Rattlesnake Season Begins…

Rattlesnake. In my house!!!

Rattlesnake season isn’t supposed to start for another month, but I guess nobody told this guy. This morning, he was outside my front door, but by the time I dusted off my snake bin and grabbed my snake stick, he was gone. By afternoon he somehow made his way INTO THE HOUSE.

He looks mad, but he's really scared. So was I.

Now, I like snakes and I’ve been trained to handle rattlers – I am a certified snake wrangler for the Santa Fe Wildlife Center – but I totally freaked out. A Rattler. IN MY HOUSE. This was way over the line.

Of course, I had to snap a few photos first, but then I locked up the dogs (my puppy Dio, who was bitten by a rattler last summer, ran and hid when he heard the rattle) and grabbed my snake stick. My hands were shaking and that’s no good. The snake stick is a metal golf club with a hook on the end and it transmits vibrations very well. If you’re shaking they can feel it and they’re more likely to run. If you’re calm and treat them gently, snakes are usually cooperative. When they run, they usually run away, not towards you. But I really didn’t want to lose him again in the house.

Stick in hand, I stood motionless for a few minutes, waiting for the snake to calm down and stop rattling. I said, “Easy now, calm down. Nobody’s going to get hurt.” Snakes follow movement and while they sense vibrations very acutely, they don’t hear sounds the way we do. So I suppose I was mostly talking to myself. Then I took a very deep breath, stepped forward, slipped my hook under one of his coils, lifted him into the box and closed the lid. Rattlesnake wrangled.

Safely in the snake bin

I gotta say, I’m rather proud that I was able to calm myself down enough to get him in the snake bin on the first try. That was a serious Zen moment! I‘ll drive him a few miles away from my house and release him in a wild place, where he can be a snake. The world needs rattlesnakes. Just not in my house!!!

Update: I fed him and freed him. See photos of the release here!

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently traveling the backroads from New Mexico to Alaska, writing and living out of a tiny Teardrop camper. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Rattlesnake Season Begins…

  1. I will never complain about spiders in the basement again! Wow, I think a snake in my house would be my undoing!

    • Are your spiders the size of your palm? We have tarantulas here too! http://theblondecoyote.com/2011/09/10/tarantulas-on-the-march/

      • ehpem says:

        That is one of the best replies to a comment on a blog that I have seen :)
        I had a great uncle who took it upon himself to eliminate rattle snakes from his part of the Canadian Okanagan. He kept meticulous notes of the thousands that he killed. After he died, they slowly came back and eventually a biologist, using my uncle’s notes and his own observations, wrote a master’s thesis on the population recovery and dynamics in that area. So, some small positive outcome to the slaughter.
        His reason for the decades long killing spree? One of his students was bitten by a rattler and died before the anti-venom could be driven north from Washington State. But, reading the fine print of a newspaper article about that event, I saw the kid had been treated with strychnine which I think was a common mode of thought – treat poison with poison, etc. I am sure that is why he died. Anyway, you have jogged a train of thought.
        And, great photos – no hint of camera shake!

      • Oh wow, what a neat study! Kill all the rattlesnakes and you’ll soon be overrun with rats, which will attract more snakes! Very interesting about the strychnine treatment too. I’ve never heard of that, but it sounds like one of those insane old remedies. Thanks for sharing! M

  2. westerner54 says:

    Yikes….no…double-yikes. In the house is, indeed, too much.

  3. fivereflections says:

    beautiful photos – i’m not used to snakes – Maine is quite free of poisonous snakes i believe. imagine a visitor (snake) in your bed, and you don’t realize it is there?

  4. I prefer birds, I just do not much like the sound of a Rattler, but you are right, it is that time of year to keep your feet & ears on alert. I worry more for my dogs than myself…………en theos…jim

  5. Barneysday says:

    Grew up with Eastern diamond backs. No thank you. I was always the guy running in the other direction. Great pics, though!

  6. Do you run into scorpions much? I have a friend in Az and she’s always telling me about scorpions. Uck!

    • Knock on wood, I have not had any run-ins with scorpions…yet. I know a couple of neighbors who have. They’re definitely out there!

      • It’s my understanding that they’re mostly harmless/nuisances, but it’d still ook me out, knowing they’re lurking. Apparently you can find them with a black light lamp. I dare you to do that one night.

      • I wouldn’t say they’re harmless. Getting bitten by a rattlesnake is a medical emergency, not always life-threatening, but certainly limb-threatening. I live an hour from the closest hospital, down a road so rough that ambulances will not come out here. I learned how to handle rattlesnakes safely in case of an encounter like this one. I shudder to think what would have happened if I didn’t have a snake stick and a proper bin and the ability to use them! Out here, it’s only a matter of time. Best be prepared!

      • I was talking about scorpions. :)

        Venomous snakes, otoh, not ones to mess with, I wholly agree with. In New England, where I grew up, I had a healthy respect for Copperhead snakes. Timberland rattlers, unfortunately, are endangered; I saw one in wild only once.

        At any rate, all wild animals should be treated with caution, yeah. I’m curious – do you carry antivenom for your dogs? Or have they been through training to avoid snakes?

        That was something I worried about when I was living in Colorado – my dog is stupid about animals he’s afraid of, and instead of leaving them alone, he bark at them in hopes they will go away. Of course, that’s not a good thing to do with snakes…Fortunately, he never encountered one out there.

  7. azsoap says:

    wow!! I’m impressed and thank you for sharing. I’m in rattlesnake country and I would be a loss. I’m glad your adventure ended safely.

  8. At first I thought surely this was a rubber snake (trick)? Snakes freak me out like nothing else. I once accidently stepped on a snake–it felt like stepping on a garden hose! You took some awesome shots here, but better you than me. A few years back, a rattlesnake bit my brother’s cat, they thought she was going to die, but she recovered.

  9. kzackuslheureux says:

    You are just frickin’ awesome! I love snakes, and I have a special spot in my heart for Rattlers. I must admit though, I had a tiny little green gardner snake in my house once and I screamed like a little girl, it was like a little mouse zipping by. They are so fast when they want to be. My grandma grew up on a homestead in the prairies of Montana (one the southern half of Black Butte, if anyone knows the area), she would go out and find her Turkeys circling the rattlers, sometimes she needed to nock it out, sometimes the snake already had a heart attack from the turkeys, but then my Gram would skin them and make doll clothes out of them! I’d rather see them left to live on their own, but I still like the story, Homesteader stock! I love your post! My husband ran from the computer :)

    • Wow, that’s an amazing story about your Gram! She sounds pretty feisty! Have you read Half Broke Horses? It’s a great biography of an incredibly tough homesteader woman in the mid-1800′s in NM.

  10. mjspringett says:

    You are brave, keep up the great blogging, thanks MJ

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  12. Ack! You’re so brave! I think I’d have to run around screaming for a few minutes before I could even deal with catching and releasing he snake. *shudder* A rattler outside is one thing…but in your house….seems like such a violation!

    Have you ever heard of a snake stick made with PVC and a rope? This is something a couple other bloggers seem to use a lot and is quite successful….not too much to worry about with vibrations. lol!

    http://www.the7msnranch.com/search/label/snakes

    ~Lisa

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