If you are a member of any local buy/sell groups, you’ve likely seen this post out there. If you do, do not share it – it’s part of a scam to create viral posts in these easy to get into and usually poorly moderated groups.
Is this rattlesnake fake?
Not at all. It’s a real snake; an Ornate Blacktailed Rattlesnake (Crotalus ornatus) from the mountains of Texas where they are found. This one was photographed several years ago within its natural home range by a rattlesnake educator named Tim Cole.
Quick correction of BS associated with this scam trend:
Rattlesnakes are not increasing their range – in fact most species are losing ground quickly.
This rattlesnake is not an albino – it is a normal coloration and appearance for the species.
“Scientists don’t know everything” and similar comments: because it is a mystery to some does not mean this snake is a mystery to those who study them. If you just learned about the existence of this species from this scam post, consider that herpetologists are more knowledgeable than you are on the topic.
If you see this post:
Report it to Facebook as false information
Post this article into the comments so that others can be informed and stop spreading it.
This photograph been circulating in recent weeks – a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake coiled in a potted plant. It has, as these things tend to do, taken on a life of its own since then and the waft of BS is all over social media.
Is this photograph real?
Yes it is – it’s really nothing out of the ordinary. This is a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake from somewhere in the eastern end of its range (more than likely Texas). It’s sitting in a potted plant, which is both cool and humid, which anyone living outdoors right now is into.
What isn’t real?
The misinformation surrounding where this has been posted is inaccurate. It’s currently circulating around gardening groups, community pages, and anywhere that trolls and needy personalities find useful to scare people for attention. Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes do not live anywhere near Oregon, Idaho, Ohio, northern California, Florida, or many of the places it’s been claimed to originate. It’s also not from Arizona, as we have seen several claim already.
What is really interesting about this, but not too surprising:
The number of people who post this with false information who claim that it is their own photograph, and first-hand experience. To anyone tasked with unraveling the waves of bad information and personality disorders associated with rattlesnake misinformation, this is a normal phenomenon. Many who spread misinformation like this do so without knowing that it’s already been shared thousands of times at this point, so claims like “this morning in my garden”, often posted from locations where this could not possibly have happened, are extra silly.
Should I worry about this and stop gardening?
Absolutely not. Realize this is viral for a reason: it’s interesting, unusual (to most), and meant to get you excited, scared, worried, or whatever else you may be feeling. If anything at all, if you live in an area where rattlesnakes do occur, just take it as a reminder that rattlesnakes could be found in your garden at some point, and take the necessary precautions.
In the past few days, I’ve been to a multiple homes to catch rattlesnakes in garages. That’s normal and right on time. Which brings up the topic: when do rattlesnakes start moving again, and what should homeowners expect?
When will rattlesnakes come back? Our predictions, based on 11 years of relocation hotline activity:
Early February (you are here): Rattlesnakes will start to “stage”, or move closer to the entrance of, their winter dens. We will start to receive calls to remove small groups of rattlesnakes from garages, storage closets, sheds, and other out-of-the-way structures. Rattlesnake removal calls will frequently be multiple animals.
Late February: Rattlesnakes will start to appear out in the open near their selected dens. Garage removals will be more common. However, there will be an increase of calls to pool pumps, courtyards, and homes with rip rap and rock pile erosion control.
Early March: Snakes will start to make short movements from dens to hunt, drink, and engage in social behavior. They will be highly visible on the surface with peak activity occurring mid-morning before returning to the den or other nearby staging area. Mating activity is high, and multiple snake removal calls will be common.
Late March: Rattlesnake sightings will become common as they leave dens entirely. Peak activity will be between 3pm and 5pm.
April: Very high rattlesnake activity and sightings will be common. At this point they have entirely left the dens and sightings are more likely to be random encounters.
If you’re a hiker or outdoorsy type, you’re still not likely to see a rattlesnake in February. Be more watchful and aware in March, however.
Now is the best time to get to any maintenance or prevention activities you have on your to-do list. Landscaping, debris removal, fixing the snake fence, having the dog trained … get it done before the snakes show up.
Rattlesnakes often den in the garage. If you are using these last mild-weather days to get to “that” side of the garage, use extra caution.
