Monday, September 12, 2011

40 Feet Is Too Close on a Full Moon Night

Harvest Moonrise 2011
Labor Day weekend I asked if 40 feet was far enough from the farm buildings to not worry about a rattlesnake.  The answer is "NO!"

For about 2 weeks, I've been watching this large rattlesnake hang out around a vacated gopher hole in the orchard. On hot mornings, the snake exposed only one coil at the entrance of its hole.  On cool and bright mornings, most of its body would be just outside the threshold soaking up the maximum amount of sun.  It didn't seem to be going anywhere and I couldn't make up my mind about moving it, so I just watched instead.  I talked to a local man who moves snakes for people and he suggested that perhaps it was shedding.  On a large snake, it can take 2 weeks to shed its skin and part of that time, the snake will have a cloudy scale over its eyes which makes it vulnerable to predators, so the snake will often stay close to safe shelter.  The first day I saw this snake, it had the typical dusty appearance of a rattlesnake, but recently its scales seemed shiny.

Northern Pacific rattlesnake soaking up sun on a cool morning.
Tonight, while I was taking laundry off the line, I got to watch the Harvest Moon rise over Monte Bello Ridge.  Another good reason to use a clothesline.  It took me a long, enjoyable time to clear that line and as a result,  I forgot to close the garage door before dark.

Same rattlesnake catching a few rays on a hot morning.
Cat King Cole was howling to go outside. Actually, I don't let him go outside after the coyote attack, but I do put the cats in the closed-up garage often.  They like to prowl around in there and keep the mice down.  Carrying him out to the garage, I realized I had left the garage door open.  Cole likes to run off in the dark if I put him down, so I reached for the car door to stuff him in there while I closed the garage door when all of a sudden I heard a loud rattling.  No mistaking that sound.  I froze for a second trying to determine where the noise was coming from before I moved in the dark, and then I hightailed the other direction.  Cole didn't complain one bit when I threw him back in the house.

I pulled on my heavy boots and grabbed a large flashlight.  The rattler was curled behind a garbage can and directly beneath my snake tongs hanging from the wall.  Curses.  Once again, I was faced with The Rattlesnake Decision:  do I leave the snake alone and hope it goes away, or do I capture it for relocation so it doesn't surprise me later?

Camouflaged rattlesnake outside its hole in the lower righthand corner, white garage in the upper lefthand corner.
Fortunately, just a few days ago I replaced the chewed up bags on my nets and started storing them in the house where the garage mice won't bite more holes in them.  With one net, I blocked off the snake and with the other net, I lifted the snake tongs off their hook. By then the rattler was on the move and fortunately, corralled itself between several boards on the floor.  I can't remember what that project was but it penned the snake long enough for me to get it with the snake tongs and drop it in the locking snake can.

Jeepers, that didn't take very long, I guess I'm getting better at this, but it still gets my heart going every time.  And I was going to clean the bathroom tonight, hahahaha. Between the full moon and the snake adrenalin, I don't think I'll be getting much sleep. One good thing I can say about that snake, thank goodness it rattled.  Otherwise, I might have left the cat in the garage and who knows what would have happened then.

Here is the sign I just made to put on the locking can until I release the rattler.


Here is another sign I found on Gary Nafis' California Herps website.  He's got a great website and also a good sense of humor.

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