Do Snakes have Personalities?

By Philip Bonafede

Most people would never consider the notion that rattlesnakes have unique personalities just like other living creatures. Over the past 25 years, I have been looking very close at the body language, eyes, temperament, and overall personalities of the many rattlesnakes I have handled and encountered. Here are some of the traits I have found.

Most rattlesnakes are mellow around humans if not provoked or startled. All they want to do is be ignored and left alone. The rattlesnake may be the most misunderstood creature on the planet. Their quiet demeanor is an adaptation to conserve energy. Fossil records provide evidence that rattlesnakes have been on Earth 3.5 million years, yet what do we really know about them?

In the high desert area around Joshua Tree, we have several species. North Joshua Tree has three of the most common: The Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus Scutulatus), the Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus Mitchelli), and the Sidewinder (Crotalus Cerastes).

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Why do some people fear them? Fear is basically a lack of knowledge, understanding and exposure. Why do some believe they are aggressive? The simple answer, for the most part, is that some rattlesnakes are curious. So curious that a Mojave came flying at me one afternoon, a foot off the ground, like a cobra and bonked its head into my leg. No bite, just Do Snakes have Personalities? a bonk, and then it sniffed my boots. I never felt for one second, I was in any danger, nor did I move. By learning to remain perfectly still, this encounter, for me, was exciting and rewarding. Act natural in nature, and nature will return the favor. Just watch where you are stepping and reaching!

What do you do if you find a rattlesnake coiled up against your house? Leave it alone, and it will go away on its own. Otherwise, call a professional wrangler to relocate it (I am only available for local Joshua Tree calls). “Why is this rattlesnake at your house,” you may wonder? Well, your home is an oasis for By Philip Bonafede them in the hot summer months. Homes provide safety from predators, cool concrete to aid them in the heat, some homes provide water for wildlife and pets. Homes provide shelter from the hot sun and are also a source of food – rats and squirrels also find ways to survive around desert homes. Lights left on at night attract insects. Rats eat insects. Rattlesnakes eat rats. The best advice is to always check for rat droppings around your home. This is a huge welcome sign, inviting rattlesnakes to come dine and spend the night, much like a rattlesnake BnB!

Privacy fences may seem like a logical idea for the new folks moving in the high desert but may have several disadvantages. Cyclone or chain link fences allow snakes in and out. A snake may find his way in through a privacy fence, but they may have to traverse around until they can find a way out. Rattlesnakes can easily climb an entire tree to rob a bird nest, yet because of the energy expenditure, they do not do this often. I have seen them as high as 8 feet.

Next month I will be exploring some of the myths and misunderstandings related to rattlesnake bites and venom. For more of my content, I am on Facebook as Phil’s K9 Rattlesnake Aversion Classes. Have a snake or a question? Text me at 760-401-4488

Joshua Tree Voice asks that you never handle, approach, or attempt to remove a snake on your own. Contact a professional.

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