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Where do you see rattlesnakes?

Posted: Apr 14 2005 9:27 pm
by big_load
Over the last few years I've read everything about posted on this forum about rattlesnakes, and most of what I could find in the library, but I still feel deficient in knowledge of their behavior. OK, so here's the question:

Where do you see rattlesnakes?

I have most often seen them basking in open sunny spots on the trail, laying in gravel, rockpiles, or leaf trash on the side of the trail, and of course in the road.

Where else do you see them? If I made a living ambushing rodents, I would hang out in those places where bushes (creosote, mesquite, scrub oak, willow) have overgrown the sides of the trail and there's little footprints in the dust. I always make plenty of noise entering these areas, and lead with my poles, and though I've never seen a snake in one of these areas, I get really nervous about pushing my way through overgrown trails. Am I nuts?

By the way, I live about a mile from a major timber rattlesnake and copperhead den. I see two or three live ones every year, and half a dozen flat ones. My AZ hiking is mostly in cooler weather, but I have had a few close encounters.

Posted: Apr 14 2005 10:05 pm
by joebartels
I frequently see or hear rattlers a half hour after the sun sets when I'm coming down Squaw. It isn't hard to figure out why either... mice are everywhere!

Other then that I see'm practically everywhere April through Nov. They don't seem to rattle much when it's over a hundred degrees. They generally look deflated and don't move quickly when it's real hot, which I like :)

most memorable encounters...
Did a night hike in the superstitions years ago and the rattlesnakes out numbered the nats, it was crazy. I stepped on one and obviously lucked out.
Last year I met some twins in September on Dacite.

Posted: Apr 14 2005 11:41 pm
by Trishness
I've had all my rattlesnake encounters in either the Superstitions or Usery Park, usually in March. On Terrapin Trail in March 2004, I ran into two of them in a 300 yard stretch of the trail...they were nice and shaded under some brush (creasote). My hiking buddies told me later they saw another one pass across the trail behind me on that same trail but didn't want to freak me out. :roll:

I was out in Usery in late March of this year and saw one rattlesnake near Cat's Peak as he slinked off the trail. I just caught sight of the tail as he headed off into the grass. I heard the second one a bit up the trail but never saw him.

These sightings were all around 9:30 AM.

Joe....I swear those buzzworms tag-team.......they seem to run in pairs!


Posted: Apr 15 2005 4:37 am
by Nay_Nay
OH MY!!!!!!!!! This has made me nervous! :o I absolutely HATE snakes and creepy crawly things. Mice and snakes on the trail........eeeeeeeekkkkkkkkssss! What have I gotten myself into???Maybe I'll just hike Squaw Peak in the mornings when a lot of other people are there until summer is over with :?:

Posted: Apr 15 2005 9:31 am
by Abe
Yep, I seem out and about much like the above mention; however, I've never seen 'em during the heat of the day in the middle of the summer.
Clearly smart.

Posted: Apr 15 2005 1:29 pm
by fitzcaraldo
I hike in Dreamy Draw park 2 or 3 times a week, and have seen quite a few in the upper reaches off Trail 100, especially this time of year. After the first week of June, I hardly ever see or hear any.
I make a lot of noise (Stomping and kicking rocks down trail) and try to be especially mindful of placing my hands on rocks, or sitting down for a rest.
Few things create such an electric primal adrenalin rush as getting buzzed by a rattlesnake at close range.

Posted: Apr 15 2005 2:46 pm
by bshift
Observe them anytime when looking for them, but mostly in the mornings. While riding my road bike (bicycle) along the Salt River yesterday one came darting out in front of me, felt like I ran over a railroad tie.

Posted: Apr 15 2005 3:34 pm
by big_load
fitzcaraldo wrote: Few things create such an electric primal adrenalin rush as getting buzzed by a rattlesnake at close range.
That's for sure. Something primitive in your brain instantly recognizes the sound, even the first time you hear it.

Last year I stepped on a garter snake while barefoot in camp in CO. It seems the bottom of your foot instantly recognizes snake, long before your brain knows what's happening.

Refined Question

Posted: Apr 15 2005 3:38 pm
by big_load
Apart from good basking spots, what features of the immediate environment make you think "there might be a rattlesnake there"?

