Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rattlesnake wranglin'

We can't let the summer pass without at least one rattlesnake post, can we? (Ophidiophobes, turn back now.)

It was 7:00 last night. I was at my desk. Smooch was napping in the next room when all of a sudden she let out one of her five-alarm barks. I joined her at the back door, where we watched at least a hundred swallows swooping and diving around the back porch, squawking like nothing I've ever heard. Hmmmm, we wondered. We couldn't figure out what had them all riled up, so Smooch and I stepped outside. Silly us. There was no mistaking the telltale sound we heard now, even through the din of the swallow squawking – it was a rattler.

Smooch spotted him before I did, coiled up between the garage and the grill. I grabbed the snake pole and used it to block Smooch from getting any closer, then ordered her to move back. She didn't. It took a few more tries, but she finally sat down, then I scooped her up and took her in the house.

I gathered my wits and my stuff – shoes, phone, camera – and went back outside. All the recent practice I've had relocating bull snakes served me well. I was able to lasso the rattler and dump him in the nearby ash can without incident ... or photographs. So allow me to recreate the scene.

Thanks to Shadowhouse Creations for the bird brush!

When we Smooch spotted the rattlesnake at Point A, he was directly below a nest, to which the swallows took great exception. They wanted that bad boy out of their territory, as did I.

With the rattlesnake secured inside Point B, the question became what to do with him. I decided to load him up and take him for a long drive. Erring on the side of caution, I strapped down the can.

As we headed out the gate, I started imagining the conversation I might have if I happened upon my neighbors.

Q. Whatcha got in the can?
A. Ashes. And a rattlesnake. Wanna see?

Down the road we went, me and my snake, just out for a drive. I pulled over at the bottom of Rock Hill and unloaded the can. I found a long stick and used it to pop off the lid. Then I held the camera at arm's length and aimed it into the can, because I knew most many a few one or two of you would want to see him.

So then I kicked over the can. Much to my dismay, the snake did not rise from the ashes and slither off into the weeds. Apparently, I had buried him. Worried that he was suffocating, I tipped the can all the way over.

Great. Now how can I get my can back, not get bit, and take a picture at the same time? Very carefully, I sidled up to the can, tipped it upright, and ran like hell.

That silly snake just rose up and rattled. I would have thought that he'd have run slithered for his life. Shows you how much I don't know about rattlesnakes.

In any event, I reclaimed my can and headed for home.

As from all ranch adventures, there are many lessons to be learned:
1. The creatures with whom I share this place are very, very smart. All I have to do is listen to what they're saying.
2. I need to start wearing shoes when I'm in the house.
3. Until snake season is over, whenever I leave the ranch, Smooch stays indoors.
4. 1/60 of a second is too slow to freeze the motion of a rattling tail. Next time, use a higher shutter speed.


  1. #5 Don't bury snakes alive — it just pisses them off.

    WV = lumpupp
    The newest candy from Willie Wonka

  2. It definitely looks like your rattler is *issed off in your pictures by his body language! Yikes!

    I've only dealt with one rattler and that was enough for me and it makes dealing with copperheads much easier, although that's not easy either. Oooooh, I simply do not like snakes.

    You're a brave one Carson ... I simply would have told the story and left the rest to our imagination, but you know us all too well. Thanks for sharing all the details ... that sure got my heart pumping first thing this morning!

  3. OMG I had to look several times at the picture with the stick.....I thought you had the snake in your hand! I bout had a heart attack! LOL

  4. I thought you had the snake in your hands also.

    That looks to be a sizeable snake.

    I haven't seen a rattlesnake in ages. When I was a kid in Utah and Arizona I saw quite a few. When I worked as summer roustabout in West Texas I saw a bunch. I saw a road runner kill one one time. It was really no contest.

    I'm proud of you for not killing it.

  5. I love your courage because I'd have been crestfallen if you hadn't gotten pictures! How sick is that????

  6. Geez, he looks like a big one! Glad you got him. I don't think I would have let him live! We have had some around here but not at the house this year, thank goodness.

  7. All I can say is my drawing would have looked a little different and I would have plenty of time to take the picture--from all angles.
    My version of catch and release is someone would need to catch me running for the shovel and release me when it was gone.

  8. What a snake wrangler, and you do it all for us. There are still tears streaming down at the thought that you gathered the necessary items--shoes, phone, camera. What else, indeed, would a blogger need?

    I, too, thought that you had the snake in your hand. Nice prop, hope you kept it!

    Now I'll have snakes on my mind for quite a while. Oh, no! What do I hear the cat playing with out in the kitchen? Gotta run and build me a snake pole, then grab my shoes, phone, and camera.

  9. Wowza! Sure is a beauty, but looks much better from a distance. Did Smooch give you a pissed-off look when you returned? "Whaddya do with my snake, lady?"

