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I owe a big debt of gratitude to Ned Harris. Yesterday, he called me to tell me that a Tiger Rattlesnake had been sighted over at Sabino Canyon. I was occupied at the time and couldn’t get over there to check it out. However, this morning, I decided to play a hunch and go to the location that Ned had told me about. I poked around in the rocks for a few minutes, and there it was!
Rattlesnakes are homebodies by nature. If one finds a location to his or her liking it will hang around, sometimes for days or even weeks. My guess was that this rattler had found a pleasant spot in the rocks and would be reluctant to leave. I was right.
This snake is quite large for a Tiger Rattlesnake. Generally, these are smallish rattlers, between two and three feet long. This one was at least a few inches over three feet in length. I was delighted to be able to photograph this one because these snakes don’t show up all that often. Tigers are among the most secretive of rattlers. They’re by no means rare, but they’re not usually seen because of their penchant for hiding in rocky crevices. Like most rattlesnakes, they come in a variety of colors, but sandy orange — like this one — is not uncommon. The orange scales on this snake would make it highly visible on a non-rocky surface. Lying on the beige and reddish rocks of Sabino Canyon, this snake virtually vanishes from view.
Tigers have the most potent venom of all rattlesnakes. One of the herpetologists at the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum told me that, drop for drop, a Tiger Rattlesnake’s venom is several tens of times more potent than that of a Western Diamondback. People are only very rarely bitten by these snakes because Tiger Rattlesnake – human encounters are so rare.
Two other distinguishing factors about Tiger Rattlesnakes. In proportion to their bodies their heads are tiny and their rattles are huge. No one really knows why this is so.
This snake was NOT happy to see me. My experience with most rattlers is that they will sit quietly, not moving, even when approached relatively closely. Not so with this one. It assumed a defensive posture as soon as I began photographing it, raised its head in a strike position, and buzzed incessantly.
I gave it no opportunity to prove whether it was bluffing. A rattler can strike up to about 2/3 of its body length. A three-footer like this snake has about a two foot strike radius. I never came closer to it than about five feet.
I believe that Tiger Rattlesnakes are among the most beautiful of all rattlers. I love to photograph rattlesnakes but I particularly love Tigers. There’s just something special about these gorgeous snakes.
Photos taken with a Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens. The first three photos were assisted with a Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite and were shot at ISO 125, M setting, f18 @ 1/160. The final photo was taken in available light at ISO 250, aperture preferred setting, f11 @ 1/320.