the simple questions: what is the reason why people don’t like snakes? What fears do they have? Why do they have those fears? None of those questions would be answered by providing interesting information about snakes … people don’t kill snakes because they don’t know much about them; they kill them because they are worried about their pets, livestock, and probably quite a few ego-driven issues. If the information that we have is not packaged in a way that directly addresses those concerns, it is a useless action.

The details of this topic could go on forever — but I’d like to address perhaps the most obvious case of bad education communication in the herpetological community: “herp”.


“Dat’s a nasty STD, yo. Ew!”

That’s the first entry to a survey I put out awhile back, just to dip my toe in the obvious: “herp” is a really stupid word to use in our educational communications.

What does the word “herp” mean to you?

I posted the question on a Reddit community with no context. Granted, this is a single audience, but more diverse than I thought. Out of 237 respondents, most were in their 20’s. Almost 25% were in that impressionable “my world-view is starting to cool like Hadean-era crust” age range of 18–20, and just under 9% were in their 30’s.

As predicted, the results are a pretty fun read. While a very small portion of the responders actually recognized the term as one synonymous with reptiles and amphibians, most associated with the more famous pairings.

Either short for ‘herpes’ or ‘herp de derp’

I don’t know, but “herpes” came to mind, so I think it may have something to do with disease or bacteria?

It means dumb or herpes

meaningless filler word for talking about something dumb

Stupid, a less offensive version of “retard”. Usually used as a noun to describe an action rather than a person.

The results to the question “When you hear or read the word HERP, what is your first reaction?” are just as fun:

I assume someone is making fun of someone else’s appeareance.

Herpes. Sores. Weeping sores.

I think of someone saying “herp de derp” when mocking someone for being stupid.

keep your distance

ew

Wow, so when we’re coming up with communication pieces or starting an organization to educate people who aren’t already in-the-know about reptiles and amphibians, we should definitely use the word “herp”, right? I’ll base my answer on the responses to the next question in the survey: “If an organization’s name includes the word HERP, how would that affect your initial reaction to the organization?”.

Of 5 choices, the most popular was “I would find the organization funny or not take it seriously.” with ~38%. Next, with ~26%, is “I would assume the organization is a joke or satire.” At the bottom, with 1.23%, is “I would be excited about this organization.”

Is this even the right audience? To the question, later in the survey, “If you see a rattlesnake in the wild, what do you do?” (Also, the first mention of anything that could give away the purpose of the survey, beyond the ability for the user to change answers), ~67% answered either “Run away as fast as possible.”, or “Do nothing; you have no interest in the snake one way or another.”. Fortunately, only 1.68% selected “Kill the Snake”.

If you want a fun read, or you’re not convinced that naming your brand new education group something like “Herps 4 Ever” or “Everyone Loves Herps”, this PDF is for you:

http://rattlesnakesolutions.com/_downloads/Use-of-HERP-in-Herpetological-Communications.pdf

And if you think that Discovery didn’t pour many thousands of dollars into market research before pooping out “Venom Hunters”, you may not really understand the game. If our best collective response to a ball python peddler entertaining the masses by searching for “liquid gold” is to tell that same group a thing or two about an STD, it’s no wonder we are losing this fight.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake: The Most Common Snake in Phoenix

There’s no better first post topic for our new blog, perhaps, than one highlighting the most commonly removed snake species in the city. They’re also one of the most iconic animals in the American West: The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.

The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake is, as far as rattlesnakes go, a generalist. It can live in a wide variety of habitat and climates. In Arizona, this means any area where the city borders native Sonoran Desert habitat is also likely a resource for the Western Diamondback. Especially in areas North of the 101 in Scottsdale and Phoenix, where landscaping is a mix of native desert features and plants, rattlesnakes make their home.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

We’ve relocated Western Diamondbacks from almost everywhere in the city at one time or another. Some of them, like those that show up in the center of the city, get there by hitchhiking in vehicles or landscaping materials. Some are intentionally captured and brought there by people that think that a rattlesnake would be a great pet, and released once they realize how wrong they were! For the most part, Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes are limited to areas that come into direct contact with native desert.

How big does the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake get?

In the Phoenix area, a very large Western Diamondback Rattlesnake is about 4 feet long, with most reaching a slightly smaller adult size in the 3.5′ range. While some individuals may get into the 5′ range, it is very rare. In fact, in over a thousand rattlesnakes captured and relocated by Rattlesnake Solutions over the years, only one even got close, at an estimated 4’10”. It does happen, but to say “diamondbacks get 5′ long” is a lot like saying “an adult human is 7′ tall. It happens, but it’s not common, and generally not useful when discussing size. Things especially fall apart when a person claiming to see a 6′ diamondback also claims to see them often.

What is most likely, is that people just aren’t as great at estimating size of objects as we like to believe we are, combined with just how bad our memories actually are with remembering the details. If you want to do a simple experiment, get a 4′ (or so) stretch of rope or hose, and coil it in the bushes in the backyard. Ask someone to come out, without telling them why, and tell them to give you the size from 10′ away. If you get any answer that isn’t “how am I supposed to know, I’m not a tape measure!”, it likely won’t be anywhere near the actual size.

While there are some reports of Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes getting very large (over 7′ long), this is very rare, and even more rare here in Arizona. Diamondbacks found in the Eastern part of their range in Texas tend to get larger, in-part due to having larger prey to eat, and more of it. There are also genetic differences between these populations, with Diamondbacks East of the continental divide area (about the Arizona/New Mexico border) that may make our Western, Western Diamondbacks end up on the small end. Even more confusingly, there is a completely different species, called an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, that does not live in Arizona at all, and gets larger than any other species of rattlesnake. All of this can cause some confusion when someone says, “hey, I saw a 6 foot diamondback!”, and tries to do some fact-checking on Google.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

What part of the City has the most Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes?

Scottsdale 🙂 That’s an easy one. By looking at our relocation data over the years, the corridor above the 101, West to about the 51, has the highest rate of rattlesnake encounters. This isn’t just because of location – it’s more about what is there. Mostly new-ish developments, continued development, and natural landscaping contribute to wildlife encounters here. This doesn’t mean that if you live in North Scottsdale, you’re destined to meet a rattlesnake. … If your yard is within about a block of native desert habitat, however, it’s likely.

Further into the city, your odds of running into a diamondback are much lower. Even on mountains where other species of rattlesnake are fairly common, like Camelback Mountain or Mummy Mountain, diamondbacks have more or less been killed off by surrounding traffic and development.

“I’ve seen Western Diamondbacks … are those different than coontail rattlesnakes?”

This is a question we get from time to time, and no, they are the same species. Western Diamondbacks have a characteristic black and white banded tail just before the rattle. This can be used to identify them, and tell the difference between them and other species of rattlesnake. Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes are also a great example of some of the confusion that comes from common names given to animals. It seems that almost every place in the Western United States has something that the locals will call a “diamondback”, though in reality there is only one Western Diamondback, Crotalus atrox, which lives in the Southern half of Arizona, Southeastern California, and East into Oklahoma and Arkansas. In much of Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, locals may refer to the local “diamondbacks”, but the rattlesnakes that live there are actually Prairie Rattlesnakes or Great Basin Rattlesnakes.

They are also often mistaken for Mojave Rattlesnakes. Usually the mistaken identity is given to the diamondback, due to the Mojave’s more famous reputation for being overly ‘aggressive’.

Here are more photos of wild diamondbacks! For as common as they are, I never tire of seeing them. If you’ve seen any, tell us about it in the comments.

Western Diamondback RattlesnakeWestern Diamondback Rattlesnake Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Western Diamondback Rattlesnake