More Rattlesnakes in the Black Hills

Rattlesnake

Rattlesnake

A recent question about rattlesnakes prompted us to write this post, since we figured it may be helpful to many people in the Black Hills area.

The question involved concerns that there has been an increase in the population of rattlesnakes, or that there was a nearby den of snakes that contributed to increased snake encounters and danger to children and pets.

In fact, there have been many such questions this year. In nearly 13 years here at Reptile Gardens, I have never received so many calls about rattlesnakes.

More Activity, Not Snakes

The short story is we don’t have more rattlesnakes this year. We are just encountering them more frequently because both humans and snakes have been more active due to more temperate weather.

Rattlesnakes generally enjoy cooler weather. Not cold weather, but definitely cooler than some of the drought-inducing temperatures we’ve experienced in the last decade or so.

We’ve become accustomed to low snake activity in the summer because of these high temperatures. During these periods, rattlesnakes are generally more active:

– Early morning

– Late evening

– Night time

And since humans are generally the least active at these times, there’s a perception of low rattlesnake activity, which implies a lower population.

So What Changed?

The last couple summers have been much cooler than previous years, so the snake’s activity cycles are greatly increased. They are active on most summer days at 4pm or so, all night, and until 12 or 1pm.  This leaves only a few hours of the day where they are avoiding the higher temps.

Since it hasn’t been so stinkin’ hot for us people too, we are out and about for longer periods of time when the snakes are also active. The result: we are seeing more snakes this year than in previous years.

So rest assured, there’s no uptick in snake populations, nor is it likely there is a den close by that poses any more danger than usual.  You’ll simply want to be more vigilant and take some precautions against enticing snakes onto your property. We’ll be writing more about that soon – stay tuned!

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About Terry Phillip

Fascinated with reptiles, I’m living the dream – I participate in ongoing worldwide research studies, assist local and federal law enforcement confiscations, give consultations for crocodilian and snake behavioral problems…and oh yeah, I get to interact with more than a thousand snakes per week.
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