Southwestern Field Herpetology

Southwestern Field Herpetology
Jan
4th
2015

My Favorite Observation of 2014 – Crotalus lutosus Combat with my Leg

In the Spring I spent about a week at some C. lutosus den sites up North. I spent a couple of those days more or less standing in place for hours at a time, finding alternative uses for a snake hook (which is pretty much just a hiking stick at this point) as something to lean on.

Why was I standing there? I wanted to get combat photos. This den is a pretty big complex, with each group seeming to have one big male, several females, and a few other males hanging around. At one particular point, there were more, larger males, and females that moved between the smaller zones quite a bit. I figured this would be a good spot to find some conflict that would be more than just a big snake chasing a little one off. So I spent a lot of time just watching everything they did, standing more or less right in the group of rocks where they were, as still as possible. It’s actually kind of amazing how entertaining staring at a stationary pile of snakes is if you’re interested.

Anyway, I saw a lot of cool things that week, took a lot of photos, and I did get some combat (and video), and more. The best part to me, was when the big male in this zone chased a similar-sized one to rocks just below my feet. The defeated snake took off (I saw him later in another area 20′ or so away). The victor went to court his pile of females. In the middle of this, I had to shift my weight, and was spotted by him. He came out at me with his head raised, attempting combat with my leg.

I moved my hiking stick out front in case there was contact (I didn’t touch him of course), but there was none. He would stand up and do his thing around the rocks at my feet. When it got to where he actually flopped down ONTO one of my boots that I decided to step back (after he’d slid off). As soon as I left, he went right over to court with the females.

In the next few days, I could reinitiate this behavior with him any time by approaching and standing in that spot, and moving gently moving grass near his rock. More amazingly, I reproduced this with another group days later (to a lesser degree, but I was retreating much sooner). I was able to show this second instance to Kris Haas, who’d flown up to join me at this point.

To anyone worrying that I’ve interacted with a group in such a sensitive situation – this wasn’t my intention. I’ve already been watching this group for a few days at this point, so I didn’t miss the in situ observations that could be disrupted by my being there. I also was never buzzed or even tongue flicked. I take great care to not disturb anything.

Here are some photos, which were hard to get since this was happening right below me, and I had a 100mm prime on. Once he got closer, I couldn’t get anything at all.

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2 Responses to “My Favorite Observation of 2014 – Crotalus lutosus Combat with my Leg”

  1. Awesome account! Thank you so much for sharing. It is great for people to see and read that snakes are incredible creatures and not threatening if left alone!

  2. Bryan says:

    Thanks! I have found that any anecdote that paints snakes as having some sort of behavior at all, aside from the fictional monster mode, opens ears better than anything.

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