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Welcome to Snake Town - Notes from the Field

Updated: Jan 29

It's a video that set social media abuzz (literally) yesterday. While I wouldn't call it a viral video, it did get some attention.

Here's the background: I was near San Angelo, Texas, yesterday and was there on assignment to photograph a story for a magazine. The upcoming story is about a gentleman from Abilene, Texas, who has an unusual business: he humanely removes snakes from unwanted places and then releases them elsewhere.

I arrived at the ranch about an hour before the writer and the snake wrangler arrived and scouted a bit. Once there, I met the landowner - a gracious woman who was a retired teacher and recently acquired the spacious parcel. She explained that the old ranch house was on a pier and beam foundation. Because the house was in a bit of disrepair, skunks, raccoons, and rattlesnakes took up residence beneath the floors. They'd run the small mammals out, but the rattlesnakes were tucked underneath concrete and floorboards. Hence, the snake removal team had to go under the house, crawl around, and remove the reptiles.

When they'd remove them, they placed them in the living room. The snakes were cool and a bit sluggish, so they generally stayed put. In all, eight snakes came from beneath the house.

This denning behavior isn't unusual for snakes. When winter comes, they often crawl beneath rocks, wood stumps, crevices, or even houses to be sheltered from the weather and be in a place where the temperature is a bit more stable.

I lived for 26 years in rattlesnake country. Living in and raising kids in the country, you learn to respect diamondback rattlesnakes. You teach your kids to watch where they step or put their hands when exploring nature. Believe it or not, rattlesnake bites are rare. As formidable looking as they are, rattlesnakes are amazingly passive - they don't go looking for a fight. Most of the time, when we'd see a rattlesnake near our house, they were simply moving through the area. If we found one near the house, they'd usually just be sunning. If we left them alone, they left us alone.

A lot of people have negative reactions to all kinds of snakes - not just the poisonous ones. These creatures have their place in nature, however. Rattlesnakes eat an exorbitant amount of rodents in a region and help keep the natural balance in check. Personally, I find them fascinating and necessary. Don't get me wrong, however, I'm not lining up to adopt one as a pet. 😀

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Canon 1D Mark III camera, Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens, 1/3200 sec. @ f2.8, ISO 200

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