Educating yourself is the best way to stay safe and feel better about the whole situation
As with most things, fear of rattlesnakes is mostly in our heads. Not the fear itself of course, that’s a real thing, but most of what we believe about rattlesnakes as a culture is simply false. Down to the idea that they are aggressive, or territorial (in the way that people use the word) and more, most of us just haven’t had an opportunity to learn factual information.
If you fear rattlesnakes, spend an afternoon going through these resources and watch what happens 🙂
Videos of early-spring rattlesnake captures and info:
More articles about making peace with rattlesnakes this spring:
The spring emergence of rattlesnakes is a big topic with homeowners and hikers – obviously we’ve discussed this in the past quite a lot! Here are some of those articles that can help make sense of it all.
Temperatures are dropping, and so is snake activity. Every year, we are asked this question and field hundreds of comments wanting to know when the rattlesnake-phobic can once again breathe a little easier.
Even more common, starting in September, people are surprised that snakes are still active. We get comments like “this late?” and “I thought they were hibernating?!”. The answer is of course a little more complicated, but the answer is easy to find.
When do snakes go away in the winter?
According to hotline activity as an indicator of snake activity, snake activity drops dramatically around the second week of November. While snakes can still be found on the surface here and there, this is effectively the end of “snake season”.
This question can be best answered by looking at the average activity on our relocation hotline. Since this is driven purely by chance encounters by homeowners and businesses, it’s a good indicator of how many snakes the general population could expect to not see snakes out there.
But I heard that snakes are active all year?
Yes they are, but to a much lower extent. You may be told that there is no such thing as “snake season” because rattlesnakes can be found any time of year. While it is certainly true that in the right conditions a snake might make an appearance, it’s not necessarily useful for this discussion.
If a snake is found at your home in the winter, it has likely been there for awhile.
Here’s a better, more detailed article about When snakes “go to sleep” for the winter”:
A rattlesnake in the backyard is one thing … but how about in the house, in the bedroom, and even under the bed? It happens, though, thankfully very rarely.
The thing is: rattlesnakes don’t want to be in your home. There are species of snakes that get in often, daily even, like Nightsakes and baby Longnosed snakes. Rattlesnakes, on the otherhand, for one reason or another just don’t make an effort to come inside. If I were to assume, based on how rattlesnakes handle stress and modify their behavior accordingly, the activity inside a home makes them less than ideal hiding spots.
How often does a rattlesnake get inside?
Fortunately, Rattlesnake Solutions has a very large collection of human-conflict data of this sort from over ten thousand individual encounters. It happens, but not very often.
Of all encounters we’ve documented, fewer than 100 were rattlesnakes inside the home. If you remove homes that were previously abandoned, missing entire walls, or in a condition where they should be condemned … you end up with fewer than 40. That puts the chances of a rattlesnake encounter in your home, based on snake removal records, at 0.4%. That puts it into a solid “don’t worry about it and go on with your day” category.
Most of the time, a call to catch a rattlesnake inside a home ends up with a Desert Nightsnake in our bucket. These little guys look quite a bit like a rattlesnake and are often mistaken for them.
How does a rattlesnake get into the house?
Fortunately, rattlesnakes are easy to keep out of the house. They come in the same way we do – right through the front door. Most of the time, a rattlesnake inside a house, and in fact a good portion of the other types of snakes as well, come in through a door left open.
Who leaves the door open in Arizona? Everyone, it seems, on the right cool day. Especially our midwestern friends, where it seems an open backdoor on a breezy spring day is a normal thing, tend to leave that sliding door open a bit during prime rattlesnake activity time.
On other relocation calls where we’ve captured rattlesnakes inside the home, the situation is often similar. A home with a wall partially removed during construction, a partially-completed vent removal allowing access, large gaps under garage doors or patio doors, etc. Simply, if there is access to inside the home, animals may find their way in.
What’s going on with this photo of the rattlesnake under a bed?
This photo was from an apartment complex in the North Phoenix, Cave Creek area. Mitch ran out to capture it. Upon arriving, he assumed it would be another nightsnake (which it often is) and had to run back out to the car to get his tongs and bucket after seeing this.