Posted: Apr 15 2005 4:43 pm
by te_wa
you can make all the noise you want, unfortunately snakes dont have ears and they cant hear, not even like the "old wives tale" that says they can hear with their tongue. Nonsense.
They do however have very sensitive Jacobson's organs and can smell a rat (pun) up to 1/2 mile away. Also interesting is the "pits" in their face that can detect heat fluctuations of 1/10 a degree fahrenheit.
I like 'em! : rambo :

Snake "senses" and a stupid hiker- AKA: ME!

Posted: Apr 15 2005 6:43 pm
by montezumawell
Yeah, well, maybe snakes don't have ears but they can hear. The "how" of "how" they hear is best left to researchers with big budgets. Maybe they "hear" the vibrations of the earth under their snake bellies. Maybe they "feel" air pressure from an oncoming presence. Who knows?

Old wives tales aside, snakes KNOW when you are coming. Factiod.
It's part and parcel of how they make a living. By eating things. Mice, small rabbits, sometimes birds. Whatever. These things just don't fall into the snake's lap. The snake has to "WORK" for it's living, just like the rest of us.

OK, I've been lately writing various and assorted BS about snakes. So, we are out hiking today on a "recon" hike to the Old Soda Springs. I had a talk with our hiking partners about snakes and how none of us had yet seen snakes this spring.

We're hiking a wide wash. It had been scoured by the winter rains. Clean as a whistle. No obvious snake habitat. We get "down-wash" to our destination and do our "recon" and what not, take our lunch break. You know, all the usual hiker activities.

Then, we start hiking back "up-wash." Life is going along splendidly.
Me and my male buddy are merrily chatting about this and that--to be specific--the "railroad cards" in a Monopoly Game. Susun and Jodi are behind us.

Suddenly, I hear this voice behind me. Stop, the voice says. At first it didn't register. Stop, the voice said louder. Finally the voice behind me is screaming, STOP!!!!

Instinctively, I had a muscular reaction that made me literally jump backwards without really trying. Kinda like invisible springs were suddenly discovered in these aging legs. It was kinda like a pogo-stick trick.

And there was this HUGE western diamond back rattler--the locals call 'em "coon tails" where my next step would have been. The snake was at least four inches in diameter at its widest point. It was a very old snake and a very long snake, pushing six feet.

I felt like it was my karma for all the things I have been saying about snakes lately. No kidding.

Anyway, my friend saved this old guy a lot of hassle today. This snake was clearly prepared to nail somebody and I was preparing to be that body.

Looking back on today, it was clearly a case of complacency. None of us had seen any snakes yet this year. We'd all four of us walked this wash going down to our destination. Life was good.

So, the whole thing was a typical "wake up" call for me and my 3 hiking companions. Don't get complacent. Don't take things for granted. Don't assume anything. Expect the unexpected. Continue to look ahead of your footsteps. Think like a snake. Think snakes.

You know, all that "desert awareness" stuff that we are supposed to have ingrained in your numbskull brains!

Anyway, after what I have been saying lately about snakes, I feel like an idiot. Justifiably so.

I got a "lesson" today. And somehow came out OK. I am humbled.


PS--And so there was another "coon tail" in the middle of the road on FS 618 heading back from the hike, too. I almost felt like those snakes had been reading my HAZ posts and were out to teach me a lesson. I think they succeeded!

Posted: Apr 15 2005 7:57 pm
by big_load
mikeinFHAZ wrote:you can make all the noise you want, unfortunately snakes dont have ears and they cant hear, not even like the "old wives tale" that says they can hear with their tongue. Nonsense.
If the terrain looks snakey, I try making the ground vibrate a little more, considering their form of hearing is really more like feeling. It probably doesn't make much difference, but it keeps me focused.

Somewhere (I think it was the Manny Rubio book "Rattlesnake"), I read that the tongue is believed to aid in delivering airborne molecules to chemoreceptors that differ somewhat from normal taste/smell receptors.

