Tag Archives: western diamond-backed rattlesnake


Some people have wild parties for their birthday or go out for dinner, movie, and maybe see some music. Not my Jeff; it was a quiet night with the snakes for him.

We set out after work to check on our friend Bane (adult male Arizona black rattlesnake), who was last seen headed toward Secret Springs. At a bend in the nature trail we call snake corner, we encountered a western diamond-backed rattlesnake.

atrox close

Jeff actually walked right by him and I stepped right in front of him before I noticed him. The snake didn’t seem to care: he never rattled and of course didn’t strike, as that is their last line of defense.

atrox print

That is my footprint circled in red on the left (snake just off trail on the right).

We encountered another western diamond-backed cruising around Secret Springs, looking freshly shed.
atrox sun

jeff atrox

The birthday boy photographing the gorgeous snake.

And Bane was nearby in a swampy area, in one of those perfect hunting postures, in the mud, against a downed log.


After our snake walk it was time for homemade pizza, garden salad (from our garden at Muleshoe), and raw coconut lime pie. A delicious ending to a delightful birthday.

Especially of late, this blog appears to be mainly about me and my adventures with rattlesnakes. But none of this would be possible without my fantastic partner in crime, who is just as crazy about snakes and nature as I am (maybe even more so).

jeff gps

Jeff taking data, while balancing a GPS on his head



Countdown to Snake Count: 2…

I’ve already dedicated a post to gophersnakes and how I adore them, but since we’re almost certain to see one this weekend, they deserve another mention.

Juvenile gophersnake from central California coast.

Gophersnakes (Pituophis catenifer), or a close relative (bullsnakes, pine snakes), are found nearly throughout the United States. They can be very large (up to 6 feet in length!), but are perfectly harmless and usually quite docile. They mostly eat mammals, which is probably why they’re called gophersnakes.

Like most colubrids, their behavior can be difficult to observe in the wild. Gophersnakes have many predators, including humans, so they usually stop what they’re doing and flee in our presence. But one day a couple years ago Jeff and I got extremely lucky. We came across a trio of gophersnakes, two males and a female, and got to observe combat, mate searching, and courtship – it was pretty amazing! I won’t retell the entire story, because you can read it here and here, but here are a few highlights:

Olive Oyl maintains a wary eye while Popeye focuses on his potential partner.

The first battle between Bluto and Popeye over Olive Oyl.

People perceive rattlesnakes as mean and violent, but when you compare courtship and combat, rattlesnakes seem gentler and kinder than gophersnakes (or most any other animal).

The first Snake Counters have arrived at the preserve and were immediately welcomed by one of our resident diamondback females, Forrestine. Join us!

Countdown to Snake Count: 3…

By far the most commonly seen snakes at Muleshoe headquarters, and most places where they live, are western diamond-backed rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox, hereafter diamondbacks). They are wide-ranging, found in a variety of habitats, and eat pretty much anything that fits in their mouth. They also don’t seem to mind humans moving into their space; several at Muleshoe spend most of their active season at headquarters and of course there’s that group that over-winters under one of the buildings at headquarters:

Diamondback behavior at dens is quite different than Arizona black behavior we discuss at SocialSnakes. While most rattlesnakes in Arizona breed in the monsoon season only, diamondbacks also breed in the spring. So you can often see courtship and combat right at their dens!

Henry (adult male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) in combat!

We didn’t see anything like that at the headquarters den this year, but next year we’ll be ready with timelapse cameras to catch any action.

Unfortunately for diamondbacks, not all human neighbors are as accommodating as we are at Muleshoe. Often when diamondbacks show up in a human’s yard (or from the snake’s perspective, humans show up in their territory), they are killed or translocated (moved). Translocation may seem like the humane choice, but Snake Count attendees will learn on Saturday why that may not be the case. As always, prevention is the best cure. Check out this brochure from the Tucson Herpetological Society on how to make your yard less snake-friendly (if you don’t want snakes there).

We like our yard snake-friendly 🙂

Sadly diamondbacks are also the rattlesnake most commonly collected for rattlesnake roundups. We have written a little about roundups before and a show that glorifies them. Frankly it’s too upsetting for me to say much, so I’ll refer you to Rise Against Rattlesnake Roundups if you wish to learn more about these horrific events and what you can do to stop them.

Now to end on a more positive note, here’s my favorite diamondback of all time, looking stunning. We haven’t seen Henry in a while, maybe he’ll show up for Snake Count – will you?


