Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Arizona Black Rattlesnake

This little (approximately 18inches long) rattlesnake was hiding in the raspberry bushes along the top of the Mogollon Rim last weekend. It rattled when we got close to warn us away. This is a subspecies of the Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridus subspecies cerberus) They tend to occur at relatively high elevations (this one was at about 7500feet above sea level). Some people think that the black color is an adaptation to high altitude that allows the snake to absorb more heat from the sun, although the leaf/needle litter in their habitat also tends to be quite dark. The dark color may serve as good camouflage as well as helping the snake warm up after cool mountain nights. Most rattlesnakes will assume a defensive position such as this, and usually will not strike unless a person or animal steps on them or persists in approaching within striking distance or tries to handle or contact the snake. This snake rattled a little to warn us and retreated into the raspberry patch. Venomous snakes  in the wild should be left alone to fill their place in the ecosystem and to avoid injury. See my previous post for information on first aid and treatment of rattlesnake bites.

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