Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rare Encounter

  Have you ever had one of those times when you regretted not having your camera on hand? I had one of those moments this past weekend and I’m still kicking myself for not having one with me. I even debated whether or not to post this since I have no, as they say “proof of purchase” to confirm my encounter. Regardless, this is the place to document my exciting discoveries – right? So if you would, just take my word for it and hopefully next time I will have my camera with me!

On Sunday, my daughter and I headed out in my pick-up truck to the local landfill to unload some of the never-ending stuff that seems to collect in the black hole I call a garage (I’m sure some of you can relate). On our exit out of the landfill I approached a car in front of us that was stopped. As I slowed down behind the car something caught my eye. Out from in front of the stopped car came slithering a large snake. Virginia is home to a variety of snakes, many I have encountered before, but this one was unlike any I had come across in the wild. A quick look at its tail verified it for me – a real live, non-captive, Canebrake Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)!

I knew these snakes were around but had never encountered one. As a matter of fact, they are listed as endangered here in the state of Virginia. My daughter and I watched the 4-1/2 + foot snake safely from inside our vehicle as it slowly crossed the 2-lane road and disappeared in the grass and wooded area surrounding the roadway. Snakes aren’t on the top of my list of animals I want to encounter, but this one was a sight to behold.

Canebrakes are large, venomous snakes that can grow over 5 feet in length. Males grow larger than females. It has a triangular head and a pit below each eye. The black tail is tipped with a rattle.

Below is a photo of the canebrake rattlesnake taken by the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries:


I felt the encounter was also a good time to remind my little girl not to ever approach a snake in the wild. Here she is holding a captive cornsnake at the 2009 Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival.


The canebrake is sometimes referred to as the timber rattlesnake, or vice versa. It was once thought the two were separate species but is now considered to be just another color phase.


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Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

O man! I bet the dump/ landfill area is a great place for that I think about it. Will keep my eyes open as I am taking debris to ours.

WiseAcre said...

Glad I live far enough north that I don't have to be concerned about rattlesnakes. Not that I had to worry about my girls picking up snakes though.

My camera is an appendage, it goes with me even when I walk out to the mailbox.

Kelly said...

Wow!! 5' in length...that's something to reckon with. Good eye! (Loved the fascination of your little girl holding the safe snake.)

Les said...

Must be something in the air. WAVY tonight aired a piece on venomous snakes in Virginia Beach and the fact that there have been half a dozen people bitten recently. However, most were Copperheads. I caught a large Garter Snake at work last week. I was drawn to it by the wierd sounds its lunch was making as it went down the throat. I let the snake finish its meal before catching it and taking it to the back 40 for release. I have only encountered your snake once, and that was at Humpback Rocks on the Blue Ridge. Fortunately it was not a surprise sighting for either of us.

Unknown said...

Wow, that's a photo I'd want to take from inside the car! Very cool though. And I've wished I had my camera too many times. I need to just take it everywhere.

Adrienne Zwart said...

Alan, that's a great story! That used to happen to me all the time. --Well, the not-having-a-camera-handy part not the "I-just-saw-a-huge-snake" part. :) That's why I asked for my point and shoot model for Christmas last year. I carry it everywhere with me now along with an extra set of AA's.

Vickie said...

Great rattler encounter--a safe one. Love the precious image of your daughter.

April Lorier said...

Reminds me of when Daddy ran over a rattler one summer. He was afraid to change the now-flat tire since the stinger was in the tire. Boy! Were my parents in a bad mood THAT day out in the heat of New Mexico! Ha!


Gabrielle said...

Wow, that rattler is a beauty! And I love the latin "horridus". I've never seen a live rattlesnake in the wild - I would very much like to, but in a situation where I can admire it from a safe distance, of course.

Great story, even without a photo.

cindyzlogic said...

Thanks for sharing your exciting encounter, Alan! I know the exasperation of not having your camera handy.

Dawn Fine said...

What a great encounter! Oh your little one looks so precious and brave!