Monday, July 5, 2010

Timber Rattlesnakes


 This impressive snake is the Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus). Don't you just love the species name? Horridus? Hinting at how horrible this snake has the potential to be? This is one of five venomous snakes in Missouri. The other four are the 1.) Western Pgymy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius streckeri), 2.)Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus), 3.) Osage Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix phaeogaster), and the 4.) Western Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma).

The timber rattler in the first picture was photographed a few weeks ago at a farm we own. It was approximately 3 feet long and had 5 rattles. It was very calm and showed no signs of aggression. We could only manage to make it rattle when I reached down and touched it's tail. We watched it for about 45 minutes and I managed to get 70 pictures of it. She slithered away to hide under a pile of wood. Once she was safely hidden she started rattling. We found that rather odd, and assumed it must be a nervous reaction to us bothering her.

Scientist are finding out that these snakes are not rattling to warn of their presence. They instead remain hidden and quiet. To rattle is to advertise your presence and ultimately leads to your death. In parts of Oklahoma where these snakes are harvested during rattlesnake roundups field tests were done, and the results  showed that the snakes in areas that were heavily harvested were mostly silent. In areas where little to no harvesting is done, they rattled more often. This could indicate the evolution of a more silent rattlesnake. They are certainly adapting and learning to change their ways. The rattlesnakes developed the rattle to protect them on the great plains from being stepped on by great hoofed animals like buffalo. Now this rattle is a calling card to death.

The timber rattlesnake is the largest of all the venomous snakes in Missouri, reaching lengths up to 5 feet. The largest recorded specimen in Missouri was 47 inches long. The all time record for this species is one recorded in Alabama, at a length of 6 feet 2 1/2 inches and weighing in at 5.5 pounds. That would be one seriously large timber rattler. They are a thick bodied snake and often times have a girth the size of a grown mans forearm. These are a beautiful snake, and they are highly variable in their coloration. They can have a base color of yellow, gray, tan, or brown with dark brown to blackish markings. The markings are like bands or v-shaped lines along the mid-body. Often there will be a rust colored dorsal stripe running the entire length of the body.The tail is black. The top of the head is gray, light tan or yellow and unmarked. As with all pit vipers they have deep pits on either side of their head. These pits are sensory pits and used to hunt prey. They feed on mostly mammals, but will also eat birds, frogs and other snakes. While they are capable of eating other venomous snakes they typically eat garter snakes. These are potentially one of the most dangerous venomous snakes in North America, largely due to their very large fangs and copious amounts of venom. Thankfully they are generally mild tempered and usually give plenty of warning before striking. The one pictured below that is very well camouflaged was found on our farm in Fillmore Missouri. Last year my husband and I were there so I could do some bug hunting. We are aware that rattlesnakes reside on this farm and were being very careful as we walked through the tall grasses. I walked by a tree that had a small pile of yellow limestone rocks near it. It looked like a good spot for a snake to sun itself after a cool night like we had the night before. I noticed nothing. My husband walked right behind me, and said "There is a snake" I turned around and noticed he was pointing to the rock pile I was just near. I went back to the pile and sure enough there was small timber rattler laying in the grasses near the rocks. These snakes have amazing camouflage. I walked within 2 feet of him and never spotted him. He was about 2 feet long. Joey got a stick and gently nudged him so we could see where his head was, and it took off behind the tree and disappeared. He showed his head for about 1.1 second, certainly not long enough to get a picture. I at least got a picture of how cryptic their coloring is, and I found out how very easy it is to walk right past one and not know it is there. He did not rattle at any time, nor did he show any aggression.