Posted: Apr 16 2005 12:33 am
by fairweather8588
I hear them more then I see 'em where I hike (the McDowells). We'll just stop and try to find where the rattle's comming from and try to walk in the opposit direction. If we ever actually see one it'll be coiled up under a bush, or under a tree.

Posted: Apr 16 2005 8:52 am
by te_wa
hey guys, all these comments are great. Its good info to outsiders, visitors, tourists or newbies and good for a refresher course to us ol' timers.
There are several important (note:IMPORTANT) facts about snakes, bites, and behavior that we should all know.
#1- snake bite kits dont work. They may offer a false sense of security but that wont save your @ss!
#2- if bitten, dont try to capture that snake, antivenin is a "cocktail" and will treat most venoms.
#3- there is a new rattlesnake vaccine for pets, do your puppy a favor and ask your vet!
#4- Ive lived in the Valley and elsewhere (flag-payson-tucson) for 27 years and have seen only one snake on the trail.

And hey, if they dont want to be seen thats fine by me! I would not worry too much about them attacking your tent either.

Posted: Apr 16 2005 8:41 pm
by fitzcaraldo
mikeinFHAZ wrote:you can make all the noise you want, unfortunately snakes dont have ears and they cant hear,
Nonsense you say? (Pun intended?)
I don’t believe I said snakes could hear. Those were your words.
They can however detect vibrations acutely.


“Rattlers, like all snakes, are effectively deaf but are excellent at detecting motion and ground vibrations. Combine these senses with the chemical sensitivity of the tongue and it is very difficult to sneak up on a rattler.”

Posted: Apr 16 2005 9:19 pm
by big_load
fitzcaraldo wrote:
mikeinFHAZ wrote: I don’t believe I said snakes could hear.
I think Mike's hearing comment was in response to my earlier statement that I make plenty of noise.

Bears don't understand English either, but that doesn't stop me from talking to them in mostly complete sentences when the need arises :wink: .

My mistake-not the snake's

Posted: Apr 17 2005 8:16 pm
by montezumawell
Some of you may have read my post for a couple of day's ago about almost getting bit by a large rattlesnake. It was MY mistake--not the snake's, that set up this potential fiasco. I think I forgot to make that perfectly clear--I, me, myself, and I was the stupid one. The snake was just "doing it's job." It heard me, felt me, sensed me, whatever, and started its famous, obligatory rattling, as rattlers are wont to do.

It was MY stupidity that put ME into the strike zone of the snake. The snake DID NOT create a danger for me. I created a danger for myself.

The snake was a smart snake. It did it's job correctly and wisely. I was a dumb human. I did my job stupidly and, in hindsight, stupidly.

Probably the only point I made correctly in prior posts about snakes is that they are very smart. Regardless of the technicalities of "how" they do "this and that," they actually DO "this and that." Hearing without ears and such.

One of the final analyses of this topic ought to be that everyone think about the "smartness of snakes," and compare and contrast that to the "smartness of hikers."

Just a thought from,


Posted: Apr 17 2005 8:26 pm
by Trishness
We hiked up Picketpost Mtn, east of AJ near Superior and saw a HUGE western diamondback lounging between some rocks on our way down from the summit. He buzzed us and I almost fell off the rock I was standing on. It's tough to do a dead stop descending across boulders. Adrenaline filled, we descended the rest of that trail in record time...OK we were almost trail running :)


Posted: Apr 17 2005 8:32 pm
by Davis2001r6
Got buzzed by a black western rattlesnake by the creek going into Haunted Canyon yesterday. he gave me plenty of warning.

Re: My mistake-not the snake's

Posted: Apr 17 2005 9:43 pm
by big_load
montezumawell wrote: One of the final analyses of this topic ought to be that everyone think about the "smartness of snakes," and compare and contrast that to the "smartness of hikers."
Considering only cases in which somebody stepped on a snake or came close enough to seriously endanger it, it's remarkable how few bites ensue. You have to give them credit for not overreacting as much a human probably would.

I still haven't seen much new advice on how to be effectively vigilant. It sounds like maybe I'm right to be wary of bushy areas that overgrow a trail. Those are what make me nervous, because they're sometimes so thick I can't see the ground. I'm just counting on the snakes being smarter than I am :D .