Thursday, July 9, 2015

Video and Images of Great Basin Rattlesnake

I feel fortunate that, to date, all close encounters with rattlesnakes were preceded by an alert from the snake. Thank goodness their rattles worked as nature intended. The first time I heard one rattling I initially mistook it for some sort of grasshopper or noisy insect. Fortunately, on that occasion, a visual combined with the audible locked the sound of the rattle into my memory.

I recently captured some video of a Great Basin Rattlesnake my friend Eric happened upon while we were doing some photography in a desert area of northern Utah. I thought it might be educational and helpful to those who've never heard a rattlesnake give its warning. I was using my zoom lens to allow me to remain at a safe distance while providing a close observation.

This individual was about two and a half feet long and blended in well with its environment. The image below provides a decent view of four important parts of the snake's anatomy--the tongue, pits, eyes, and rattle.  The eyes, pits, and tongue help the snake detect prey while the tail is used to deter predators so it does not become the prey.  

Great Basin Rattlesnake in Utah County, Utah
The rattle of a rattlesnake starts as a button when the snake is born and a new segment is added to the length of the rattle each time the skin is shed. Shedding can occur multiple times a year. Some snakes lose segments of their rattle in the normal course of living so counting the segments is not a reliable method for determining age.  The sound of a rattle is the result of segments of the rattle rubbing together when the extremely quick-firing tail muscles cause the tail to shake up to 50 times per second. If all, or all but one, of the segments are lost the snake will shake its tail to no avail in terms of sending an effective alert to a perceived predator.

Tail of Great Basin Rattlesnake in Utah County, UT

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