Stories tagged rattlesnake

Any budding entrepreneurs looking to get in the alcohol sales field might not want to the follow the path that this Texan has taken.

Dec
28
2007

A cute little squirrel: Oh, my God, is that blood on its mouth?
A cute little squirrel: Oh, my God, is that blood on its mouth?Courtesy prairiedog
In the age-old, squirrel/rattlesnake battle of wits, another play has been made by the squirrels, one so devious that I dread the day that the tree rats use it against humanity.

Members of the same lab that discovered that squirrels are able to heat their tails (see the link above) have recently observed ground squirrels and rock squirrels chewing up discarded rattle snake skins, and then smearing it on their fur to mask their own squirrelly scent.

Juvenile squirrels and females appear to use the technique most often, being more vulnerable to snake attacks than adult males (or bull squirrels, as I call them - creatures that are not to be taken lightly).

The discovery just goes to show, once again, that squirrels are among the most resourceful, and fastest-adapting creatures. Hot tails today, tomorrow… guns? Still, I think squirrel guns are the least of our worries right now – as I said before, what if they turn this technique against us, their human overlords? What if they began chewing off our skin and turning it into disguises? We wouldn’t know who to trust! The hunter would become the hunted! It would be like that scene in Predator, where Arnold covered himself in mud to hide himself from the Predator’s heat vision.

This is really horrible news.

I need to go lie down.

Nov
14
2007

A rattlesnake: The first 43 times it bites you are out of love, but the 44th...
A rattlesnake: The first 43 times it bites you are out of love, but the 44th...Courtesy neesflynn
Two weeks ago, Ray “Cobraman” Hunter received his forty-fourth venomous snakebite. Mr. Hunter remains hospitalized at this time.

“Cobraman” was bitten on the right hand by a 5 and a half foot eastern diamondback rattlesnake while cleaning its cage. Rattlesnakes generally only bite defensively and, even then, most often do not deliver a full venom dose unless injured or frightened. This leads me to believe that the snake was perhaps hiding something in its cage, something it didn’t want Cobraman to find. Snake magazines? Or something worse?

Unfortunately for Mr. Cobraman, eastern diamondbacks have the reputation of being the most dangerous venomous snakes in North America. They aren’t particularly aggressive, but they have the longest fangs of any rattlesnake species (over an inch in some cases, close to .65 inches in a snake like Cobraman’s), and deliver a very high venom yield: an average dose is about 400 mg, but up to 1000 mg can be injected at a time (a fatal human dose is usually between 100 and 150 mg, for comparison).

After being bitten, a sensation likened to “two hot hypodermic needles,” often followed by spontaneous bleeding from the bite site, Ray Cobraman took it upon himself to drive to the hospital, despite “feeling like he was drunk.”

The “drunk” feeling strongly suggests that Ray was suffering from “severe envenomation.” Envenomation is often rated from 0 to 5, “severe” being a rating of 4 or 5. Given that initial symptoms of severe envenomation often include lip-tingling, dizziness, drooling, and vomiting, it seems that the analogy to being drunk was not far off the mark, although it doesn’t explain Cobraman’s desire to get behind the wheel of a car.

Ray’s drive was probably enlivened by severe internal pain and bleeding from the mouth, as well as swelling and discoloration of the affected limb, in this case the right arm. Rattlesnake venom also contains a “low-molecular-weight basic peptide that impedes neuromuscular transmission,” which can lead to hypotension and a weak pulse before all-out cardiac failure. It is perhaps understandable, then, that Ray passed out behind the wheel of his car long before reaching the hospital.

Ray is now suffering from renal failure and his right arm (which he stood a significant chance of losing) remains largely swollen. It is currently unclear as to when he can return home.

When asked what he thought of this, his 44th snakebite, Ray said that it was “definitely the worst.” Here we have the highlights of Ray “Cobraman” Hunter’s reactions in long career of getting bitten by venomous snakes, a Science Buzz exclusive:

Bite #1: “What? Oh no! Oh no oh no oh no! Mom! Help!”
Bite #2: “Mom! It happened again!”
Bite #10: “I’m gonna kill you, snake!”
Bite #15: Not paying attention.
Bite #22: Asleep at the time.
Bite #24: “I thought you loved me!”
Bite #25: Pretty bad.
Bite #29: Happened at church, didn’t count.
Bite #33: “This is only making me stronger!”
Bite #40: Feelings of invincibility, disdain for reptiles.
Bite #41: Crippling paranoia.
Bite #44: The Worst. Definitely.

A side note: Did you know that rattlesnakes give live birth? They do! See here!

