Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Nest of Vipers

Crotalus horridus aka timber rattle snake

Not long after I emerged from the unlit tunnel, I found a group of riders blocking the path annoying me
 as I was on a steep descent. They were just leaving but shouted that there was a bunch of
 rattlesnakes next to the trail. I looked and looked for them. Someone else stopped wondering 
what I had lost.


He found them. I had posted a picture of them on Facebook the other day and someone commented
 that they were babies. No, no, no. As I was unwilling to provide a frame of reference with my foot,
 suffice it to say in the words of our family, These are big ass adults. They were at least 4 feet long
 though hard to tell as they were coiled up. They can be as large as 6 feet. They are specifically
 pregnant female snakes arranged in what are known as 'basking knolls'. The females chill out
 together before giving  birth. Vipers do not lay eggs but give live birth thus their name from 
viparious. There are several color variations ranging from all black to pale tan with lighter
 diamonds than pictured here. Those ones are barely distinguishable from leaves. They are highly 
toxic. They are equipped with huge fangs and a large venom sac. However, they are usually quite 
docile and give plenty of warning (rattling) before striking. But if you step on them, they might not
 be so forgiving. They are the original models for the early colonial flag: Don't Tread on Me!!!!

This rattlesnake is the most common in the East mostly found in woodlands. What toxin it has really
 varies by location. According to Wiki, this one probably is mainly hemotoxic as opposed to 
neurotoxic like its southern cousins.

Back here in Michigan, we have our own rattlesnake, the Massasauga. It is usually lives in
 wetlands and some have been spotted near our nature pond. They have short fangs and
 are not very toxic. I have yet to see one in the wild. I have seen California rattlesnakes in the 
wild in Anza-Borrego State Park but never in groups.

This batch of snakes is well known. Presumably its nearby lodge which I think we found the
 opening for, contains 15-20 snakes. The signpost has been removed so snake haters can't find
 them and kill them for sport. They do more good than harm. Still given how isolated we were,
 it would take a long time for antivenom to be delivered to us.

Other wildlife sightings were sparse surprising given how far from civilization we were. Only one
 deer sprinting across my path was spotted by me. I went early in the morning by open fields
 which I thought would have been filled with deer but no. Meanwhile back at home, Steve saw 
them walking down our street. I saw an eagle early into my ride through a scope someone had 
set up just outside of Pittsburgh. They must be common there as many people were lined up
 along the path eyes up with binoculars. Other people spotted turkeys.

On the third day of riding I heard a familiar screech:


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