Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus oregnaus oreganus)

Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus oregnaus oreganus)

I was biking home on the Joe Rodota Trail on Sept. 25th when I spotted a small snake on the pavement near the edge of the trail. I stopped–as I always do–to encourage the snake to move out of danger since some of the cyclists go pretty quickly on this stretch. As I stretched out my foot to nudge it away, I realized it didn’t look exactly like the baby gopher snakes I sometimes see. The markings were darker and its head had a distinctive triangular shape. I snatched my foot away as it drew back, hissed and buzzed its tail; I decided to use my front wheel to do the job instead.

This was the first time I’ve ever seen a rattler close to Sebastopol in the decades I’ve wandered around the area and have heard people who know about the local fauna swear that no rattlesnakes live nearby…but there it was. I wish I’d had my camera and I’ll be more careful next time I spot a snake on the path.

Some years ago, I was taking a run through near “The Dish” at Stanford and spotted a small snake at the side of the path. Just like last week, I intended to encourage it away from danger, only to realize it was a baby rattler. It hissed and struck at the long stick I picked up and used to nudge it away. When it didn’t move, I hooked the angry snake with my stick and gently moved it into the grass a few feet off the trail. No sooner had I backed away, a red-shouldered hawk swooped down from the dead tree behind me — where it been closely observing the whole drama — grabbed the snake and flew back to the tree for its feast.

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