Sunday, December 20, 2009

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake

The Southern Pacific rattlesnake is our local subspecies of the western rattlesnake. It is found in western Southern California and down into Baja Mexico along the west coast. We found the one below on a scout outing in Millcreek Canyon in the San Bernardino Mountains, not too far from Millcreek. One of its distinguishing characteristics is the young have a bright yellow tail, like the one below.
It usually has a light stripe extending from behind the eye to the corner of the mouth.
Blotches are various shades of brown to black, usually edged with darker color and often with light-colored borders. Blotches often give way at the rear to cross-bands, like those below.
We have had a number of articles in our newspapers lately about the dangers of the Southern Pacific. They are finding that their venom is highly toxic, particularly in Riverside County. They are also finding that they are hybridyzing with the Mojave Green Rattlesnake, another snake with highly toxic venom.
The rattlesnake below was found in Little Horsethief Canyon, west of Lake Silverwood and east of the I-15 freeway through Cajon Pass. Jeremiah Brice is holding this snake which he skinned.
I found the Southern Pacific rattlesnake below one Sunday afternoon as I was going to get into my car. It was in our driveway, right near my driver's side door.
Our neighbor came to my assistance with a sheet rock square, pinned its head while I grabbed it, and I let it go in the canyon near our home.

It slithers away below.

I have found two very large Southern Pacific rattlesnakes dead in the road. One along Overcrest and one on Live Oak Canyon Road. They generally have a nasty disposition and are not as nice looking as many other rattlesnakes, like the red diamond or speckled rattlesnakes. They are the predominent rattlesnake in the San Bernardino Valley.

On August 1, 2011, I got a call at work from Judy indicating that a friend, Debbie, was home with her grandchildren and had just seen a rattlesnake slither under the washing machine in their garage. I called her husband, Wayne, and met him at their home about 25 minutes later with my snake catching tool. I spent about 20 minutes or so sliding a snake stick under the washer, dryer, and refrigerators, then moved them around, then pulled out all of the boxes and other items on the floor around the garage looking for the snake. I then looked outside, around their air conditioner and water storage barrels. Finally, I asked Wayne for a flashlight, indicating that I thought it was unlikely the snake had gone higher in the garage, but that I would check anyway. I searched one side, looking down the cracks in mid-level storage shelves, then to the other side, looking at hoses and leaves in a corner, then I went higher. Then I saw it. I big black wide bodied Southern Pacific rattlesnake, on top of a  shelf, right next to a garage window, covered in cobwebs, about 3 or 3 1/2 feet off the ground. I got my snake stick and then grabbed the snake mid-body. It started to rattle like crazy and struck the stick continually, thrashing wildly. Wayne got an aquarium from my car and opened the top, then I set the snake in and shut the top.
This was a feisty snake, maybe the feistiest one I've seen. Note the cobweb on his back. I took the snake to the little park in Live Oak Canyon near our home and let it go, after taking some pictures. It had quite a dark underside. 
It started to go down a hole and I stopped it - I needed more pictures. It went up to a tree 
and I was able to get some more good pictures. 
This may be the most fun rattlesnake I've caught. It was feisty and big 
and the search for it and the eventual find made it all the more fun. 


  1. In my humble opinion, Bob, "most" "fun" and "rattlesnake" do not belong in the same sentence.

  2. I do not deny that my idea of fun is contrary to much of the rest of humanity. But fun it is.