Rattlesnakes Still Active
Last week while driving down one of northern
’s rural roadways I saw something ahead that caught my eye.
It couldn’t be a stick because it was moving across the road surface.
It looked like a snake, but surely we’d had enough cool nights to send
all those creatures into their winter dens for hibernation.
As I got closer it became evident that it was indeed a snake.
Even better it was a five foot long, seven rattle rattlesnake.
After getting a few pictures of this creature I headed back to the office
where I called an expert on snakes at the
. After all, it had nearly frosted
the night prior to seeing this snake. Mark
Lewis, a Zookeeper in the Reptile Department, came to my aid.
Mark works with snakes routinely on the grounds of the Zoo and is also an
expert on their behavior in the wild. According
to Mark, it is not the coolness of the nights that determine when snakes begin
their hibernation. Rather, it is the
warmth of the day that influences this behavior.
The cool, fluctuating temperatures we’ve witnessed the past couple of
weeks typically send snakes towards their den areas.
They recognize that winter is quickly approaching so they don’t want to
be left out in the cold, literally. During
these weeks of cool nights and warm days the snakes will take refuge in their
dens during the cool periods. In the
daytime they will often come out of the dens and find a warm sunny spot to take
in some rays. However, as the
evening approaches they will quickly retreat to their dens.
In our area, rattlers are among the first of the snakes to begin their
hibernation period. Once
temperatures fall below the 70 degree mark rattlesnakes will be off to begin
their six month nap. Other snakes,
however, will hang around until the high temperatures plummet into the low
60’s. In the spring the cycle will
reverse itself. Other snakes, such
as king snakes, will leave their dens when temperatures crawl back into the
60’s. The rattlers will stay
underground until the warmer days reach into the 70’s.
As stated in previous articles
is full of wonderful wildlife. Depending
on who you ask, rattlesnakes can be included in this category.
Rattlesnakes are often portrayed as dangerous, aggressive animals that
seek out people to bite. However,
that couldn’t be further from the truth. In
nearly all situations rattlesnakes are calm and docile while relying on their
camouflage to protect them. The only
time they will attempt to strike a person is if they are stepped on or otherwise
feel threatened. So for now, take
caution when walking through the woods on warm, sunny afternoons.
But in a few more weeks your fears of rattlesnakes can hibernate until
the 70 degree days of next spring.