He was able to quickly and safely capture it. But how and why was it in there? And does the resident need to worry about more of them?
As we described earlier, it turns out that the resident left the home for less than 5 minutes, leaving the door slightly ajar. That’s all the time it takes for a wandering rattlesnake to find the cool, air conditioned “cave”, and slip inside.
This also does not mean there are others. Rattlesnakes, while being quite social in a variety of situations, are most often found at homes alone. They do not, as a popular myth goes, travel in pairs.
This also does not indicate that there are more rattlesnake encounters in the Cave Creek area … that is just true, regardless of this particular encounter.
How to keep rattlesnakes out of the house?
The best way to keep rattlesnakes out of your home is to keep doors closed and eliminate access, down to a 1/4″ space.
Sometimes that can be tricky, however. Something we have seen with homes in the valley is an issue with how cabinets are put together. This seems to be the reason behind a majority of nightsnake visits, and at least a few rattlesnakes.
If you look under the sink in your kitchen or bathroom, you’ll most likely see the pipes disappearing into the wall in an orderly, well-sealed way. Behind the cabinets, though, is a different story. The pipes coming into the home may be unsealed. That means if there are any gaps under the cabinet overhang (there most often are), there’s a direct highway from under the home to your bedroom bathroom. This may also be the cause for your scorpion and rodent issues.
The easy fix? Seal the gaps under the cabinet overhang. You could go through the trouble to pull out the whole cabinet, but without knowing for sure there’s a problem to begin with, that’s probably overkill. A Saturday afternoon with some expanding foam is all you likely need.
The other thing you should do is to take steps to reduce the overall number of rattlesnakes visiting your property. That is best done by a combination of property modification (landscaping, etc., here’s our step-by-step guide) and physical barriers, like properly sealed garage doors and rattlesnake fence installation.
So rest easy. While a rattlesnake inside the home is something that does happen from time to time, it’s nothing to be overly concerned with. No need to call the realtor or burn the house down; just keep the door closed and you’ll be just fine.
Better late than never – rattlesnakes are giving birth, even without the rain. One of the services we offer are serial property inspections, to continuously monitor properties to evaluate possible rattlesnake activity and provide recommendations to landscapers, pest control, and property managers.
We have been inspecting this particular property for many years, and this is the most interesting thing found there to date.
On the previous inspection, Greyson noted a shed skin in an area at the edge of the property. Knowing a fresh shed during this hot and dry period could indicate an estivation den nearby, he focused on that spot during his visit yesterday, and, whoa.
Here is what was found: a late-season estivation den with a mixed bag of Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, with one having given birth in the recent past, and another in a deep blue phase (preparing to shed skin)
While this is not entirely unusual, what is different about this year is that we are seeing that rattlesnakes are having their babies later than usual, and they are doing so in their estivation dens instead of moving to their usually-preferred birthing spots.
This is likely a response to our exceptionally hot (the hottest on record) summer and near-complete lack of rain. This is similar to a recent visit to a home by Dave in Tucson (I’ll be posting this shortly as well) where he captured a total of 14 rattlesnakes.
Are rattlesnakes giving birth later this year than normal?
According to our observations and activity on the relocation hotline: yes, it appears that rattlesnakes are having babies later this year than usual. In a normal year, we start to receive our first calls to capture groups of mother Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes with their newborn babies in early July, usually hitting its peak around the first week of August, then trickling in here or there until around the first week of September. This year, it took much longer for this to be normal, only now (mid-August) has it become routine.
Likewise, rattlesnakes seen in informal surveys and in our study of rattlesnakes in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve have shown that Western Diamondback Rattlesnake and Tiger Rattlesnakes that would have likely given birth by now are still languishing in a gravid (pregnant) state at estivation dens.
While this is in no way a full representation of what’s happening out there, but does represent 10 years of data collection and informal survey observations. It should also be noted that while this is the case in the Phoenix and Tucson areas, it is unlikely to represent behavior in other regions.
Why are baby rattlesnakes being born later this year than usual?
