Saturday, December 5, 2009

Catching up with an old friend

On the second day of August, I set out in the early morning to traverse some fields where Michigan's most infamous species resides. Massasauga rattlesnakes are a shy species which are hardly "infamous" as their reputation states. Most will remain motionless when encountered and if they are disturbed, most will try to get out of the way instead of holding their ground. Around 10:30 AM I was walking a hillside in which the sun was hitting perfectly, and as I was walking along a fallen tree in the field, I came across this sight.

This was a very large massasauga, easily near the 30" range, and beautifully patterned. It turns out, that this snake was one that I had encountered in the field before, two years earlier to be exact. One of the things I do is keep a detailed photo collection of massasaugas I encounter in the field to document blotch count and unique head patterning. After reviewing photos, I determined this was indeed the same snake and was amazed at how much larger the snake had grown in two years. Here's a side by side photo comparison.

You be the judge, but I've analyzed these two photos over and over again and come to the same conclusion every time. As I said earlier, the majority of the time massasaugas are quick to get out of the way of the intruder. But sometimes, individuals tend to be a little more defensive and will hold their ground. This snake remained coiled and buzzed at me flat out for a good 10-15 minutes, it obviously felt cornered. However, this provided me with some great photographing opportunities.

While I was photographing the snake, it gave a big yawn and luckily my camera was ready. It was the first look at the fangs of Michigan's rattlesnake species.

It's always a treat to encounter this cryptic species of rattlesnake, and I always enjoy getting the opportunity to photograph them. They really are an attractive species, that's all for now.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake - Sistrurus catenatus

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