Monday, June 8, 2009

Bio Lesson #2

Over the weekend, I watched a show about the western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) round up in Sweetwater, TX. Basically, it's an excuse for these jackasses to get together, party, and milk any tourist dumb enough to attend the stupid event out of money. Each year, thousands of snakes are killed (as are many other animals -lizards and such- when these "hunters" round the snakes up). The "hunters" find winter dens, pour gasoline in them, and set them on fire to drive the animals out. In short, Sweetwater Texas has pissed me off.
They say, "But these are poisonous snakes. We don't want 'em around."

Yadda yadda yadda. Excuses. It's one thing to kill a poisonous snake because it's sunning itself on the concrete slab that runs between your deck and garage where your kids just happen to play. It's quite another to go miles out of your way for the sole sake of ruthlessly destroying a living being.

Western Diamond Back

The western diamondback's average growth is around four feet. Males are larger than females. They are found throughout southwestern U.S. in a myriad of ranges - desert, forests, and grasslands. They are a very aggressive snake that rarely backs down from confrontation, but their bites are rarely fatal due to antiserum.

I may be biased, but this next snake is my favorite of the three I'm discussing today. I grew up in southern West Virginia with a relative of the diamondback -
Crotalus horridus, aka the timber rattler, timber rattlesnake, bastard rattlesnake, black rattlesnake, cane rattler, canebrake rattlesnake, canebrake rattler, eastern rattlesnake, mountain rattlesnake, mountain timber rattler, southern banded rattlesnake, to name a few.
Timber Rattler

Yeah, I'm a snake fanatic but geez, ain't he a beauty? How can you not be amazed at the evolutionary tactics for a creature with no arms and legs?

The timber rattler is
classified as a Near Threatened species. So, if you run into these guys in your backyard, please call the humane society or the department of natural resources and have these guys relocated. Unless you live in a state like WV, which kills most of the wild animals brought in - WV doesn't believe in rehabilitation because we're, like TX, ran by a bunch of jackasses (but that's another rant for another blog). Still, call them and let them handle the snake as they can euthanize it in a more humane manner.

The timber rattler is found in the eastern U.S., from Maine to Florida and over to Texas and Minnesota. They like rugged terrain. Growing up in WV, we were always told to look out for them in rock piles (in fact, we weren't allowed to play at certain places because of these snakes). They are very poisonous - according to wikipedia: "Potentially, this is one of North America's most dangerous snakes, due to its long fangs, impressive size and high venom yield. Fortunately, this is to some degree offset by its relatively mild disposition."

These guys have a flight instinct rather than fight (unlike the diamondback). This means that, given the opportunity, the timber rattler will try to avoid confrontation rather than fight. That doesn't mean they won't bite - all wild animals will defend themselves in the best way that they can - but, if you leave this fellow alone, he'll most likely leave you alone (which is true of most snakes).
Black Stage Timber Rattler

The majority of snake bites with a timber rattler occur due to improper handling or accidentally stepping on them while walking in the woods (as kids, we were also told to stomp around a lot because these guys feel the vibrations in the ground and, given the opportunity, will flee before we could stumble over them).
Don't confuse the timber rattler with the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Crotalus adamanteus), which is the largest rattlesnake species (they've been documented over 7 feet long). Average size is between three and six feet.
Eastern Diamondback

These guys are reported to have a variety of dispositions. They are also excellent swimmers. They have a high venom yield but their bites can be treated with antivenoms.

Wikipedia brought up an interesting point: "One popular myth is that these snakes must rattle before striking. They are, of course, quite capable of striking while remaining completely silent. In fact, according to one hypothesis, individuals that remain silent are less likely to be heard, seen and killed, and therefore more likely to pass on their genes to the next generation, leading to the idea that we are selecting for rattlesnakes that do not rattle.

Of course, this is possible with all animals. Which is another reason why those dumbfucks in Sweetwater ought to be fined or put in jail.

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