 Unfortunately these snakes are in sharp decline in much of their range, and have disappeared entirely from numerous counties throughout Missouri. Largely this is due to loss of habitat and persecution by people who fear being bitten. They are state protected and should be left alone. While I would not want to find one in my back porch, I certainly can appreciate them in the wild where they belong. I often try to educate people about their importance to an ecosystem and that losing them could cause untold amounts of devastation. Fear of snakes is so deeply rooted in many people that they feel the only good snake is a dead snake, and this tends to be doubled when it comes to the venomous variety. I could find no records of any deaths in Missouri due to this snake or any other venomous snake. UPDATE: I have since learned of a recorded death in 1933 due to this species. Apparently there is no other deaths attributed to this species. It is difficult to gauge an exact tally of deaths due to venomous snakes before the 1960's as records were not kept. Instead deaths of this nature were lumped together as poisonous reactions and could be anything from bee stings, wasp stings to snake bites.  Many bites occur in men ages 18-25. My guess is alcohol is involved. If you are inebriated, and out messing with a creature that you KNOW has the potential to bite and kill you, you deserve to be bitten! Leave them in peace and they will leave you alone. Above all else, if you want to see one of these snakes in the wild, leave the alcohol at home! However the biggest majority of bites actually occur when someone tries to kill the snake. The best option is to leave the snake alone. If you are in a situation where that is not an option then try to find someone who is capable of relocating it. Killing the snake should always be a last option. In the United States there are less than 10 deaths a year attributed to venomous snakes, you are far more likely to die of a dog bite!


Often times people ask me how to age a rattlesnake. The tail grows a new rattle each time it sheds, but this is not an accurate indicator of age as the snake may shed up to 3 or 4 times a year depending on how plentiful food is. Often times rattles get brittle and break off or they become damaged and fall off. 


I am working with a professor of herpetology at MWSU in St. Joseph doing a rattlesnake study on our farm in Fillmore, MO. What we hope to learn from this study is:
1.) How many snakes are on this farm?
2.) Are they breeding and how many young are there?
3.) Where are they hibernating?
4.) How far are they traveling away from the den site?

It should be an interesting study, and will hopefully gain us much knowledge about these often feared and hated, but environmentally essential animals. We met Dr. Mills, and two of his students at the farm last week. We walked the farm for around 2 hours and were about to give up without sighting a single snake of any kind. As we headed back to the cars, my brother-in-law shouted that he found one. We went to investigate his find, and noticed there was a nice sized rattle snake hidden under a large rock. Dr. Mills pulled the rocks away and exposed the snake. It was about 2 1/2 feet in length, and once again did not rattle. Not even when held down with a snake stick did it get irritated and warn us with that all to familiar Cicada-like noise of the tail. This one has 6 rattles and a button. The tail is visible in this photo below.


If one can look past their own fears, to the beauty of these misunderstood creatures, they would see an animal that is fascinating in its creepiness and beautiful in its lethalness.

39 comments:

  1. I hope ours stay in the mountains and away from the house. Copperheads and Cottom Mouths are poison enough for me.

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  2. I can honestly say I would not want to find them in my backyard. It would make going outside at night scary for sure. We don't have cottonmouths in this part of Missouri, but we do have Copperheads.

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  3. Fascinating study, and your pictures are wonderful. I've always wondered about this snake- never having seen one in the wild.

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  4. Thank you I appreciate your compliments. These snakes have long held a fascination for me. I feel privileged to be able to take part in a study on them

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  5. What a great study to be a part of! We seldom see many rattle snakes in our neck of the woods (around Lake Pomme de Terre), but copperheads are pretty abundant. I'd take a rattler over a copperhead any day! lol

    You've got some fabulous photos, here! Good luck with your study and please keep us all posted! ;)

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  6. I am really getting anxious to get started. I talked with Dr. Mills the other day and he wants to tag them in late September and follow them to their den site. We are hoping to gain some insight into how many are around this farm. Yesterday my boss told me he got me a rattlesnake for our office. I was excited. Someone in St. Louis has it and needs to place it. It will make a great addition to our exhibit room, and for doing programs with the public. Many people never get to see one of these awesome creatures up close.

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  7. f frumoase ,dar felicitari pentru curaj,eu nu as avea curajul tau,felicitari pentru blog

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  8. They are beautiful. I hope that the general public can get past the all-too-frequent "KILL IMMEDIATELY" instinct.

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  9. Beautiful snake! Great info too, didn't know about the way rattles formed.

