Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes In Our Backyard

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Sooner or later you will encounter a rattlesnake if you live in the Tucson area, especially if you live in one of the city’s outer suburbs. It’s not for nothing that Arizona is referred to as the rattlesnake capital of the world.

I have encountered dozens of rattlers in the decade that Louisa and I have lived here. However, until today I’d never seen a mature rattlesnake in our yard.

Our yard had become heavily overgrown this summer. Our Red Bird of Paradise plants had expanded to enormous size, more than six feet tall and with spreads of eight and ten feet, courtesy of our near-record monsoon rains. The plants’ growth delighted me, because they attracted hordes of pollinating insects including a myriad of butterflies.

That’s not all that they attracted.

We’d asked a landscape crew to trim the plants. The landscapers did their job but, shortly after noon today, one of them tapped on our back door and informed us that they’d discovered a rattlesnake at the base of one of our plants. Sure enough there was a tightly coiled Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake sitting there.

I have no experience relocating venomous snakes. Fortunately, I have a friend and near-neighbor with a lot of experience, so I called him. Sam showed up about 1/2 hour after I called, equipped with a trash container and a set of snake grabbers, essentially a four-foot long pole with a pair of tongs at the end. The plan was to humanely relocate the snake.

However, shortly before Sam arrived I took another look at the snake’s location and did a double take. There was a second rattlesnake lying just a foot or so away from the first snake.

Sam, unfazed, managed to capture both snakes and deposit them in his trash container. The larger of the two snakes, about three feet long (about a meter long), took considerable offense, rattled ferociously, and struck at Sam’s snake grabbers a couple of times. It settled down somewhat when placed in the container but was still visibly annoyed.

The smaller of the two snakes, only about 2/3 the size of the larger snake, was quiet, almost docile.

Rattlesnakes are not social animals. They live solitary existences. So, it’s always worth asking what’s going on when one encounters two in close proximity to each other. It’s unlikely that random chance put these two snakes together and I can think of two possibilities for them being in the same place. One is that nearby rodent burrows — Kangaroo Rats or Pocket Mice — attracted the snakes. The other is that one of these snakes was a male seeking to mate with the other snake.

Sam, Louisa and I walked to a wash (a dry creek bed) about 100 yards from our house and we released the snakes back into the wild.

I’m a big fan of rattlesnakes, they perform an extremely useful service in keeping the rodent population in check. But, that is not a reason to allow two highly venomous creatures to hang out in our small yard. Relocating them makes sense, for us and for the snakes.

People are unduly afraid of rattlesnakes, in my opinion. They pose no threat to us so long as we treat them respectfully. Consider that in Arizona, with its population of over 10 million people, there are about 300 rattlesnake bites per year. Of those bites, nearly all occur when someone deliberately molests a snake. The remainder — a handful — occur when someone blunders into one. In other words, almost every single snakebite happens when unprepared people foolishly interact with rattlesnakes. Leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone.

Images made with a Canon R5, Canon RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 IS L zoom lens. First image illuminated by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 200, f8 @ 1/200. Remaining images shot in available light, M setting (auto ISO), ISOs varied between ISO 2000 and ISO 3200, f5.6 @ 1/1600.

One Reply to “Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes In Our Backyard”

  1. Roadtirement says:

    Glad you relocated them. So many would have just gone for the shotgun…

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