This year makes that a little bit tougher than normal. If monsoon rain triggers pregnant rattlesnakes to give birth, what happens when there is no rain at all?
They have to give birth eventually … so what we are seeing is this: The mother rattlesnakes are staying at estivation sites (spots selected to hide away during the hottest summer months) far longer than they normally would. Rather than moving to a birthing site as they normally would, they are having their babies right in place.
This likely isn’t good for the babies, ultimately and unfortunately. They lose moisture more than twice as quickly as adults (J. Agugliaro, H. Reinert 2005). Unless we get some rain soon, that could be big trouble for this year’s babies. We’re hoping for the best, but looking at the forecast … hoping is all there is to do.
How homeowners can keep baby rattlesnakes out of the yard
Keeping the smallest rattlesnakes out of your area is a bit different than the larger ones.
First, the space they need to get in is much smaller … anything more than about a third of an inch can allow access. Second, they make frequent movements and may not necessarily know where they’re going. Unlike adults, who’ve had a lifetime to map out a homerange, babies may show up any place, any time. For that reason, physical barriers are the best bet. Rather than go too far into detail here, I’ll refer you to our guide to keep baby rattlesnakes out of the yard.
Schuett, G.W., Repp, R.A., Hoss, S.K. and Herrmann, H.‐W. (2013), Parturition in a Desert Rattlesnake. Biol J Linn Soc Lond, 110: 866-877. doi:10.1111/bij.12166
Agugliaro J, Reinert HK. Comparative skin permeability of neonatal and adult timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus). Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2005;141(1):70-75. doi:10.1016/j.cbpb.2005.04.002
Arizona’s perfect weather in the shoulder seasons makes it an ideal place to spend the winter for seasonal residents. Affectionally referred to locally as “snow birds”, each year, they come and go. With their return to roost in the fall come the flurry of rattlesnake removal calls.
What do rattlesnakes do when we’re away?
One of the apparently largest factors in rattlesnake activity (or lack of it) is simply your presence. Just our activity on the property can alter their behavior so they take greater care to avoid meeting us.1 So when you leave, it’s to be expected that wildlife will quickly move to reclaim the space. Even a few months can make quite a difference. We have learned this from 10 years of rattlesnake removals and working with property managers – a unoccupied home can greatly affect the chances of future rattlesnake encounters.
So what can we do to reduce our chances of having rattlesnakes move in?
What can you do to keep rattlesnakes and other wildlife from squatting on the property while you’re away? Aside from the easy stuff (covered here in our 5 Things you can do right now to see fewer rattlesnakes guide), there are a number of things you can do both before you leave, while you’re away, and prior to your return.
Before you leave:
Physical barriers are the best bet. Get rattlesnake fencing installed. If you already have it, make sure that it’s in top form and there are no holes, gaps, or damage that needs attention.
Get rid of any debris – piles of construction stuff, roof tiles, those bricks by the side of the house, or deflated pool toys, etc.
Ditch the lantana! Get to any last-minute landscaping choices before you leave. The fewer places snakes can hide, the better.
Fix it! Repair any holes or gaps in the building, foundation, flashing, grill islands, or anywhere else that could become a summer home for snakes.
Avoid making a cave. Make sure the garage is sealed up tight and in great condition.
While you’re away:
Keep up on maintenance. This might cost some money, but making sure the services to maintain the yard are still in place can help keep rattlesnake activity away. A well-maintained yard that’s occasionally visited by people is less attractive than yards that are not.
Get it checked out. Have someone knowledgeable about wildlife come do an inspection mid-way through your absence to identify any potentially problematic areas before they fully develop. You can also just ask a neighbor or a property manager to walk the property.
Before you return:
Have the yard inspected. A few days before you come back, it may be a good idea to have a property inspection performed to make sure that any snakes that may have moved in while you were away can be found and removed.
Do a once-over maintenance. Even though you may have keep the landscapers and pool guys coming the entire time, it’s a good idea to do a final touch-up just before you arrive. Rather than waiting until you get there, if you can get this done in advance, that will help eliminate the chances of displaced rattlesnake encounters.
