Field notes and photography by Bryan D. Hughes

Great Basin Rattlesnakes of Idaho

A few Great Basin Rattlesnakes, Crotalus lutosus, from one of the densites that I monitor in South Eastern Idaho.

This one was one of a few dens that I found by a somewhat different technique than usual: searching for rotting prairie dogs. I noticed that the abundant prairie dogs are often, apparently, envenomated and never found. Near areas of high rattlesnake concentration, long-dead dogs are everywhere. I began to use this as a confirmation sign while searching for dens during times or conditions that would not really yield snakes. On warmer days in the Spring, rattlesnakes may be visible under deep cracks or in the early morning, but these are not ideal conditions to scout new dens, as it’s easy to just walk right over the top of them and check that site off the list of possibilities. By using dead prairie dogs as an indicator, I am able to scout new sites and make the most of my time, then return during more favorable conditions to see the results. In different areas, with different species, similar tactics have been great for me in the last few years … this instance being my first.

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