Description: Viral image / Text
Circulating since: April 2011
Status: Mislabeled / Disputed (see details below)
Email contributed by Jo Ann H., April 19, 2011:
Subject: Texas Snakes
The ranch where this big rattler was killed is outside the city of Coleman which is located in (West Texas) near Abilene. Oh, for reference, the guy stands 6'2". Seems there's been a boom in the snake population there.
We have killed 57 rattlesnakes on two separate ranches this year. 24 @Southbend & 33 @Murray, since mid-May. Not one has buzzed! We provoked one fair sized boy with a stick and he coiled & struck at the stick a couple of times before he buzzed up and rattled. The purpose of this explanation is that I have been hearing the same from fellow ranchers and hunters in regards to the lack of warning with rattlesnakes.
I had lunch with a friend today and he offered a theory about the fact that these bugs aren't rattling anymore. He raised pigs for years and reported that when he would hear a rattlesnake buzzing in the sow pen, the sows would bee line to it and fight over the snake. For the uninformed, pigs love to eat rattlesnakes. Therefore, the theory is they are ceasing to rattle to avoid detection, since there are plenty of pigs roaming the countryside.
I have a neighbor ranching lady who was bitten 3 weeks ago, 2 times by the same snake without any warning....she spent 5 days in ICU, after 22 vials of anti-venom she is back at the ranch and still may lose her foot or worse yet her lower leg. The days of perceived warning are over. Keep your boots on and use a light when out and about. As you all know, one can pop up just about anywhere!
Analysis: Though the image appears to be authentic, it's unlikely that this photo was taken in Coleman, Texas, given that the very large specimen-on-a-stick appears to be an eastern diamondback rattlesnake, a species not typically found west of Louisiana. According to Dallas Morning News reporter Ray Sasser, Texan rattlesnakes rarely grow to such an impressive size. Sasser guesses the photo was probably taken in Georgia or Florida.
As to the theory that rattlesnakes have ceased rattling to avoid detection by predators in recent years, this portion of the message was lifted verbatim from an older email circulating since late 2010, and has been the subject of some dispute among herpetologists. Sasser cites Andy Gluesenkamp of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, for example, who points out that the claim is unsupported by scientific data.
As I've noted previously, however, not all snake experts are so dismissive of the notion. In an interview with KLTV 7 News in Tyler, Texas last fall, Dallas-based herpetologist Daryl Sprout went so far as to say that natural selection is "already beginning to prefer snakes that do not bring attention to themselves and therefore draw incoming fire from humans." Or hogs, for that matter.
Whatever the explanation, it's a simple fact (and always has been) that rattlesnakes don't always sound a warning before striking. Keep your ears and your eyes open when you're in rattlesnake country.
See also: Giant Texas Rattlesnake #1 (Photo)
Sources and further reading:
Snakes Alive: Turkey Hunters, Be Careful Out There
Dallas Morning News, 31 March 2011
Rattlesnakes Not Rattling Anymore?
Urban Legends, 26 October 2010
Rattlesnakes Changing Their Tune, Strike with No Warning
KLTV 7 News, 15 October 2010
Last updated 05/11/11