Read up on local snakes. Many of our snow bird residents actually come from those far-off summer destinations, so knowledge of the native wildlife is still a work in progress. During that long drive (passengers!) or wait at the airport for your return, brush up on knowledge of what may live in your yard and how to identify it.
Once you return:
Walk the property. While everyone is unloading the car, get right to it: walk the entire property and do a check to see if anyone else is there. If you do find a snake, call to have it relocated ASAP.
Be on guard. For a week or so after you come home, be more cautious than normal and make be aware that the new activity in the area may change the behavior of wildlife, including rattlesnakes. That also goes for the return of your neighbors.
Check the fence! Make sure that your rattlesnake fence is still tight and without damage. Rodents and other animals can sometimes dig or create problems even while you’re gone, so do the same inspection you did before you left to make sure it’s still good to go.
Jump in the pool! This has nothing to do with snakes, but you’ve probably been thinking about it for a while so go for it.
Welcome back! Keep the education going.
The more you know, the safer your yard will be. Not only will you be better equipped to make your yard less attractive to snakes, but your behavior if you do see one will be better. Here’s a rather long presentation full of information that would be a good once-over when you get back to help you feel better about the whole situation.
Over the past decade and many thousands of rattlesnakes captured in the backyards of Arizona homes, a few trends have emerged. Most notable: there are certain areas of all yards that seem to attract rattlesnakes more often than others.
Perhaps the biggest offender on this list of rattlesnake-attracting features are pool filter systems. Throughout the year, especially during the spring and late fall when rattlesnake behavior is driven by access to their dens, pool equipment areas seem to house rattlesnakes more than any other yard feature.
Why does pool equipment seem to attract rattlesnakes?
Every home with a pool has a corner of the property where the filter, pump, heater, and other pool mechanisms are hidden away. These items themselves aren’t useful to rattlesnakes – in fact, I would suspect that the constant vibration and smells could be disliked by them. However, there are some pretty great things here if you happen to be a rattlesnake:
Privacy – They are often tucked away, obscured by a wall, and seldom visited compared to other areas of the yard.
Comfortable – They often become the default storage area for materials for unused roof tiles, pavers, and deflated pool toys.
Opportunity – The vibration and moisture from the equipment can help turn any rodent burrow into a deep cave system.
Fast food – rodents easily make homes in the soft dirt and create burrows under concrete base slabs.
More or less, these issues stem from the fact that most designers make an effort to hide the mess of pipes and noisy equipment away from the rest of the yard. As a result, common problems that would otherwise be addressed immediately. Rodent activity, discarded pool toys, materials waiting for bulk-pickup day, and others are often put here and forgotten, inadvertently creating the perfect situation for rattlesnakes to find a home.
How do I keep rattlesnakes out of my pool equipment?
Fortunately, this is relatively simple. All you need to do is treat this part of your property the same as you do the rest of it.
If you are diligent about addressing rodent issues that appear in the visible parts of your property, extend that effort to the hidden pool pump stuff as well. If that inflatable shark you haven’t floated on since the first 5 minutes it came out of the box is just deteriorating behind the filter, throw it away. Likewise, find a new home for the old roofing tiles, the broken pool net, etc. Keep this area as clean and well-maintained as you would any other part of the property.
Above all, make sure that the concrete (or other material) base slabs have no tunnels or erosion under them. These tunnels seem to be exceptional homes for several behavioral phases of rattlesnakes throughout the year, and one of the top situations we remove snakes from each year.
So, the next time you’re in the backyard doing your normal maintenance, give the pool guy a break from a possible rattlesnake encounter and take care of those hidden-away areas, too.
It is completely normal to occasionally see rattlesnakes in the winter. The first rattlesnake sightings of the year have started to pop up around Arizona, along with the subsequent misinformation. To get a jump on things, let’s clear a few things up. Copy and paste this as a response to all the “OMG it’s too early!” comments you see out there 😉
Rattlesnakes are not out early; some reported sightings are completely normal. You do not need to worry or stop hiking, etc.
It is not “too cold”. Any day with the right conditions can have rattlesnakes coming to the surface of their chosen den. This can happen any day of the year when things are right.
