May 7, 2007
It must be ESP because I had just said, “I’ll bet the snakes will be coming out now that the weather has warmed up.”
For as much riding I do out in the hills, I usually only see a snake once a year and it’s usually in August. This is how it happened last week. I was driving down a dirt road and I passed this large object. Out of the corner of my eye I questioned myself as to what that might have been, maybe a rope? I stopped the car and backed up. It was a very large snake, maybe 4- to 5-feet-long and 2 inches in diameter. It gave me the creepy crawlies thinking it could be a rattlesnake because it was so thick, but it didn’t have rattles.
It was a Great Basin gopher snake also known as the bull snake (pituophis melanoleucus). The appearance is similar to the rattlesnake and it could easily be mistaken as one. I quickly drove home because, of course, I didn’t have my camera with me. As I approached the same spot on the dirt road, there was a smaller snake, the same color, about 50 feet before the other one. He was only about 2-plus-feet-long and quite thin. I took a picture from out the car window anyway and continued back to where I saw his “daddy?” I got out of the car to take a picture as he slithered into the sagebrush bush. He didn’t have any rattles so I felt OK trying to get a couple of pictures of him. I hope those are the only two I see this year, and how strange to see them so close together.
It is my understanding that here in Northern Nevada we only have two varieties of rattlesnakes, compared to approximately 30 varieties in the U.S. – the western rattlesnake (crotalus viridis) and the Great Basin rattlesnake (crotalus oreganos lutosus). I found it interesting that rattlesnakes can live as long as 20 years. They are usually out and about hunting during the morning and evening. Since they are cold-blooded they like to stay out of the heat when the thermometer reaches over 90 degrees. The easiest way to recognize one is the triangular-shaped head and the music they play. They don’t always warn you before they strike, but most of the time they rattle to say “don’t step on me” when they feel threatened or backed into a corner.
They also fall into the category of “pit viper” because of the pits they have on the sides of their head between the nose and the eye. These “loreal” pits are infrared sensing organs that help him find food in low light. They also have fangs that rotate downward when they attach to what they strike and inject their venom through their needle-like fangs.
That sounds like enough of that. I don’t like snakes. The best thing to do is to be snake aware. So be on the look out, the snakes are out of hibernation now.
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— Lisa Welch is a Johnson Lane resident and can be reached at 267-9350.