snake pit) every now and then to look for sunning reptiles. By the second round of barn inspections, there was a dusty head sticking out of a crack in the sliding backdoor. I couldn't see much of the body so I couldn't tell how big it was, or check the dorsal pattern for diamonds or the tail for a rattle. It had a somewhat triangular head and a dark line under the eye.
While peering at the snake from around the corner of the barn, I could see the numerous small scales between the eyes, but I couldn't remember whether it was gopher snakes or rattlesnakes that have that pattern. I snuck in the front door of the barn and quietly, nervously crept to the back door to see: long fat body, diamond pattern on the back with dark rings near the tail, and a 7-segmented rattle held sideways. Definitely a northern Pacific rattlesnake and one that had already had a few good meals after leaving its winter den.
I decided the snake's body wasn't sticking far enough out of the barn for me to easily snag it with my snake tongs, nor did I want to grab it from the inside and drag it backwards into the cluttered barn. Instead, I set out my snake-capturing tools in the yard near the barn door and went back to the usual chores with a tingle in my shoulders.
I set the garbage can in the shade, and locked down the lid. Later, when it is cool and the snake is less riled up, I will mark its rattle with calligraphy ink and relocate it far away from the farmhouse. I'll have to come up with a new color pattern to distinguish this one from the other rattlesnakes I have relocated and marked since I have already gone through my stock of 5 colors of ink. Maybe green with a black tip for this buzzer.
When I walked past the barn corner again, the lizards had reclaimed this snake-free corner of sun. I'm sure I will be a little jumpy for the next few days after this first buzz of the year.
Northern Pacific rattlesnake - Crotalus oreganus oreganus