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Gone but never forgetten
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Tonight I'm working on my daughter's car, and my next door neighbor, who was watering some plants out front goes balistic and starts screeming, then I hear her yelling "there's another one!"

I come running out and ask her what it is. "Two snakes ... one just ran up under my car". I look over and her Mom is sitting in the car and is now petrified to get out. I look up under the car and at first don't see anything. Then I spot it, dead center under the car, a little baby snake. From my vantag point, it looks like a diamond back, but I can't see any rattle. It's only about 10 inches long. So my neighbor backs the car out (after I convince her it's not going to bite her ankles when she gets in the car) so I can get a better look and get rid of it.

I then realize it's not a diamond back ... looks very similar but it's more of spots on it, than diamonds, and the spots don't touch. I want to just get the snake over to the yard and let it run. I take my ratchet that I was still holding and flip him towards the grass. This little jerk coils up and strikes at me, making a hissing sound (sounded like a little POed cat ::). Ann says, "if I get you a shovel, will you chop it's head off?" "sure" (if it will make her feel comfortable). She walks towards her garage and I start to follow. She looks back at me and the snake (about 2 feet from me now) and lets out another scream just as I hear the snake hiss at me again (her scream made me jump). She said it just tried to strike me again. So enough's, enough, and I chop his little head off (sorry PETA ... it was self defense at this point ::)

So I start researching to see what kind of snake it is. It looks like this picture, but WAAAY smaller:
http://www.californiaherps.com/snakes/images/cvoreganusch.jpg

The question is, if it was a baby, would it show signs of a rattle? If it weren't a rattler, would it still have tried to strike me? I'm kind of thinking now that theses snakes, that apparently living in between our houses in the flower garden are, indeed, rattlers (just not a diamond back). I will tell SWMBO and the neighbor that they aren't, of course. I've just never had a garden snake strike at me like that, but still am confused since it had no signs of a rattle.
 

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They have to shed their skins several times to form an actual rattle. Was there any sign of a stub or anything?
 

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When I was working in Nevada in the '80's, I often saw snakes that I thought were rattlers, but they didn't have rattles. The local folks called them Bull snakes. They could make a really loud hissing noise. I've seen my share of snakes, but I've never seen any other snake that could hiss that loud. Maybe that was what you found.
 

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Hey John

A few months back we had a couple of reports of rattlesnakes in garages in the neighborhood. I didn't see any of them (although I have seen a couple of snakes around) so I have no idea if they really were rattlers.
 

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Baby rattlesnakes do NOT have rattles untill they shed a few times so they cannot make the noise before they strike.

The babies are more deadly than the adults because they have not learned how to regulate the venom they inject into you. The adults do not "give you everything they got" whereas the babies do.
 

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We can solve this (if you saved the head).

Little rattlers have a "button", just don't have a nice set of rattles. I grew up with rattlers in SW Kansas, and have seen quite a few babies. At 10", it should have had at least a button. But, I DID run across one rattler that had NO rattles, and it was like a 2 1/2' snake.

Back to the head. If it was a bull snake, it can look remarkably like a rattler, and has the same markings, but has no rattles, and the tail is pointed like any other snake. The head is also shaped different. A rattler has more of a triangular shaped head, being a pit viper. And yes, a little bull snake can be a really aggressive SOB, with a blood chilling hiss. A bull snake has teeth, and can make a pretty nasty bite, but lacks the hypodermic-like fangs of the rattler. If you can find the head, and don't mind doing a little disecting, look for the fangs. If there were none, it was a bull snake, which I'm sure is a generic term for a particular kind of snake, but don't know the proper name. Hope this helps!
 

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BINGO! The snake had no fangs! One of the things that got me, was the head was a bit triangular (although pretty small on a 10" snake *LOL*). When I chopped his head off, though, he opened his mouth WIIIIDE! It didn't even dawn on me until reading your repsonse that I saw no fangs ... dang, I should have thought of that [slaps self in the forhead]. Ok, the neighbor and SWMBO will be much happier now that I don't have to lie ::
 

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Yes, a rattler has a triangular shaped head, being widest at the rear of the skull, then it actually comes in to meet the body of the snake. A 10" snake wouldn't have much for fangs. They would be very small, and they fold up back in the snake's head where you can't see them. I've found they are easy to inspect using a knife blade to scrape along the area where the fangs fold into. Could still be a rattler, as they are really aggressive too when cornered.
 

