Sunday, March 25, 2012
Crotalus oreganus helleri - Southern Pacific Rattlesnake
Southern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus helleri, Mission Trails Park, San Diego, California. This rattle snake was scooting across the road and barely even slowed as I shot this picture. He did, interestingly enough, pause to shake his rattle and coil just before he entered the tall grass as he appeared to scan the grass for a potential meal. Rattlesnakes will actively hunt on the move and I suspect this one was attempting to flush out any rodent or lizard that might have been hiding in the grass. They are also known to wait in ambush outside of critter burrows. People, however, are largely ignored unless you threaten or surprise them.
The Southern Pacific Rattlesnake is found along the Pacific Coast from Morro Bay, CA to the North, down to the middle of the Baja Peninsula on the South and as far East as Antelope Valley and Barstow, CA. Their diet consists of rodents and lizards as well as occasional birds, lizards, snakes, frogs, & insects. They will typically bite their prey and wait for the venom to take effect as they follow the weakened prey. Once the prey has succumbed to the venom, it is eaten whole.
Note, you can get some gauge of a rattlesnake's age by counting its rattles. The snake adds one rattle per molt. This one had five rattles and was, thus, fairly young.
Photographer's note: I would have loved to get a shot of this snake head on so you could get the effect of his whole body while still keeping good visibility and size on his head. However, he was moving across the road fast and woe be to the photographer who steps out in front of a moving rattlesnake. Needless to say, discretion won out over photographic valor.