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  10. Great photos! It's interesting that 'your' snakes have the rich brown color on them. The timber rattlers I've seen in Georgia lack that color and are much more bland.
    I've never seen an aggressive timber rattler even when I've wrangled them for my husband to photograph. It's more that they'd just like to leave, please.
    The scary thing is that they can lie hidden in short grass. I've stopped walking in long grass unless it's quite 'open' after coming within a foot or so of stepping on a Copperhead. Wouldn't have been the Copperhead's fault - it was just lying in wait for rodents that inhabited that area.

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  11. Thanks Joan, these snakes are so incredibly beautiful. I am completely fascinated by them...and feel honored to have them on a farm in our family. I know what you mean by their camouflage. I nearly stepped on one last year, it is quite scary how well they can blend in with their habitat. I still can't resist the urge to tramp around the farm though in search of them. I only hope my luck holds and I don't get bitten for my brazenness. I came home from work on Friday and discovered on hit on the road 3 miles from my house. It was till alive (barely) I scooped it up and brought it home, and after talking to our county agent I will get the skin tanned and use it for education.

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  12. really nice article MOBugs. I had no idea that they shed so many times or that the number of rattles wasn't an accurate indication of age. I'm from St. Joe and it's wonderful to see a #3 search result on google for "rattesnakes in mo" pointing to content authored by some one from near my hometown. Herpetology rocks!

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  13. great article MObugs :D thanks for sending me over to this blog... regarding your snakes not rattling and adapting to their enviroment, my son in law has always claimed that wild animals of all kinds will adopt new methods 'genetically' when their enviroment changes so drastically.. survival of the 'smartest'...

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  14. Thanks Roasted Garlic for visiting. I just love these snakes and can't wait to get back out this spring and start searching for them. We plan to get some pit-tagged and follow them to hibernation. It should be interesting. Your son-in-law is right, animals are much smarter than we mere humans give them credit for

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  15. MObugs, great article and your passion for your work shines right thru! I came upon this site searching for rattlesnake hunts/roundups in Missouri as I make symbolic jewelry from rare artifacts exotic collectibles. Only reason for me to search this way as it is near impossible to find rattles for sale. If you know of people who do sell them please email me: chethale@gmail.com
    I do not kill animals, reptiles, fish or birds for teeth, tusks, skins, claws. Keep up the good work and I will not be joining in on the rattlesnake roundups.

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  16. Thank you Chet....if you get a chance hop over to my other blog http://mobugs.blogspot.com. I've recently posted two blogs about some recent rattlesnake encounters.
    You won't find rattlesnake roundups in Missouri. All of our venomous snakes are protected by conservation law. In fact it would be illegal for people to even possess or sell parts of the rattlesnake such as the rattles or skin. I found one dead on the highway last fall, and had to get special permits from MDC to have the skin tanned and I work for MDC as a naturalist. I will use the skin in educational programs for the public. If you want to find rattles for sale you will have to look to other states such as Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona. Keep in mind though, even if you don't kill the snake....purchasing products off of people who do only creates a lucrative market for the snake hunters. Thank you for visiting...and I must say I am exceedingly happy that you won't be involved in a rattlesnake roundup :o)

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  17. Damen Coy

    With mushroom season nearing I like to research or reintroduce myself with missouri's many snakes. Just last year i was mushroom hunting in the bluffs near saint joseph missouri. On this occasion i had my younger brother with me. We were pretty deep into the woods when i spotted a timber rattler that my brother had stepped over. To our surprise this snake was not alone there was close to a half dozen surrounding us. Not a good feeling to have it was as if my heart fell into my shoes. Last mushroom season a buddy of mine was out shrooming by pigeon hill a local gun range. When he was bitten by a baby copperhead. Needless to say he didnt fair to well. He captured the snake and went to the E.R. and was admitted for at least three days. So shroomers should always familiarize themselves with the poisonous snakes their territory has to offer.

