The Outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll

DOG DAYS and Crotalus horridus

Late July and early August are sometimes called the “dog days” of summer. They are called that as Wikipedia notes, because “They were historically the period following the rising of the star system Sirius (known colloquially as the ‘Dog Star’), which Hellenistic astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. They are now taken to be the hottest, most uncomfortable part of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.”

In rural America, it is sometimes claimed that snakes “go blind” in the dog days of summer. Maybe with the rise of smart phones, air conditioning and big lawnmowers it isn't said as much as it used to be. I remember as a young person growing up, the idea of blind snakes kind of disturbed me. Especially blind rattlesnakes. I really didn't like the thought of them slithering around with no ability to see. As it turns out, snakes don't actually go blind.

Rattlesnakes like the Timber Rattler (Crotalus Horridis) that we have here, and other pit vipers use a form of heat detection to sense their prey. According to the American Museum of Natural History, rattlesnakes have the ability to sense infrared heat out to the distance of about 1 meter (39 inches). When the days are extra hot, their ability to use infra-red senses can be interfered with causing them to change location more often.

Snake Facts, describes Timber rattlesnakes primary food sources as, “mainly small mammals, but their diet may also include small birds, frogs, mice, other small animals or even other snakes. These rattlesnakes are, sit and wait, predators, waiting for prey to pass nearby before striking.” The blog also noted that, “Like all rattlesnakes when they feel threatened or are harassed they will vibrate their tail causing the loosely connected segments to make the distinct rattling sound. Their lifespan may be anywhere from 16 to 22 years in the wild.”

Timber Rattlers are, “one of North America's most dangerous snakes, due to its impressive size, long fangs and high venom yield. However, the species has a relatively mild disposition and a long hibernation period which means there aren't that many bites.”

In my 34 years in law enforcement, I saw several snake bite victims, but none of them were bitten by rattlesnakes. Watch where you step on hikes in the woods and don't provoke a snake that's rattling and you should be able to live in peace with this snake, even in the dog days of summer.

The Caldwell County News

101 South Davis
P.O. Box 218
Hamilton, MO 64644
Phone: 816-583-2116

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