The Internet Such a Resource!?
Sometimes the internet is a great source of information and sometimes...well...it is like the National Enquirer. If you are not intimately involved in a particular area of study it can be pretty hard to know the difference when reading things online or seeing them on TV. To make matters more complicated, most of us (me included) tend to be pretty trusting anyway. When it comes to reptiles and amphibians, you can count on the staff at Reptile Gardens for the true facts, no sensational tabloid-style lies or exaggerations from us.
We have all seen the viral photo below, or something like it, haven't we? Our staff gets sensational reptile photos sent to us on a regular basis, so we want to address some of the over the coming months. Today, it's time to talk about GIANT RATTLESNAKES!
Giant Snake Caught!
Each time we see this photo, the snake gets bigger and the story more fanciful. It is 8 feet long, it is 9 feet long, it is 10 feet long, it weighs 50 pounds, it weighs 75 pounds, it weighs 100 pounds. The simple answer here is that no one has EVER reliably recorded a rattlesnake 8 feet long. For as long as there have been reptile researchers and herpetologists, and for as long as records have been kept, there have been NO credible reports or actual measured specimens of that size. An 8-foot rattlesnake of any species would be a world record. In spite of what one may hear about species like the prairie rattler or timber rattler, there are only two, maybe three, species that could even come close to growing that big (Western Diamondback - Crotalus, atrox; Eastern Diamondback - Crotalus adamanteus; Mexican West Coast - Crotalus basiliscus).
OK, I will just make an 8 foot rattlesnake
A number of years ago, a friend of ours tried to raise a genuine 8-foot rattlesnake. He picked newborn babies from especially large mothers. He then devised a very intensive (and unnatural) feeding regimen. In the end he got some of the hugest, most obese rattlesnakes I have ever seen...but he never got an 8-foot snake. He ultimately gave up and gave all the snakes to us.
WANTED: 8 Foot Rattlesnake - Reward!
Since the mid-1950's, here at Reptile Gardens we have offered a reward for an 8-foot rattlesnake. We have regularly increased the dollar amount as the years have gone by. Never once, in almost 60 years, has anyone brought in a rattlesnake that came even close to 8 feet long. Oh, believe me, we get calls all the time. I once talked to a woman in North Carolina who wanted to know "how many of them 8 foot rattlers" we wanted before she sent "the boys out to fetch" them. I told her to just get us one to start with and we could negotiate on more. We never heard from her - or any of our many other callers - again. And they certainly never showed up with one.
The Real Story
So, what is the story of the obviously large snake in this particular photo? Well folks, it is all a matter of perspective, actually what is called "forced perspective". If you shoot a photo with a long lens, staged properly (and at the proper angle) you can get all kinds of great results. To show you how easy this is, we shot the photo on the left yesterday in our parking lot. No Photoshop here, just forced perspective.
Yes, the snake in the photo is big - a nice big Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) probably around 5 feet long. It weighs maybe 10 pounds. So it isn't anywhere near as big as claimed but it is a formidable rattlesnake to be sure. We have had many over the years of this same size.
So having said all this, I will extend our offer once again: If any of you out there have one of these 8 or 9 foot rattlesnakes on hand, bring it by. We'd love to have it. If it is over 8 feet long, delivered live and in good condition, we'll give you $25,000 for it!
And by the way, do have a look at our other rewards. Who knows, you might just have one of these other giants in your backyard that you just don't know what to do with now that it has outgrown your aquarium or bathtub!