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    1. I agree that mushroom hunters should familiarize themselves with the snakes of Missouri, especially the venomous variety. The rattlesnakes you encountered, were they at Bluff Woods? I would love to come across a moment like that. It is every snake lover and photographers dream to encounter something like that. Call me 816-261-8655 if you find yourself faced with the same thing this year. I would love to come see them and photograph them. Your friend who was bitten by the copperhead learned how quickly something like that can happen. We received the phone call from the ER to come pic up the snake. I took it and released it to a suitable habitat where I know other copperheads are. It was a beautiful little snake, but I am sorry your friend went through such a terrible time. If he would like to see pics of the baby who bit him I have them posted http://mobugs.blogspot.com/2011/06/in-northwest-missouri-there-are-three.html (his snake is the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th pic.)

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  18. I appreciate that you love snakes, however, timber rattler's have lethal potential and it is sad that you equate the benign temper of a few snakes to encompass the entire population. I have lost two cattle in the last year to snake bites and a 49" rattler nearly got me at the cattle pond last night. The heat and drought has the snakes angry and active. Cows must graze at night because it is too hot during the day. The poor pasture means they walk a lot and the snakes hunt at night. Disaster! I am going broke the way it is and can't afford snake bites! I have 10 grandkids under age 8--have you seen what a rattlesnake bite does to a kid?

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    1. Larry I am truly sorry about the loss of your two cows, I know what a financial hit something like that can be. My husband and I own cows and farm. By your response it seems as if you believe that I think these snakes are harmless, when I clearly state on more than one occasion in the post that they do have lethal capabilities. While I recognize their potential to do grave harm if someone is bitten, I also know that they are not the aggressive snakes that most people would have you believe they are. If you look at it from the snakes perspective.....if you weigh 5 pounds and are about to be stepped on by an 800 lb (or bigger) hoofed animal you are going to protect yourself the only way you know how and this is by biting. Your cows are being grazed or kept on land that the snakes have called home for thousands of years. If you choice to live on land that is home to these snakes, then you must expect altercations from time to time. Since you provided a measurement of the snake by the pond I must assume you killed it. That is unfortunate.You say you were "nearly" bitten. I imagine that you came upon the snake by accident, it startled you and you reacted the only way you are programed to and that is by killing. I would be willing to wager that if you would have walked away the snake would not have bitten you. These snakes do not want to bite us or our cows, as these items are not food. Venom is designed to subdue prey and begin its digestion process. Venom is a pricey commodity, it requires large amounts of energy to create and replacing it means that the snake must eat as food=energy. Finding prey items isn't as easy as it sounds, often times the snake will sit and wait for days before a meal comes along. So you can begin to see that it does not benefit the snake in anyway to bite us or cows. However the snake WILL protect itself. As far as your question about whether or not I've ever witnessed a child who has been bitten by a venomous snake the answer is no, and I hope that I never do. Even though I have not witnessed it does not mean I am not fully capable of understanding the severity of the situation should it happen. That is why it is vitally important to teach children about snakes and encourage them to be careful and to not touch a snake unless they KNOW what it is. They should be taught to come tell an adult when they see one. I say this in the hopes that instead of breeding fear in our children that will see them through to adulthood; that we instead provide education free from fear.

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    2. i live in warrensburg mo and a man that has land between here and leton mo killed one that was over 4 feet and had 13 rattles and a button he was checking his cows and was within 3 feet from it and shot and killed it he said he has lost a bull and another calf due to snake bites.I have learned that there are several dens around the area that the snake was killed in but i agree with you people dont need to kill them they have a place on earth just like we do

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  19. Larry, if one link in the ecosystem is removed or damaged, everything else suffers. It's a fact that they were here before humans. If you see one call the Department of Natural Resources to remove it to a safer location. While snakes hunt at night, they see cattle as too big so they will not waste their venom unless it's acting in defense. Personal accounts are no reason to dislike a species because as I said before, they were here before we were. I've been bitten and I still go to classrooms and demonstrate with my animals because if you take away the fear you take away the hate.

