… so is this guy!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rattlesnake photo where the snake looks even remotely friendly! This Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) was no exception. I found this guy, a few years ago, at the prairie dog town that is located in the Wichita Mountains NWR in southwest Oklahoma. And you can see 2 of the signs that this is a venomous snake: note the vertical eye pupil and the “pit” (located in front of the eye) that is used by pit vipers to find warm-blooded prey (these pits are heat sensing organs).
I have always had a fascination with snakes. While growing up, I used to keep snakes in the basement of our house … that is, until a 5-foot blacksnake got out and mom found it … that ended my career as a herpetologist!
I had seen rattlesnakes on the refuge before, but was never able to capture images of them; they were always crossing the road at a location where I could not pull off the shoulder to grab some photos. During this trip, I thought I’d play it “smart” and find out from the refuge personnel where I could likely find a rattlesnake to photograph. Knowing that telling them I wanted to find a rattlesnake would likely result in them not telling me, I thought I’d use some psychology on them. So I proceeded to tell them I was going to be hiking in the area (true) and I heard there were rattlesnakes in the area (true) and I wanted to be sure to be careful so I didn’t get bitten (true). So I asked in what areas I needed to be extra cautious. Ingenious, huh? Well, that didn’t work … the answer I got back was “they can be found about anywhere on the refuge.” Well, that didn’t help me very much! So I left the Visitor’s Center and headed for the prairie dog town, one of my favorite places to visit when in the Wichita Mountains.
As I pulled up a stop in the parking lot of the prairie dog town, a lady came running towards my truck, waving her hands and yelling at me. When I rolled down the window, I heard her words of caution, “Be careful where you step, there’s a big rattlesnake under your truck!” Well, I guess finding my nemesis snake wasn’t going to be so difficult after all!
I grabbed my camera and jumped from the truck, making sure I landed some distance away. Looking under the truck, I saw the rattlesnake scooting off. I followed him around a bit, grabbing some images … all at a safe distance! The closeup images above were taken when he rested under a concrete parking stop … and yes, I definitely used a telephoto lens!
Just another example of how you can never predict what you will see in the great outdoors!