Rattlesnakes

A pair of Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes mate in Stallion Springs.

Jim Pickerell took this photo last fall on Comanche Point Road, near his home in Stallion Springs, of a pair of Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes mating.

When snakes like these get together, it typically is not a lengthy relationship and after a brief encounter lasting a matter of minutes, they each continue on their own way.

Northern Pacific rattlers (Crotalus oreganus oreganus) are typically the only species of rattlesnake encountered in the Tehachapi Mountains. They have a tremendous range of coloration, from very dark to very pale, in colors of brown, gray, cinnamon, greenish, tan, etc., but they are still the same species. Oldtimers may refer to rattlers found at higher, more wooded elevations as "timber rattlers," but they are all Northern Pacific rattlesnakes. Occasionally a Northern Mohave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutalus scutalus) may be encountered in the desert foothills of the Tehachapis.

Sometimes area residents will find two rattlesnakes raised up with their heads high off the ground, intertwined in what appears to be some kind of ritualized dance. This is typically two males fighting over a nearby female. They will repeatedly wrap around each other and slam to the ground until the weaker snake crawls away.

Female rattlesnakes generally give birth to about a half a dozen babies in late summer or early fall. Unlike most non-venomous snakes, rattlesnakes don't lay eggs, but rather carry the eggs around inside the mother where they hatch and live babies emerge.

With warmer weather, rattlesnakes will now begin to emerge from their hibernaculum where they have spent the cooler months. They are usually easy to avoid if you are careful and alert, especially around rocky outcroppings, boulder piles, brush piles, etc. They sometimes venture around human habitation, but they are in search of shade or prey, not people.

The Nuwä word for rattlesnake is togowa, pronounced toe-GO-wah.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.