Rattlesnakes prefer to warn you to back off and let them get away. (Andrew Nydam photo)

Get Outdoors!: Rattlesnakes Are Fascinating! Part 2

Columnist Roseanne Van Ee provides information about rattlesnakes in the North Okanagan

(Part 1 on Rattlesnakes was published in the Vernon Morning Star’s July 9, 2020, edition)

Rattlesnake reproduction is remarkable and unique.

Western Rattlesnakes must be almost one-metre long before becoming sexually mature at five to eight years.

They mate in late summer and early fall on the foraging range, but females store the sperm.

In the following late spring, the sperm is reactivated to fertilize the eggs within her, then the gravid (pregnant) mom basks near the den in the warm sun all summer to encourage the babies growth.

From the time a female mates until the five or so young are born in the fall, she rarely feeds.

She then enters hibernation for the winter to recover. By the time she emerges next spring, she is emaciated (wasted)!

The following summer season or two is spent foraging to recover and to double her weight before mating again.

Male rattlesnakes, on the other hand, fight each other during breeding season. (Sound familiar for the animal kingdom?)

This amazing reproduction process gives the rattlesnakes a disadvantage to survival as a species, and makes them vulnerable to environmental disturbances or poaching.

They easily become extirpated (extinct in areas).

Rattlesnake facts

Western Rattlesnakes are almost endangered in British Columbia.

Their numbers are quickly declining because of habitat destruction, purposeful killings and road kill.

It is illegal to harm or kill a rattlesnake.

Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park had 2,000 to 3,000 rattlesnakes within its boundaries in the 1980s when last counted. There’s probably far fewer now. It is the only protected area for Western Rattlesnake dens, but you’re unlikely to encounter one.

Rattlesnakes overwinter in communal hibernacula in deep crevices or rock piles on sunny, warm slopes. They stay close to home; within 1.5 kilometres of their dens during their active season from spring thaw to autumn frosts.

They faithfully return to their same dens. Vernon dens that were studied contained eight to 266 snakes.

Adult rattlesnakes are 60 to 150 centimetres in length. The oldest can live up to 25 years.

Rattlesnake fangs are on hinges that pop into action when they strike. They can regrow new fangs if any are removed.

B.C.’s rattlesnakes diet: 96 per cent small rodents, four per cent small birds.

Very large Rattlesnakes will eat Red Squirrels and baby marmots.

Rattlesnake predators include skunks, hawks and owls.

Most are preyed on in their first year.

Only about 25 per cent of rattlers survive their first year.

Young rattlers have the same strength of venom as adults, just as children’s saliva is similar to adult humans.

Bull Snakes (aka Gopher Snakes) often share the same habitat as rattlers.

They are adaptive imitators of rattlesnakes without the triangular head, fangs or rattle.

Bull Snakes will coil up in defence, hiss and shake their tail. Their hissing and shaking on pebbles sounds like a rattle. This is all in bluff to scare off predators.

Rattlesnakes around Vernon were hunted to near extinction in the 1930s and ‘40s after a young boy from Austin Mackie’s school was killed. Around 4,000 rattlers were killed. The student was handling rattlesnakes at a den site.

Areas where snakes have been eliminated tend to have terrible rodent populations.

Rodents can cause way more damage to human livelihoods and crops than snakes ever will.

Roseanne shares her knowledge of the outdoors to help readers experience and enjoy nature. Follow her on Facebook for more.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


Just Posted

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Public input sharpens vision of Oyama Ithmus Park

Proposed project to shape the long-term future of waterfront land in Lake Country

COVID-19 outbreak declared at Calvary Chapel Kelowna

Attendees of the Sept. 13 morning church service may have been exposed, Interior Health says

West Kelowna Warriors top Vernon Vipers in return to action

The Warriors earned a 4-1 win to kick off Okanagan Cup tournament

Fuel Good Day pumps up Okanagan-Shuswap organizations

Thousands raised by annual Armstrong Regional Co-op fundraiser Sept. 15

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Kelowna man injured during arrest sues RCMP

Supreme Court civil claim alleges Dustin Blondin was the victim of an ‘unprovoked attack’

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

Parks Canada not responsible for Mount Kobau blockade

Nearby residents have been vocal about plans to turn the area into a national park

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Most Read