Saturday, June 25

No Warning?

As ten high school students taking on the challenge of staying in the wilderness for two weeks we all knew the risks before we set off on the most epic adventure of our short lives. Threat number one? The southern pacific rattlesnakes that call these mountains home. However, we all knew about the telltale rattle of the snake and felt prepared, especially under the watchful eyes of our Earthwatch leaders, to make our journey despite the risk.

As we began our first real day as a team, our generous hostess Becca showed us the ropes around the Reserve, explaining all the do’s and don’ts of the area. She then brought us to a trashcan that held a deadly secret hidden inside. A few days prior she had caught a rattlesnake under the bird feeder at the Reserve and stored it here to show us what to look for when in the field.

A dramatic reenactment of the silent snake encounter by Anna, Rachel, and Boone.
Our minds were about to be blown, for what we did not know is that many of the snakes in the area have adapted and hardly ever rattle when threatened. We were all astonished to find out this new information. Then, to prove her point, Becca began to jiggle the can, and as she assured us the snake was reluctant to rattle.     On our third day, a Cal Fire employee stopped to warn us of a rattlesnake just up the road and also confirmed Becca’s warning.

So why have these snakes become a soundless threat?        One theory is that rattlesnakes have become more used to people being a constant presence in their habitat. The second and more likely theory is that as fearful people have killed too many of the snakes that do rattle and scare them, those that don’t rattle have managed to survive in increasing numbers. No matter which theory is correct, one thing is sure: our “snake sense” has been turned on high for the rest of the trip and into the future.

1 comment:

  1. That's what I told you guys. The only time I've heard a rattler use its rattle was when it was attacked. All other times they have been very silent: here, Utah and in Texas/Oklahoma. Look sharp....