Monday, August 22, 2011

What kind of a rattler are you?

Photo by Ned Harris, 8/19/11
This rattlesnake was looking rather soggy and still on the morning after Thursday's big rain, and we weren't certain what kind it was. I thought it looked like it was getting ready to shed; I had a vague recollection of once seeing a gopher snake before it shed at a 'Reptile Ramble' at Tohono Chul. To get a real answer (rather than one just stated with confidence), I turned to Tom 'Snake Boy' McDonald, Docent Instructor at Tohono Chul. Tom wrote:
"First, the snake doesn't look like a diamondback. It looks more like a tiger rattlesnake. Unfortunately I can't see the tail, which might also help. Whether the snake is getting ready to shed is also difficult for me to say. Its colors seem muted, which might mean its scales are started to shed, but it could also be a natural color variation. I see tremendous variation in snake color, so it's difficult to know what the "normal" coloration is for a particular snake unless you've seen it a few times. Also, the eyes don't have the characteristic bluish hue that they often get right before the snake sheds, but then again that might just mean that the snake is still in the early stages of getting ready to shed and is not quite on the brink of doing so. So I guess I would say that it doesn't look like it's going to shed in the next couple of days, but beyond that I really don't know. Sorry I can't say anything more definitive."
Ned want back to the same spot in Sabino Canyon the next day and found no snake and no skin; so we'll go with cold and tired Tiger Rattlesnake. (Thanks, Tom.) If you haven't already been to a Reptile Ramble, I highly recommend it!

Photo by (not of) Tom McDonald

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