It’s a good day when a coiled rattlesnake doesn’t strike

Posted By Mike Padgett

May 2, 2017

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Today became a little brighter when I realized the rattlesnake had remained motionless while I worked just outside its striking range.

The young rattler retreated to safety behind a potted agave and a golden barrel cactus. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett

For about 15 minutes before I spotted the rattler, I had worked in front of the trash barrel. I was cutting small mesquite tree limbs into short sections that would fit in the barrel.

Little did I know danger was nearby. I did not see the snake until I finished cutting up the limbs. When I reached to close the trash barrel’s lid, I looked down and saw the nearly invisible snake coiled and motionless. I was standing in front of the barrel. The snake was on the right side about five feet from me. I was wearing shorts and hiking shoes, ready for my morning walk.

It was my first rattlesnake encounter of the season. It was a young snake, judging from its small size. The snake’s head was visible, pointed at me. The tip of its tail was tucked under its coiled body. The snake’s coloration was excellent camouflage that resembled the gray-and-tan granite gravel.


Motionless, the young snake didn’t catch my attention until I looked in its direction next to the trash barrel. Photo copyright © by Mike Padgett

It didn’t move, so I went to get my camera. I grabbed a leaf rake on my way through the garage so I could gently scoop up the rattler and carry it to the desert wash behind our home. Before I disturbed the snake, I shot a few photos while it was coiled. Such deadly beauty in a small package.

I tried to use the rake to try to pick up the snake, but it became cranky. It raised its head, backed slightly away and struck at the rake.

When it stretched out to slither away, I guessed the adolescent snake was about 15 inches long. It had three or four rattles on its tail. Depending on the species, adult rattlesnakes can exceed six feet in length and weigh 10 or more pounds.

I thought about recent news stories quoting medical experts as saying the costs for treatment of rattlesnake bites today can reach into the high five figures, sometimes more.

I followed the snake and shot several more photos. After a few feet, it retreated behind a potted agave and a golden barrel cactus. Perfect, I thought. The plants offer better perspective for photos.

Still aggravated, the snake coiled into a sort of figure eight and raised its head slightly, keeping its head and flicking tongue aimed my way. I kept 10 feet or more between us.

My neighbor, who has a snake tong, volunteered to remove the rattler. She used the tong to gently pick up the snake. She placed it in a white bucket and covered it. She said she would release it in the desert a safe distance from homes.

Later, she told me the snake was not happy. She said it had rattled nonstop during the short drive to its new home.

I must get myself a snake tong. In recent years, I have walked close to two other resting rattlesnakes. One was outside our back door at our previous home. I used a leaf rake to lift it and place it in the open desert behind our home.

The other snake encounter was after sunset outside our front door. I remember seeing what I thought was a broom handle on the walkway between me and the front door. I stepped over it to unlock and open the door.

I turned on the outside light and looked back, wondering who left a broom outside our door. A second or two after the light came on, the “broom handle” came alive. It was a large rattlesnake that had been stretched out to soak up warmth from the concrete.

Armed with a flashlight, I used water sprayed from a garden hose to guide the large rattler out the front gate.


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May 2nd, 2017

One Comment to 'It’s a good day when a coiled rattlesnake doesn’t strike'

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  1. Peg Hodges said,

    Wow! So glad you spotted that snake before it got cranky. We sometimes forget the hazards of the desert and get lost in the beauty of the spring. It certainly helps to know how to handle a snake and how fortunate you are to have a neighbor willing to share that info. As usual, your pictures add so much to your story.

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