Sep
22
2007

A Rattlesnake: You know, I probably wouldn't put it in my mouth, but I hate to pass judgment on this sort of thing.  (photo by 4x4jeepchick on flickr.com)
A Rattlesnake: You know, I probably wouldn't put it in my mouth, but I hate to pass judgment on this sort of thing. (photo by 4x4jeepchick on flickr.com)
A Portland man recently placed a sober rattlesnake into his drunken mouth, and was bitten on the tongue. This brings the universal tally of people bitten on the tongue by rattlesnakes up to four (the other three being, of course, the man who discovered rattlesnakes; herpetologist and pioneer in ethnomedicine, Jeannette San Pierre; and Sammy Hagar).

In an effort tom impress his ex-girlfriend, reptile enthusiast Matt Wilkinson placed the head of a 20-inch rattlesnake in his mouth at a friend’s barbeque. He had found the snake beside the highway three weeks earlier, and believed at the time that it would not harm him because it was “a nice snake.” His ex apparently wouldn’t take his word for it, and so he attempted to prove her wrong.

Soon after this Wilkinson was near death, with his tongue so swollen that it completely blocked his throat. After his ex-girlfriend drove him to the hospital (that’s the kind of ex-girlfriend I want) doctors cut a hole in his neck so he could breath, and then administered an antivenin.

Where’s the science here, you ask (this is a science blog, after all)?
Well, the snake – snakes are science. And cutting a hole in Matt’s neck – that’s probably science too. And there are a few science-related lessons to be gained here:
1) Don’t put anything you find beside the highway into your mouth, especially if it’s a rattlesnake.
2) Rattlesnakes don’t like to feel like they are being eaten, and will defend themselves if the situation arises.
3) It takes six beers and “a mixture of stupid stuff” to get a 23-year-old male to reach snake-eating levels of drunkenness.
4) Ex-girlfriends can still be an asset in assuring that you pass on your genes.

The story did not say what happened to the snake.

Aug
14
2007

In this corner: The champion of heated-tail encounters -- the squirrel. (Photo by Darragh Sherwin at flickr.com)
In this corner: The champion of heated-tail encounters -- the squirrel. (Photo by Darragh Sherwin at flickr.com)
Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever posted anything on this site about rattlesnakes. So what happens but today I came across some more interesting information about rattlers and their encounters with squirrels. And believe it or not, it appears squirrels get the upper hand, or tail, in their confrontations with the snakes.

Californian squirrels have learned how to heat up their tails and shaking them In this corner: The venomous creature that's afraid of a lowly mammal's warmed tail. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
In this corner: The venomous creature that's afraid of a lowly mammal's warmed tail. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
aggressively. This action freaks out the rattlers and puts them on the defensive. In a study published this week on Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, the report says that the rattlesnakes can sense infrared radiation coming from the squirrels’ tails, a signal that snakes interpret meaning that the squirrels could come and harass them.

Interestingly, adult squirrels are not prey for rattlesnakes. They have a protein in their blood that makes them immune to snake venom. But the snakes do like to go for the baby squirrels. But it appears that the adult squirrels have come up with this “hot-tail” defense to protect their young.

Researchers are still trying to figure out how the squirrels are able to heat their tails. But they’ve discounted it as a natural reaction, because the squirrels only do it when in the presence of rattlesnakes. One theory is that they might be able to shunt the flow of some of their body core blood to go to their tail.

Aug
13
2007

Rattling our cage: A rattlesnake's recently severed head still had enough reflexes left in it or other biological properties to be able to bite the finger of a rancher who had just used a shovel to snap off the head. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Rattling our cage: A rattlesnake's recently severed head still had enough reflexes left in it or other biological properties to be able to bite the finger of a rancher who had just used a shovel to snap off the head. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Just like Indiana Jones, I’m not too keen on snakes, especially the venomous ones. Now we snake-a-phobes have one more thing to worry about: dead snakes.

Last week a rural Washington state man was bitten by the decapitated head of a rattlesnake. After finding the five-foot snake in the grass while feeding his horses, the man immobilized the snake with a pipe and whacked off its head with a shovel. End of story, right?

Oh no. When he reached down to pick up the snake, the severed head twisted around and bit the guy’s finger. It took about 10 minutes for him to get to the nearby hospital where anti-venom shots were given to him just as his tongue was starting to swell.

I can hear you scoffing: “Urban legend.” But a wildlife biologist in Washington said that it’s possible that the snake’s heat-seeking abilities may still have been intact, or that the snake’s reflexes were still working despite the severing.