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The distinction is in the head. The rattlesnake is a pit viper and has a broad, triangular shaped with pits forward of the eyes and where you would imagine nostrils to be. Check out your photo and compare with the gopher snake.

I believe that this is rattlesnake habitat in Sacramento. You have the big timber rattlers in higher elevation, and you also have the Pacific rattler along the coast. Either kind could have migrated to this area. The desert sidewinder - in Southern California, typically Kern County area, would be unlikely.

The baby rattlers do not have rattles yet. However, they are very very poisonous. The venom is more concentrated than a snake a year or so older. Given the heat streak we've been having, it would be reasonable for a snake to migrate to a cool, wet area. They have no way to regulate the heat of their internal body, except by their environment. Hence, they would go to an extreme to cool down. Typically, they show up around dusk, early a.m., and can be nocturnal.

I've killed quite a few in my youth and even used my bare hands to help catch one and re-cage it. The biggest I ever killed was about 5 feet long. The baby's used to come out on the grass by the dorms at college and collect around the sprinkler heads. Sounds like the same thing at your house. They can strike about 1.5 to 2 body lengths away. I would never use a rachet and would stay a good 4 feet away and kill it with a hoe (not the downtown type, but the garden tool). They are nothing to let roam around. They could easily kill your dog.
 

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Seems like urban sprawl has caused an increase in the snake sightings. Normally, but not always, a rattler will shy away from noise and activity. Always wore boots and carried a heavy stick to bang on the sides of cars, when junkyarding where tall weeds were. In the Miami-Ft Lauderdale area, there have been at least three major snake bites this year. One from a rattler, one from a copperhead, and one from a coral snake. The coral snake is the worst as it's venom attacks the nervous system. The rattlesnake was over 5 ft. and the guy took the bite protecting his little girl, but he still got the snake with a machete. All the water we're getting has also brought the snakes, gators, etc. out for dry land. Getting scarce here! :(
 

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kill it with a hoe (not the downtown type, but the garden tool). .
LMAO.

A warning, if your going to be messing around with the head of a snake, the fangs are sharp and the snake does not have to be alive to bite. A buddy of mine found out the hard way ::.
 

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If you still have doubts, you could always take the carcass and/or head down to a county or state park and ask one of the Rangers. Or, you could call a local Vet and ask if they can identify it for you (usually they're pretty good as they have to be able to identify the snake in order to use the appropriate anti-venom for domestic animals). I live in the Bay Area near the coast where it's cooler and I've come across a quite a few Western Rattlers (or Northern Pacific Rattlers) and that there's up to seven sub-species so they're definitely out there.

I'll just add that if by chance you do happen to kill a rattler in the future, I was always told to bury or burn the head. Don't know it if it's an urban/rural legend or not, but the story goes that wasps would eat venom sacks and develop a very nasty sting. The more feasible reasoning I've heard is that cats, dogs, raccoons, etc would get into the trash and eat the head thereby getting mildly sick from ingesting the venom or actually getting punctured by the fangs.

By the way, thanks for all your help answering my questions about the AOD install. It works great!
 

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Don't know if there's any real snake gurus lurking out there, and I'm really bored tonight, but here's another suggestion if there's no way to check out the head (by the way, someone above was right--I'd be real careful checking for fangs. They fold in, they'd be small and hard to see, and they can still inject venom after the head has been surgically removed with the garden tool of your choice).

Roll the carcass over, and check the belly scales--it's been a while, but as I remember, pit vipers had two sets of scales toward their tail, as opposed to the one large scale that runs centerline down most of the belly. In other words, the big wide scale changes on about the last 10-15 scales. Instead of one scale, you get two, with the scales meeting in the center of the snake.

Damn, that doesn't make any sense...Guess I need to go to bed. That's what kind of rambling you get when you're tired, stuck in a hotel room, bored, and can't sleep.

Greg
 
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