  10. Very interesting!! I would have been wearing my tall cowgirl boots if I was snake wrangling!! smooch deserves a cookie and you need a drink, straight up ;-)
    I really like that 7MSN gate,,,
    Theresa in Alberta

  11. Umm... were you laying down taking that last picture?

  12. Glad you or Smooch didn't get yourselves bit. Like I've said before, you're much braver than I am. I probably would have run for the hills.

  13. I know that you are careful, Carson,however snakes are dangerous. Over at Farm Girl Fare there was a nasty encounter with a copperhead and she spent some time in intensive care. It was awful and she is still suffering. Tall cowboy boots are handy but sadly hot in the summer.
    Snake stories are just plain bad.
    Best always, Sandra

  14. Another adventure, thanks for bringing us along. The recreated scene is great. ;o)

  15. Wow, that's some scary stuff (and a smart Smooch ;o)

  16. Cool! I'm one of the two people that wanted to see Mr. Snake.
    I'm glad Smooch and the swallows alerted you before anyone accidentally stumbled upon the rattler.
    I wear shoes in the house all the time because of scorpions. Maybe your indoor kitties keep yours all cleared out?

  17. How majestic the snake looks in the last picture. You are a brave woman O would probably run for my life:)

  18. I'd have to have a longer snake pole!! You are a brave and kind ranch woman!

  19. Holy Cow!! That looks like a big snake! Glad you and Smooch didn't get hurt. It does look like you might have pissed him off burying him in the ashes. You and Smooch be careful until snake season is over. :)

  20. You are a brave, brave woman. I would've been using that pole to beat him.... ugh *shutter*

  21. That looked like a big snake, here in florida we have several bad snakes but we see more coral snakes then any other kind in our area.

  22. Yeah, great picture of the snake. Love how he is raised up from the ashes. But, the photo I love is the recreation of the scene. LOVE the birds!! You had me fooled for a minute!

  23. I hope you drove many miles before letting that sucker go. I always wear shoes in the house because of scorpions. I'm glad you're gonna keep Smooch inside when you're away from the ranch. I just saw a dog at the vet yesturday that had been bit by a rattler...poor thing looked awful. The owner was lucky she saw it happen and got her pup to the vet right away.

  24. Scary and good you could safely remove him. Nice pictures though. I have only run across them a few times but it always gets my heart beating faster. Especially one when we were driving a road in Tucson and the vehicle ahead had hit the tail of one. It was really angry and reared straight up. You would be amazed how tall a rattler can go if he wants. It was on the side of my husband as we drove past and he was striking at the window height which my husband has just rolled up. I had heard they can do that, but it took seeing to believe it. Definitely do not want them around pets or farm animals. They'd get the chickens if they could and were large enough.

  25. Good job on the snake! I love all the swallows in the photo. My skin would have been crawling travelling with the snake in the back even if it was securely tied down!

  26. I had the same vision as Nancy....I thought for sure that was your hand actually holding the damn snake!! I was thinking...she's crazy! ....but, .... whew..... the stick...... okay......... hahahhahahh

  27. I love the list of necessary items too. All in the name of safely and blogging. Too funny. I hate snakes, I know for many that is not PC but I hate snakes. On Monday on our adventure to Sky City, I got out to take pictures to, what else, blog about and there he was just slithering across in front of me, about a 5 footer. Yikes. The rest of my photos were taken from rolling down the window and putting the camera out....I hate snakes.

  28. Oh. Just. Wow! I am in awe that you went to that much trouble to catch and release Mr. Rattler. You are definitely one intrepid ranchwoman!!!

    Nancy in Iowa

    Oops - WV = twins
    I HOPE NOT!!!

  29. Wow! I admire so much your courage.
    You took awesome photos, too!

  30. Well done You and all your ranger scouts. Very impressive, indeed.

    A little freaked out, I have to admit. Not in my range of experience at. all.

  31. You go girl!! LOVE your snake pole!!!
    We had one this morning too, I wasn't here so Wade killed it before it bit our dumb lil Special Bean dog. He needs snake training. Glad Smooch knew better!!!
    You rock. You are just so amazingly capable of handling anything!!

  32. He didn't appear to have enjoyed his nice ride through the desert in his ash can very much did he?

    You are so brave. I would have been shaking and afraid, and full of adrenaline. But I bet you were calm as a rock!

    A few weeks ago I was hiking up at Ojo Caliente, by myself and was in a beautiful slot canyon with a waterfall at the end, when I hear the sound of a rattler, not too far away. I froze and tried to spot it, so I wouldn't move in the wrong direction, but it was too well camoflauged. So, I took a deep breathe and I closed my eyes and let my other senses take over, and finally realized the sound was coming from up above me about 6 feet away. gah!

    I've never moved so fast in my life, down a scree slope no less, even with my gimpy knees. I don't even remember how I got down. lol!

    I kept thinking. I'm out here, by myself, over an hour from all civilation, with a rattle snake.
    And you live that scenario all the time living by yourself....with rattlers as neighbors.

    Brave...or crazy. Maybe a little of both? I hope you made yourself a glass of cowgirl courage afterwards...not because you need the courage, but because you deserved it.