Rattlesnakes do brumate (hibernate) and do have distinctly different phases of behavior as seasons progress. However, part of this behavior includes the need to come to the surface in certain conditions. In particular, moisture and the chance to drink means you can potentially see a rattlesnake on the surface even in the cold months. This doesn’t mean “they don’t hibernate”, but that this behavior is more complicated than most people expect.
Yes, you can see rattlesnakes on rare occasions, under very specific circumstances, in very specific places. “They are out” as they are all year, but this does not mean they are ACTIVE or that you need to worry if you’ve heard of someone seeing one. A number of these snakes are due to human causes, like construction, removing an old shed, or getting into the long-overdue garage cleanup. If a snake is uncovered by our behavior, that is not an “active” snake, but a discovered and displaced one.
No, rattlesnakes have not started to move around and begin a major activity period similar to the Spring emergence, which will likely start right on schedule around mid-March. They’ll likely stay right at the place they’re at (or within a few dozen feet) until conditions signal that it’s time to go.
Rattlesnakes are not “more aggressive”as they emerge from winter dens. If this is not a complete myth, it is likely one created by confirmation bias and a possibly delayed defensive reaction (rattle) as hunters and hikers approach a denning snake.
Rattlesnakes don’t form massive winter dens in the low desert. On TV and in internet posts, you may see photographs of hundreds of rattlesnakes piling out of a hole in the ground. In the hot desert areas of Arizona, this is not what they do. A rattlesnake den in the Phoenix or Tucson areas will usually have between 1 and 5 individuals, with some special places having a larger number.
The superbowl is soon! If you’re grilling, do a quick inspection under the grill island before your guests arrive. Stand-alone grill islands that are popular in Arizona are a popular site for denning rattlesnakes.
If you hear anything else and want some clarification, post it in the comments!
Starting with the Christmas decorations started for some people as early as Halloween (you know who you are) and have been popping up throughout November. Most people hold off until after Thanksgiving, however, and we notice some trends.
This period, where homeowners dig into that pile of stuff in the back of the garage that hasn’t been touched since last year, is when we get calls for rattlesnakes. It happens every year, quite often actually, and this year will be no different. Yes, we are open on Thanksgiving and the day after, because our snake relocation call-records show that we need to be.
It’s not a major concern, but it’s definitely something every homeowner living in places where rattlesnakes can be found should be aware of as you start grabbing dusty boxes. Those places we don’t get to very often, where that plastic Christmas tree is stored next to boxes of decorations and old yearbooks, are ideal spots for a young rattlesnake to spend its first winter.
Rattlesnakes tend to not be found inside the boxes as much as alongside or behind them, usually along the wall or in the corners. If you have storage that takes up an entire side, from back to the corner by the garage door, that is a more preferable location for rattlesnakes to use.
We have found rattlesnakes inside the boxes, too. Usually, this happens when cardboard boxes develop splits in them at the base, or are laid sideways so there is easy access. Rattlesnakes can and do climb up into shelves and places off the ground, but it’s not as common as other situations that are on the ground. The point is – they could be anywhere in that stored stuff, so be aware of hand placement.
Usually, the rattlesnakes we find in garages are small, yearlings or younger. These little guys have not yet worked out a stable home range, and surviving their first winter is a matter of finding a spot that will do the job, often without being a really great spot. Garages, especially in newly-developed areas, are perfect.
We do get congregations of adults as well, but this is usually the result of a multi-year situation. If you’ve moved into a home that was vacant for years, or have that spot where stored items have not been moved for several years, this could be a possibility. It’s rare, however.
To make the annual fake-tree drag out as safe as it can be:
Never reach into areas where you can’t see clearly. Use a flashlight to check before putting hands into any dark area.
Start early in the morning when it’s coldest out – any rattlesnakes that could be present will be less likely to react
Use plastic totes when possible instead of cardboard
If you see a snake, you’ll want to have it relocated properly (so it does not return) and have the rest of the garage searched as well
Change the location of stored items each year if possible
Add shelves to store items up off the ground and create a space greater than 10″ (or so)
Have the garage sealed and make sure it is in good condition
Always keep the garage door closed when not in use during den ingress times (Late September through Mid-November).