|A pile of rattlesnakes warming up in the sun under the barn door on an early March day.|
We've carefully moved Northern Pacific rattlesnakes away from the farmyard for many years, but we still have a lot to learn from them. The 2015 snake sightings began and ended with rattlesnakes, but 8 total rattlers isn't out of the range of prior years. The days and nights turned consistently warm early in 2015, and I knew the snake season was also starting early when I saw four rattlesnakes around the barn in early March. Did I mention that I think the abandoned barn is a winter den for rattlesnakes?
On March 8, I was out in the yard with Mango the cat, letting him chew on fresh green grass but keeping a sharp eye out for coyotes. I looked over towards the barn and noticed there were bands of dark and light on the ground beneath the rear sliding door. I snatched up Mango and took a few steps closer. Yep, it was a tangled pile of rattlesnakes.
I tossed Mango in the house and grabbed my snake relocation gear. With heads, rattles and coils intertwined, I wasn't sure how many rattlers were piled in the patch of sun and puzzled over where to aim the snake tongs. But feeling anxious to capture them quickly, I just grabbed for the biggest girth. A heavy rattler buzzed in annoyance at having its sun-nap disturbed (or whatever it was they were doing). I dropped it into the snake bucket and slammed on the lid. I saw a smaller rattlesnake slip under the door. I briefly peeked inside the barn but I've never been keen about searching for a venomous snake in a closed space so I went for Alertness Level 2 - checking the sunny spots outside the barn several times a day.
|Lizards favor sunny rocks and are a good place for snakes to hunt.|
|Again at the barn door. A patch of sun near a hiding place - a good spot to be alert for snakes in the early spring.|
|The crumbling pig pen required mowing every year to keep the weeds down and one never knew what was afoot under all those fallen pieces. I'm glad the structure is gone now.|
|Another sunny spot near hiding places under rocks and a concrete pad - a good guess that a rattlesnake would be enjoying the early spring sun here.|
|Unwrapped at the release site, the pigpen rattler shows its full length. No wonder I couldn't get it out from underneath the rock at first.|
|Golden eyes with a vertical slit and small scales between the eyes - other characteristics of rattlesnakes.|
|Four smooth rattle segments on the smaller rattlesnake found under the barn door on the second day.|
|Four rattle segments with the tip of the button snapped off on the first large rattlesnake pulled out from under the barn door.|
Northern Pacific rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus oreganus