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Name that snake!

Perusing through some old photos, I stumbled upon this unforgettable memory.

It was a hot day in the Arizona desert, and my partner and I were stumped on this particular geologic problem. Walking around the outcrop for a couple of hours did not seem to help. We stop and stare, as lost geology students often do. Staring hard, as if commanding the outcrop to hand me the CliffsNotes. But, to no avail.

Puzzled, thirsty, worn, and beat – I decided to sit down and think about things, still staring at the outcrop before me. That’s when I will never forget the look on my partner’s eyes, glaring at the site of my blindly chosen seat…

Look, before you sit down!

Two words were whispered, spoken softly as a feather: don’t… move…

Of course, after seeing that look… What I heard was “AAACK! YOU’RE GONNA DIE! YOU’RE GONNA DIE! YOU’RE GONNA DIE!!!” So, following her orders, I screamed like a banshee (or a school girl – depending on who’s telling the story) and leapt like Carl Lewis. After landing on the moon, I turned around to see a stretched out rattler, just chilling out.

Where was I going to sit down, you ask? You can see it on the photo, where the tree throws a nice shade onto some boulders… Right smack in the middle of the rattler.

If anyone has an idea on the identity of this snake, please comment. Also, the photo is quite bad in terms of color and focus. The snake was a tad more green than the photo shows it to be (the lack of focus was probably due to my shattered nerves). The head is hidden by a rock (far left), while the tail is black with a yellowish/beige tip (far right). The length was slightly over a meter.

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  1. 30 August 2009 at 10:19

    Just visually, this is the closest I found on http://www.reptilesofaz.org/herp-snakes.html but it’s not a rattler. Are you sure the one you saw was?
    http://www.reptilesofaz.org/Snakes-Subpages/h-t-lambda.html

  2. 30 August 2009 at 11:05

    That is a Black-Tailed Rattlesnake, Crotalus molossus molossus … my favorite species of Arizona rattlesnake. Unless you were really harassing it, you were in absolutely no danger. This species is also generally not at all as aggressive as other rattlesnakes. Most that I find that are the size of the one you found are so easy-going that I can’t even get them to coil up for a good picture, as all they want to do is slide off into the brush.

  3. 30 August 2009 at 11:27

    Mary, it’s definitely not a lyresnake … they also don’t get anywhere near that big. It is absolutely a black tail. Lyre’s don’t get to be so fat… they are cool snakes though! I have a baby.

    • J.C.Chang
      30 August 2009 at 11:42

      After seeing the snake, I went back to camp to simmer down the nerves. One of the other students though it was a Black-Tail, but the picture was horrid on a 2″ camera screen, so he wasn’t certain. Now I know for sure. Thanks!

  4. 30 August 2009 at 11:39

    Bryan: I’m from Northern California, so was only going with the skin patterns on the site I linked. Sorry 🙂

    • J.C.Chang
      30 August 2009 at 11:44

      It’s hard to see the rattle on this picture too!

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