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  20. Dear All--
    Progress requires change and sacrifice. Two hundred years ago this was all Indian land. White's took it away and brought agriculture which disrupted habitats. My grandfather was Lakota and his people were nearly hunted to extinction in the name of progress. Using your broad rationale of the original inhabitants always being entitled to their home habitat, then only Indians have a right to Missouri and Kansas! This, of course, will not happen. I preserve all snakes and have a Rat Snake as a semi-pet in an outbuilding to kill mice (again, I think the mice have original rights to these places and our houses, but we kill them anyway). The drought means my cattle pond is the only convenient water for a host of critters. The Timber Rattler is a night hunter and seeks prey there. In Lakota tradition, the killers are always subject to be killed and must be faster and stronger to survive. Survival of the fittest, if you will. This snake made a fatal error. It is sad, but it was his choice because I declared this my "hunting ground". The drought may drive me from this land. Normally, me, my family, the cattle and hundreds of four-legs and no-legs exist in peace. If I leave this place, it will probably be developed into a housing addition. The 100-foot oaks, rocky hillsides, and wild areas will be bulldozed. I ask you honestly--which is the bigger threat to the no-legs--me 1 to 1 with a killer--or the bulldozer to make rich men richer? I am being straight with you. I deserve a straight answer from you please. This is my words. May the Great Spirit bless you and yours. Hoka Hey!

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  21. There is no question that humans cause far more damage than is necessary in the name of profit. Habitat destruction is often the biggest challenge faced by any animal, and all too often humans do not care what price the plants or animals of a given area will pay. That price is often extinction, but as long as there is money to made then they will continue to destroy. It is human greed that has caused the problem, how many convenient stores, shopping malls and housing additions do we need? When is enough enough? I am sorry that you may end up having to sell your place and move and I am sad that the area may be destroyed in the name of progress. For every step forward that we think we are making, in reality we are often taking two steps backwards. I too am 1/2 Native American, my ancestors are Kiowa and I am married to a man who is 1/4 Cherokee. My rationale is in reference to "Wild" animals and their natural homes. There is no doubt that Native Americans had a bad rap and were treated in a manner that is beyond comprehension, but that being said they are human, not a wild animal. Being human gives them the ability to reason, it also gives them the ability to create a new home for themselves. Snakes on the other hand do not reason, they are governed by instinct and are all too often tied to a given area. Many snakes if removed from an area will not survive as they will not be able to locate denning sites. Many den sites have been utilized for 100's if not 1000's of years. These snakes are familiar with their home range and know where the best watering locations are, where the best hunting grounds are and where shelter is. They provide natural rodent control which reduces the risk of hantavirus and bubonic plaque. I am not going to judge you for killing the snake at your pond, if you truly felt it was a threat, but I will tell you it saddens me that you did so. As a Native American you understand the importance of ALL animals. As you have shown by allowing the rat snake in your outbuilding to live. Many Native American nations valued the rattlesnake highly and wouldn't have dreamed of killing them. These snakes have been persecuted for well over a hundred years,and killed in vast numbers. Most of these killings are unjustified and are a result of nothing more than hatred or fear. Every county in Missouri originally was home to timber rattlesnakes, now they are absent from many of those counties. Eastern Diamondbacks are now a candidate for being Federally listed as endangered. The western diamondback has fallen in numbers drastically over the past couple of decades. In large part this is due to habitat destruction, but human persecution has also had a drastic affect on their populations. In the end it is humans who have caused the decline of these snakes, and it is up to humans to fix it. It would be highly unlikely for a cow, or a bull to die of a snake bite, and to have two die is even more uncommon so it would cause me to question if it was indeed a result of a snake bite, and not another type of injury or infection that resulted in their demise.

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    1. Here is the rest of my reply-----

      In the end it is your property and your right to protect yourself, your family and your livestock and it is not for me or anyone else to tell you not to do so, but I would ASK that you refrain from killing them and try to respect their existence and consider yourself blessed that they have chosen your farm to inhabit. I've given as straight of an answer as I can. I am not someone that is going to encourage or approve of someone killing a snake that was doing nothing more that looking for water and food. We own a farm that is home to timber rattlesnakes, and instead of killing them we are turning it into a science project and have gotten a local herpetologist involved and we are capturing, P.I.T. tagging them and documenting their populations. They are protected on this farm. This was no easy feat, as my inlaws killed every rattlesnake they found for years. It took reason and education to make them see that was not necessary. Now they are part of something bigger than themselves.

