Happy Snake Season 2020!! (Yes, it's here ... now)
It's great to have people safely social-distancing at our Colorado open spaces! With the warm weather this week, rattlesnakes and other Colorado native snakes are on the move with their seasonal activities.
For now, rattlesnakes will mainly be active during the daytime, but as temperatures rise the closer we get to summer these snakes will shift to more nighttime habits. (From now until early November, stay vigilant for rattlesnakes in the morning and evening.)
Range?What types of rattlesnakes are on the Front Range?
Although the Prairie Rattlesnake is the only species found on the Front Range, two other species call Colorado home. The Massasauga is a pygmy rattlesnake species only found in southeastern portions of the state. The Midget-faded Rattlesnake is found in certain areas of western Colorado only. All are similar in appearance, though sometimes Prairie Rattlesnakes and Midget-faded Rattlesnakes may be patternless (but this is rare). (Western Diamondbacks, Mohaves, and Timber Rattlesnakes do NOT occur in Colorado...neither do Cottonmouths or Copperheads for that matter.)
How to Social Distance in Rattlesnake Habitat
Be snake-aware on trails as you practice social-distancing methods this season. Safety Tip: Look carefully before temporarily stepping off onto the side of a trail to make room for social distancing. Remember, snakes may be very difficult to see in the grasses near the trail.
Although rattlesnakes often give you notice of their presence by rattling, you cannot count on this all the time.Their first defense is to not be seen by you (a potential predator), and sometimes a rattlesnake is simply sleeping or soaking up the sun - the point is, they don't always rattle. Please remember that our harmless snakes also wiggle their tail, which may be perceived as rattling. Usually when they do this, their tail is against the ground to help produce noise by hitting against something. Rattlesnakes almost always hold their tail up when rattling and even while they're moving. However, if the tail is wet or the rattle is broken, they may be unable to make a sufficient warning sound. Bullsnakes, a big and harmless species, may wiggle their tail and can also provide a loud hiss which may even sound like a rattlesnake rattling.
Don't be fooled, use multiple characteristics to decide if it's dangerous or harmless, and always give plenty of space. NEVER attempt to handle any snake, and especially a rattlesnake. (Even dead rattlesnakes can deliver a horribly dangerous bite!)