My Encounter with a Rattler.
I was travelling through a vast desert valley that was rumored to hold antelope. The time was about eight-o-clock in the morning, and the oppressive 105 degree heat had yet to reach its maximum. I spotted a livestock watering tank, and decided to investigate. The tank was about ten feet tall, and eight feet in diameter. It was rusty, and had a rickety wooden ladder leaning against its side. On one side, there was a spout which emptied into a trough for the cattle to get their water. I stopped my car, and approached the trough. It was dry, and contained sand and sticks. I proceeded to walk around the trough looking for antelope droppings, a sign that they might be near. Instead I observed only the ever-present cattle dung (I mean, on the open ranges, the cow sh*t's EVERYWHERE). As I was about to leave, I decided to look in the top of the tank to see if there was any water in the tank. I began to walk along the trough, towards the back side of the tank. Suddenly:
It didn't take me long to realize what the source of the sound was without seeing it, one knows instinctively. Initially I took a step back, and then stopped to do a quick assessment of the situation. First, to ascertain the location of the rattlesnake, and second to make sure that in moving away from the active threat, that I wasn't about to step on one of his comrades.
I located him from the sound he was generating, and he was approximately 5 feet, directly in front of me (about two of my normal strides). He was about four to five feet long. Coiled, head raised defiantly. Perfectly camouflaged, a dusty brown color, against dusty brown earth. I would have stepped right on him if he had not warned me.
Now, with about eight feet of distance between us, I deliberated about what to do. Kill him? Well, I was armed, although only with a .40 caliber pistol. I thought for a second, and decided that his behavior did not warrant death, after all he was just doing his job. He warned me in plenty of time to avoid an encounter which would have been unpleasant for both of us.
Despite my relief at the situation "Mr. Rattler" was still quite upset, and he did not stop his rattling for a second. I sprinted the thirty feet to my car to grab my camera, and ran back to the scene of the encounter (all the time eyeing the ground to avoid any more surprises). He was gone. I could still hear his rattle, but it was muffled now. He had retreated to a spot underneath the water tank. As I continued to explore the area adjacent to the tank, the snake always resumed his warning any time I approached within fifteen feet of the tank.
If you want to see him for yourself, he lives in the Coal Valley. (Reservations not necessary, shoes recommended).
Lat N 38º04.564'
Long E 115º20.956'
(Precise location thanks to Garmin Personal 12 GPS).
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