The return of FiveLong

I ran into an old friend yesterday on my way to close the gate 🙂

There’s a large, warm water puddle on the driveway just in front of the visitor center where lowland leopard frogs and Gila topminnow breed. Birds catch insects over the water and prints indicate that coati and raccoon forage there at night. Rattlesnakes, especially western diamond-backeds, hunt along the edges.


FiveLong, June 2012

We’ve heard tales of a large rattlesnake called Henry (that may or may not be our Henry) that hunted here for years and was well known among preserve guests and staff. But mostly Jeff and I have seen FiveLong, a female western diamond-backed rattlesnake, here.

She first appeared last year mid-June, at the start of our foot trail around the puddle. We saw her nearly everyday for a month or so, then she disappeared.

Yesterday (9 May) there was a rattlesnake coiled at the start of our foot trail for the first time in months and sure enough, it was FiveLong.

5long 2013

FiveLong, May 2013

Can you tell how she got her name?

I was a little worried that FiveLong’s favored hunting spot would worry our guests at the preserve. Not a problem! They assured me that “in May in Arizona, you EXPECT to see rattlesnakes!” And late this afternoon FiveLong moved to the opposite side of the puddle, well away from our foot trail. What a good snake 🙂

Snake Count is only a week away! Get the details on our event page.

Snake season is here!

Last month we told you about the western diamond-backed rattlesnake den we recently ‘discovered’ at preserve headquarters. Well, this past week has been a busy one for our rattlesnake neighbors. We have seen about a half dozen adult males and females hanging out and/or dispersing from their den.

Here are some highlights:

An adult male briefly chin-rubs female #22 as he emerges from the den.

An adult male briefly chin-rubs female #22 as he emerges from the den.

Female #22 dispersing from the den.

Female #22 didn't go too far - she's seen here a couple days later under a rock in our yard :-)

A couple days later female #22 is under a rock in our yard 🙂

In the following video another female emerges from the den and shortly thereafter disperses.


It almost seemed like this guy was showing off for our guests! While he rested here, everyone got a great view of him from above and below at the visitor center.


A closer view of the above rattlesnake resting outside the visitor center.

Our first snake sighting of 2012, was nature’s rodent control, Allison. Because she showed up at headquarters so early in the year, we thought she probably denned nearby. Turns out her den is very close indeed!

At a nearby den we wrote about last year, the snakes are starting to emerge as well. We didn’t set up cameras there this year, but we hiked over there yesterday and found this friendly face peeking out from the outcrop:

In other news, Persephone (female black-tailed rattlesnake) was seen basking near her den, so she may be on the move soon too. Stay tuned for more!

ANNOUNCEMENT: Join us at the Muleshoe Preserve for Save the Frogs Day on Saturday 27 April 2013. Details on this event can be found here.


January rattlesnakes?

We’ll take a short break from tales of Jaydin to share a somewhat unusual snake sighting at the preserve.

Last winter we had timelapse cameras on three snake dens, but never saw anyone until March. Well this year, on 20 January, we were pleasantly surprised to see not one, but two female western diamond-backed rattlesnakes on the surface just outside their den – which turns out to be right under our nose, at preserve headquarters!

western diamond-backed rattlesnake

The following day both snakes were out again and we were able to see that one of the girls was an old friend.

21 January 2013

21 January 2013

We originally encountered her in our front yard last summer, while Henry was courting her 🙂


31 August 2013


Henry, 31 August 2013, apparently not happy that we interrupted his courtship.

Could Henry have denned with these ladies this year? Only time will tell.

End Rattlesnake Republic Now!

mouth sewn shut

A western diamond-backed rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) with his mouth sewn shut for a rattlesnake roundup. Snakes are not under anesthesia during this painful procedure, but instead thrown in a freezer for awhile beforehand so they are too cold to move. Photo by Kim LaForest, courtesy of RARR.

This is not a Jaydin story as we promised, but important if you care about rattlesnakes like Jaydin. I recently posted on our other blog that Animal Planet is soliciting comments about their horrible show, Rattlesnake Republic:

End Rattlesnake Republic Now!

an excerpt:

Rattlesnake roundups make me sick. What’s a rattlesnake roundup, you ask? This page has a more thorough description, but in short, they are festivals in which rattlesnakes are tortured and killed in the most inhumane ways imaginable for entertainment and profit. Where do they get hundreds to thousands of rattlesnakes for these events? They are abducted from their overwintering hibernacula (dens) in the spring and held for days to weeks without food and water. Yep, from dens – where snakes hang out with their friends, family, give birth, and take care of their and their neighbors’ kids.

What makes me REALLY angry is that Animal Planet has a show that glorifies the humans that collect rattlesnakes for these horrific events. Yep, Animal Planet. Does that make sense to you? If not, LET THEM KNOW.

Read more…