eing by nature, basically a city boy ..but with quite a bit of time "out in the woods" back East ..I had no idea whether or not I'd be phobic about rattlers here in North Central New Mexico! After 6 years now, boots on the ground ..I think I can lend some experience, some experiences and some advice about rattlesnakes.
Folks here, down in the bosque (river valley) would say about our mesa.."Ohh..there are rattlers up there"! Indeed this being New Mexico, there are rattlers up here on our mesa.
First off, as a result of not knowing if I'd be phobic or not, I had decided to be hyper vigilant for a time ..as yet undetermined, AND to seek them out! We arrive for good, in July. It was a full 2 months before I saw one. It was down in the canyon (arroyo) to our West and laying stretched out in a dry wash. I studied it for awhile from about 10 feet before sidestepping around it to about 6 feet away.
Identifying Rattler vs Bull-Snake
Having already seen several bull-snakes, I made sure to mentally digest some subtle differences. First off here in Northern New Mexico, they first appear very much the same. The rattler, however was more green than the textbook rattler and almost neon in it's colors that really jumped out, beautiful animal! Second, it's head was markedly arrowhead shaped ..whereas the head of a bull-snake is the shape of a human's fingertip. And thirdly, this snake was 4 years old, as evidenced by the number of rattles on it's tail. As a rattler peels it's skin every year, the next seasons rattle is left behind. The bull-snake actually has rings around it's tail that almost appear as rattles. This rattler was about 2 1/2 feet long. I've since found that it's cut from a mold at @ 2 1/2 feet in length here.
That afternoon, it was explained to me that this was rare, a rattler that was stretched out with a human near, not coiled. I've come to experience that 98% of the time, when I've seen a rattler ..it was coiled and rattling* ..and that 98% of the time when I've seen a bull-snake it's winding it's way along snake style (see video below). Furthermore, there is much more variance in the size of bull-snakes here, than rattlers. BUT..in 6 years of looking for rattlers, I haven't seen even one SW Diamondback!! I even tend to hang out and explore where they're reputed to hang out!
Since I then realized how similar they are, the rattler (prairie) and the bull-snake ..we researched pictures ..printed them and put them up on our refrigerator, to be mindful, because even here in snake country, on par, it's kind rare to see one. And now I'll give you the play by play.
Our first year here we saw 2 rattlers total and several bull-snakes. Our second year here ..we saw only a couple of rattle-snakes and discovered Bull
, a 6 foot long, 3 inch thick Bull-Snake ..and many times he'd be snaking along right at me or somebody..but we came to realize he just was headed to a place and we just happened to be in the way! To side step out of his way meant he'd very peaceably move on by! :)
Our 3rd year here, evidently was The Year of the Rattler
(on the food chain chart reputedly ever 7 years), and we saw at least 1/2 dozen rattlers. Since that time, only a couple per year.
The Rattle-Less Rattle-Snake
According to local lore, this snake is 'evolving' to know that if rattles for a human, it's doomed.
This is a true story, and we encountered one with 6 rattles who positively would not rattle at us, even when prodded to do so.
Bull-Snakes Eat Rattlesnakes
Many folks here keep bull-snakes in the belief that they eat rattlers.
We have not found this story to be true. A ranger at a local ruin describes 3 different dens within 100 yards of the ruin, and says that all three, prairie, diamondback and bull-snakes co-exist there harmoniously. With Bull, here on the loose, it's seem that if bull-snakes eat rattlers, that HE would have been caught eating one. Rather, from my now significant experience ..bull-snakes compete with rattlers for mice, kangaroo rats and pack-rats ..as well as lizards of all types, and keep the population at bay.
Planting a Certain Herb Will Ward Off Rattlers
2 of our neighbors have planted this herb and they too see rattlers, probably no less sightings than we have...so I have to say this story is not true.
Will I see A Rattlesnake?
Having operated a guest 'bunkhouse' here for years, my experience tells me to offer to our guests who are here for a week or two weeks that the chances of them seeing a rattler are very slim to none, HOWEVER ..rattlers just happen
!! I have never discovered one canvasing for them while guests are here. Moreover, that by the time a human would see it, it's coiled and silent, that they most probably are near or by them a lot, but don't know it. While a bull-snake is normally snaking alround in the infamous SSSS
style of walking
..they seem to want to be seen! :)
For sure, a Rattlesnake uses it's rattles to warn a beast that it does not mean to harm/eat. I've seen a rattler ..rattle and strike!! ..at my car passing by! I actually heard it thump the tire with it's strike and when I got home, only a mile away checked and saw the evidence of it's strike. The next morning the tire was flat. It had struck on the sidewall.
I found that my months of vigilance when first arriving here, has carried through to a natural vigilance and that the only time I'm nervous hiking in rattler country (high desert brush or snake grass), is when there is a heavy wind ..that I would be able to hear it warn me. At these times, I use extra caution and sweep the ground in front with my eyes while hiking.
While it's very true that there are those who wouldn't even dream of vacationing, hiking, biking or otherwise being in an area where there are rattlers, I've come to realize that I'm not at all phobic of them ..and to the contrary ..feel very much enchanted that I'm living here in a place with such an awesome and physically beautiful beast! Want to live here with us/them? Click Here
I have more rattler-tales if you want to fill out any form on the site and submit, I'll write back with one-some!