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    2. Yahta-Hey, Shelly!
      I appreciate your straight talk and see you as a sister. I do not kill lightly, but kill when I am threatened--as my grandfather taught me to do. In more remote areas of my place, I have left rattlesnakes and copperheads to themselves, in peace. My grandfather taught me that Oglala Lakota believed Wakantanka punished bad people by making them live as snakes--crawling on their bellies in humiliation. So we shouldn't relieve them of their punishment by killing them! He lived in a rural area near White Cloud, Kansas, where their were Timber and Prarie Rattlers. He only killed those which were around his house because he had a small Cousin bitten by one on the foot, and the limb had to be amputated and the child suffered "brain fever", becoming mentally retarded afterward. I purified myself and asked my ancestors if I did the right thing--they indicate I did. Cattle seem to be the kindest to the land and I must raise them to pay for the place. My 600-pound bull last year was bitten on the throat just below the right ear. It swelled to football size and two puncture wounds an inch apart wept blood and pus. He wobbled for two or three days, then went down and would not rise again. He was dead in a couple more days. In June, a 120 pound calf had the same wound and swelling at the base of his throat and I found him dead. This snake seemed determined to stay around the cattle pond regardless of probably getting stepped on alot, because my cattle have had small swelling marks on their legs for years. Anyway, you may believe as you wish, and I must believe as I see on this thing. I do wish you the best and I remain dedicated to preserving all the four-legs and no-legs as long as they don't threaten my very existence. I wish the Great Spirit bless your preservation endeavor!

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    3. Larry I would be proud to call you brother, and I think you have shown you do not kill without reason. I am thrilled to hear that you leave the majority of the snakes (and other animals) to live in peace on your land, as that is the way it should be. We live on 86 acres and my husband family owns an additional 500 acres. We raise a few cows (mostly to control grass and for a little extra cash). We have chickens and raise crops. We are currently suffering the results of the drought and will most likely sell off many of our cows. Our corn crop is all but lost and without rain our soybean crop is most likely gone as well. I truly do sympathize with your plight in regards to losing livestock. Our family also hunts and we eat all that we hunt and are thankful for the bounty. Maybe we will meet one day and you can show me your land.

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    4. Sister Shelly,
      It would be an honor to meet you and I would like you to see my place when it is healed from this terrible dryness. Your place sounds very peaceful and bountiful, but of course is in great pain now, too. The Great Spirit wants us to learn some lesson and this all must have a purpose. I will pray for your success and rain. I am in my 60s now and my grandfather was the last link to the original Plains Indian great horse culture. When I was small, he told me how to petition Wakantanka for rain. But alas, I have forgotten because I followed the White path too long. So, I have to do "general" prayers and hope that will suffice! Health and wisdom to you!

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  22. My friend Larry----we should share emails and keep in touch. Mine is MOpiggys@aol.com

    I was never blessed to know my ancestors, and therefore did not learn their teachings and it saddens me. I've always felt a kinship with all things wild and have always felt it was from my Native American heritage, even if I didn't always understand why I felt the way I did, I just always knew it was a part of who I am.

    I sure wish, as I am sure you do, that you could remember how to bring the rain. I told my husband I was gonna dance nekkid in the yard and wing-it and hope it brought rain, he teased me and said that might make things worse....hehehe

    I will add you to my prayers in the hopes that you experience some relief soon from this drought.

    I just discovered tonight that my honey bee hive is destroyed. The wax worms took it over and it is gone. I nearly cried!

