Rattlesnakes and Longhorns

Rattlesnakes are one of those things you come to expect in an unexpected way when you’re in many parts of Texas – including far out in isolated parts of the Hill Country where everything has a thorn, stinger, horns, or fangs.

So you encounter mostly plants like mesquite, prickly pear and jumping cholla cactus, and other thorny bushes.  Insects such as scorpions, wasps, black widows and a myriad of other spiders, kissing bugs, blister bugs, and the like.  Lizards like the horned lizard (sometimes called a horned toad, although it is a lizard).  And snakes, of course.

Here’s a rattlesnake I found under a piece of tin in about 40 degree weather one April.  I scooped him up with a broom handle and relocated him, since I didn’t want him close to where I was working, even in a sluggish state.





This one came into the open garage, probably hunting for mice.  It was about four feet long and I nudged it outside which it did with a little reluctance but eventually moved.






Here it is heading to the front of the house to go back under.





As I see it, I don’t live in the old house that was once my grandparents.  I only go up there occasionally.  Rattlesnakes are there – even if I only rarely see them – and they’re there because the location gives them shelter and food.  I’d rather have the snakes than mice.  I can avoid the former by watching where I’m stepping and not walking outside at night.

Rattlesnakes can be quite dangerous and unpredictable.  Their venom can certainly do considerable tissue damage at the very least, and can be fatal at its worst.  Normally, the younger snakes have a greater likelihood of being more dangerous in their envenomation.  Rattlesnakes are born live, fully fanged and already venomous.  Older snakes develop an ability to inject some or all of their venom during a strike – some “warning” strikes might contain no venom at all.  But that’s never a certain thing.  However, the chances of a rattlesnake emptying its full venom in a surprise bite are greater with a younger snake.

Rattlesnakes tend to be encountered in surprise situations – surprise for both the human and the snake.  They try to avoid humans or any other large potential predator or danger to themselves.  But if they’re coiled beneath cover and a human passes too close, they may very well strike as a reflex action to protect themselves.  They can be encountered in the middle of the day sunning themselves, or at night and especially at dusk when they’ll often emerge to hunt prey like rodents.  While they may hibernate for several months during the winter and colder weather, they can quite easily emerge if the weather warms on any given day.  I’ve encountered rattlesnakes in November and December.  The four-foot rattlesnake in the pictures above was seen in December during cold but not freezing temperatures.

One well-known aspect of Texas is the Texas Longhorn, a species that developed from Spanish cattle introduced into the new world and adapted to the rough and arid foraging conditions of the territory it became associated with.  Some ranchers still maintain longhorns – either through sentimental or specialty reasons.  Here are a few I’ve taken pictures of through adjoining fences.