Rattlers on Purpose

I hate snakes.

Well, admittedly, it’s the Startling Factor that makes me jump.  They honestly are quite interesting creatures if I am not taken by surprise.

So it wasn’t a surprise for me but it was a surprise for the kids to go to the Rattlesnake Museum in Albuquerque when we went to pick up Everette and Mitchell at the airport.  This museum has the largest collection of different species of live rattlesnakes in the world.  And we were all blown away, fascinated.  It truly was worth the money.

(It was hard to get some good photos.  Lighting was poor, we weren’t to use flash, and many of those snakes wouldn’t keep their head still. These were the best I could come up with.)

Entrance to the Museum

Entrance to the Museum  (Laars says he’s being a mouse)

Anders at a close distance ...as long as there is glass between them.

Anders at a close distance …as long as there is glass between them.

The rattler that Anders is spying is a Western Diamondback but with a stripe instead of the regular diamonds!  Just before its tail we could see a few faint diamonds, as if they had been bleached off by the sun.

Are you aware that all rattlesnakes are born alive?  We didn’t get to see any babies here.  Usually the snakes on display here are rescued creatures.  Private people have them for pets and eventually want to get rid of them and thus donate them to places like this museum.  So the public like us can get up close to take a look, safely.

There were other creatures on display besides rattlesnakes.  There was a black widow spider, usually a Gila monster (jeesh, every time we look into a Gila cage it’s empty.  What’s with that?)  A couple of turtles like this nasty looking Alligator Snapping turtle ready to snap.

I LOVE turtles, but this Alligator Snapping Turtle is a bit less attractive to me.

I LOVE turtles, but this Alligator Snapping Turtle is a bit less attractive to me.

Common Snapping Turtle

Common Snapping Turtle.  Just plain cute!

horned lizards

Okay, back to snakes, because that’s what we came here for!

This is Maret’s favourite snake at the museum: the Costa Rican Rattlesnake.

Costa Rican Rattlesnake was Maret's favourite because of the high ridge created by its back bone, very unique from the others

The Costa Rican snake has a high ridge created by its back bone, a very unique feature.  This ridge makes the snake have more of a triangular shape rather than circular.  You can easily spot the ridge on the left side of the picture.  It sometimes looks like a row of beading along the top of the snake.

There were several documentaries playing in different rooms.  All very informative and engaging.  This is a cross-section of a snake showing how small the vertebrae actually are for the size of creature they may become.

There were several documentaries playing in different rooms. All very informative and engaging. This is a cross-section of a snake showing how small the vertebrae actually are for the size of creature they may become.

This copperhead  (below) is quite a beautiful coloured snake.  Venomous, they are related to rattlesnakes.  They are pit-vipers, meaning that they have a pair of heat  sensitive Loreal pits in their face.

Broad-banded Copperhead

Broad-banded Copperhead

The Horned Desert Viper was hands-down Laars’ favourite snake at the museum.  Not a rattlesnake, the viper seems to be an African counterpart to the west’s rattlesnake.  It has a similar spade-shaped head, and is similar in body size, shape and colours.

Horned Desert Viper from Saharan Morrocco, Saudi Arabia to Kuwait.

Horned Desert Viper from Saharan Morocco, Saudi Arabia to Kuwait.

Many of us had ‘learned’ that the number of buttons on a rattlesnakes tail told us how old the snake was.  False information!

And now we know that rattlesnakes get a new button each time they shed their skin, which for some can be 3-4 times per year.  So in 3 years that could amount to 12 buttons!  But what I didn’t realize is that there are some factors that can change all that, like wear ‘n tear, ripped off in an assault, etc.  I found a great explanation about rattles here.

Lesson: even if it doesn’t have a rattle, or has one but isn’t rattling, treat all snakes with huge respect.   They might be poison in disguise!

We had perfect timing to watch one of the snakes shed its skin.  For some reason I had imagined it would take a long time.  But the whole process for this snake in particular took about 20-30 minutes.  Maret first spied it peeling at its nose.  When I first glanced upon it I saw some skin rolled up across its first eye.  Then the girls plopped themselves down to watch the process unfurl.

Front row seats for the whole show

Front row seats for the whole show

shedding begins Great Basin RattlesnakeSkin just peeled off its head, now dangling.  It continued to slither through the cage rubbing up against the sand, the driftwood, the glass, anything to cause friction and get that old thing off.

the skin has now peeled as far back as the part of the snake pressed against the glass.  The skin yet to come off makes the snake look dry and dull, but the newly exposed scales look more vibrant and moist.

The skin has now peeled as far back as the part of the snake pressed against the glass. The skin yet to come off makes the snake look dry and dull, but the newly exposed scales look more vibrant and moist.

Shedding is almost complete.  A new button ready to be exposed.

Shedding is almost complete. A new button ready to be exposed.

Texas Rat Snake

Texas Rat Snake

This specimen of a Texas Rat snake is an unusual leucistic (white) fellow, non-venomous.  It looks albino but if we could see its eyes we’d find them black rather than red or pink as an albino would have.  Normally these rat snakes would be grey or yellow in colour with brownish or bluish-black blotches, often with a black head.  These Texas Rat snakes usually grow up to 5 or 6 feet.  The longest known was 86 inches.

"Viritrox" Rattlesnake

“Viritrox” Rattlesnake

This “Viritrox” rattler is a venomous hybrid of a Prairie Rattlesnake and a Western Diamondback.  Supposedly this is very uncommon, not only between the different species but with snakes of such differing sizes.  It was born in the wild and caught near Alburquerque, NM

The width of the head seemed quite large to me, and is more chiseled shaped like the Prairie Rattlesnake.  The patterns on the back seem to be quite a blend of the two types of snakes.  You can’t see it in the picture, but the tail has the coon-type black and white bands of the Western Diamondback.

Rock Art

Rock Art

This is the nicest kind of rattlesnake there is….fake and behind glass!  The museum has lots of snake-inspired art, and the regular tourist paraphernalia like postcards, Tshirts, socks, mugs, magnets, etc.  We left for the airport empty handed but a mind full of memories and fascination at another of the world’s amazing creatures.

And when we walked out the door we discovered creatures I truly love.

tortoise hiding 2

We’ve had some experiences with Western Diamondback rattlesnakes last winter on Baja, and other snakes over time.  If you want to check out some other posts try some of these:

Non-rattling

Our Rattlesnake Adventures (part 1 of 4)

Snake Bites & Stinks

Snake Skins

Snake Skin as a Belt

We picked up the men at the airport then headed back “home” to Cortez, CO but surprisingly came across this on the side of the road…

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