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  23. On Wednesday August 8,2012 I happily walked away from a 5 foot plus timber rattler. The snake started rattling as we approached it unknowingly to a distance of 4 feet. It continued to rattle for a minute or so while we watched in disbelief. I took video of it and after freezing some frames of its tail I counted 14 rattles. It was the diameter of the thickest part of my arm and had a very large head as well. The rattling was so loud it alerted a flock of turkeys in a nearby field. Ironically we were searching for an old graveyard but ended our quest when the snake headed off in the direction we were going.
    We did not kill or even harass this majestic animal. We were in his world and only lucky enough to be able to experience its presence without harm.I do feel that its rattle allowed us to stop and avoid stepping on it. The snake never did coil in an aggressive or defensive posture. I visually marked two reference points as it moved parallel to us and walked the distance off after it left. I thought it was at least 6 feet long when we first saw it but the distance was just over 5 feet when measured.
    We were canoeing along the 11pt. river in south Mo.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing you story with me, I must say you made my day and put a smile on my face. It is such a thrilling experience to come across one of these amazing animals in the wild. Thank you for your kindness to an animal that often generates a different response in people. I am curious though, which county is the 11 point river in? I can't say as I have heard of it. I live north of KC.

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    2. Thank you for sharing your video with me. I watched it all and must say that does look like a very large rattlesnake, but it is hard to judge the approximate length. I love the bonus cottonmouth at the end!

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  24. I am wondering what your thoughts are on this situation.... Last night my husband killed a Timber Rattlesnake just outside his tent while camping at a very large Boy Scout Reservation near Farmington, MO where HUNDREDS of boys and adults camp weekly throughout the year. I've read about your beliefs on leaving these beautiful wild creatures be in their wild habitats, but am very grateful that my husband encountered it in the dark before a child did.

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    1. This situation is not a new one, many areas where scouts and other groups camp are also shared with venomous snakes. Camp Geiger in St. Joseph has a population of copperheads. I do understand the desire to keep our children safe at all costs. I have children and work with children almost daily as part of my job, and I would never want one to be bitten by a venomous snake. That being said I personally believe this was a missed opportunity to teach a valuable lesson in nature. ALL animals serve a purpose and have the right to be left alone to do what they were created to do. This snake was found while the scouts were sleeping so it posed no immediate threat to the boys which means it could have been safely captured and moved to a better location away from the boys and other campers. Scouts are, I assume, taught to respect nature and to coexist with wildlife. All this particular situation taught them was to kill something that is seen as a threat or as dangerous. A better lesson in my opinion would have been....To witness an adult calmly capturing the snake, and move it. This would have went a long way in teaching these boys that we do not have to be afraid. They would have learned how to properly identify a timber rattlesnake, which would be helpful if they continue to camp there, as they could then avoid touching or trying to capture one. They could have learned through calm explanations by the adult responsible that these snakes while having the potential to bite and cause harm, will not hurt us if we leave them alone. They could have learned that these snakes are beautiful and serve a purpose in controlling rodent populations. Now they learned to continue what humans have been doing for generations....kill what we don't like or understand. At some point we have to stop this cycle and learn to live within the boundaries of nature and stop trying to mold it to suit us. As a side note, in Missouri, it is illegal to kill snakes unless they pose an IMMEDIATE threat.

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  25. How does an amateur calmly capture a highly venomous snake? It did slither away and then came back a couple of times.

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    1. Ideally a snake hook or snake tongs should be used. You would use the tongs, or hook to place it in a large bucket with a lid or a barrel. Or in a cloth bag tied close on the end. Once the snake is in the bag use the hook or tongs to trap the snake in the bottom of the bag while you tie it closed. Always keeping in mind that the snake is dangerous and not to allow it to come in contact with your leg as you carry the bag to a safer place. If you do not have those types of tools a large sturdy stick can be used to coax the snake into a bucket, barrel or bag. Rattlesnakes can strike 1/3 of their body length with accuracy. So a 4 foot snake can strike 1 1/2 feet approximately. In an area like you describe where rattlesnakes occur and campers are there, I think a good investment for the facility would be a good pair of snake tongs for just such an emergency. The tongs could be kept in a storage shed or some other building to be used when needed. I assume there are grounds keepers or some other individuals who work there? Perhaps training by local professionals would be in order to insure there are individuals handy in cases such as these.

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  26. Very cool blog. Keep up the good work.
    ps...do you travel to other places in MO to photo timnber's and other wildlife? Do you have an online photo album anyone can browse through and look at wildlife photos?

    thanks, Erik

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