  33. Oh my! The 7MSN chronicles are simply amazing! I am one of those individuals that wanted to see the snake but am also one that is glad you have the sense to photograph from a distance. Hummm... Carson maybe you should invent a cowgirl boot that is a cross between boot and track shoe....

    Amazing photos, amazing adventure!
    p.s. I would have strapped that can down too!

  34. AWESOME! I have to admit, I wouldn't one in my house or real near me in the barn but outside and plenty far enough away to admire him/her...that wouldn't be so bad. But, yeah, catch, transport, tip, dump, spring..release is for me. which neighbor will be the lucky one? Or maybe they would want to go back into the National Forest right next door? Decisions, decisions. Gotta learn how to make a snake pole ASAP!

  35. This article seriously made my day.

    I love rattlesnakes and work with them often, and I have to say you are one of the only ranchers I've heard of that actually respects them as animals and not just a threat to livestock or pets; beyond education on the subject. It's wonderful to see someone actually putting away the fear and taking time to do the right thing. A lot of ranchers could learn a lot from you.

  36. I couldn't look at the snake picture long, and I too thought you were holding it in your hands!!!! I was stunned that you caught and released him. I would have simply had a heart attack.
    Please be careful.

  37. Whoo- doggies! That was one mad snake! I guess I don't blame him, here he was out for a nice little stroll, trying to get a meal of swallow tails and eggs, when along comes a barking dog and a lady with a big pole!
    I love that you had to find your camera- I guess us bloggers all think alike!
    And the pictures of course were absolutely necessary! Good job all the way around.
    I hope Mr Snake doesn't come back!

  38. Wow, that last shot is amazing. What a proud creature. Of course, I can admire him safely from Ohio! If I lived there, I don't think I would find him so amazing!

  39. Cool! and a little nerve racking all in one! thanks for sharing.

    glad you didn't use a higher shutter made me be able to better visualize the snake in motion!

    glad you are all safe and that you got your can back :)

  40. Wow--what an adventure! Glad Smooch and the swallows and you are safe. Thank you for not killing the snake....

  41. That is absolutely crazy! Way to go catching that rattler! I could not handle one of those hanging around my porch, at all!

  42. What a lovely snake! Of course they are even lovelier when they are OFF your property! Haha

  43. Jeesh, I was on the edge of my seat and like nearly everybody else, I thought you had a hold of that snake! I thought to myself: D#^%, my respect for her as shot way up!

    We haven't had any rattlers on our place here in North Texas yet, but we did have to go to war with a couple of 5 foot rat snakes that raided my chicken coop. My little chicks and keets were sending the distress call and when I looked I thought one was stuck. I didn't the snake had a hold of her, I nearly had an accident when I realized I'd just grabbed a snake. Anyway, it had a bulge in it and it either ate one of my girls or an egg. I was so angry. I'm afraid I dispatched him, but felt so guilty afterwards.

    Just a couple of days later, almost the exact same scenario and we played holy heck getting him out of the coop. This time I spared him, picked him up with a garden tool and dumped him in a feed bag. I drove him a considerable distance from us and dumped him in some scrubby brush, wished him the best, and headed home.

    Unfortunately, neither of the 2 LGDs seem to be calibrated for snakes and I have to "find" them on my own. I sure could use either your snake dog ;-) or that mighty-fine snake wrangling pole! Be careful . . .

  44. Oh my word, that was a big snake! We don't have diamondbacks here, just the smaller prairie rattler, but I still hate 'em. Have you thought about investing in a pair of snake boots and gaiters? I know that's the only way I'd be comfortable doing what you do... and I'm using the word comfortable very, very loosely here!

  45. Yipes.

    Smooch needs a new tag "Snake Detector"

    I suppose it falls under ranch security, though.

    Remind me to send you my dad and rattle snake story. I just sold the essay, but can't post it because it hasn't run yet....

  46. Very cool, I am so happy that you took the time to transport your rattling visitor away rather than just killing it like so many people do.

  47. My Dad, who is 80 now, runs into a rattler time and again on his ranch property here in CA.

    He usually doesn't have his gun on him when that happens. Worries me as his hearing isn't sharp, but I digress.

    What is his dispatch weapon of choice? A rock.

    He doesn't throw them at the snake, he brains the snake! We'll not talking little snakes either!

    Of course the snake isn't coiled; perhaps that's the secret. I'm usually too wound up myself to figure it out.

    Have you seen the Youtube video of the snake and the rabbit? Here's the link:

    Don't worry it's not a killing scene.

    I've been reading your blog for a few years now. Love it!

    Thanks for sharing your life, stories, fur/feather family and pictures.


  48. The snake picture in the ashcan is better with the rattle on his tail blurred--then you can see that it's in motion!! Incredible pics--glad you set him free!

    Wandered over here from Pawcurious, and as a fellow horse-owner and photogbug, I'm adding you to my feed reader. Gorgeous pics! Happy New Year!! :-)