Old Friends

To celebrate ASP’s fifth birthday, we’re sharing five inspiring stories with you — a new one each week through the end of 2019. Read them all here.

Pregnant TWA, female Arizona Black Rattlesnake, 2011
TWA, Arizona Black Rattlesnake, in April 2011.

Late this summer we visited one of our study sites after a near two-year absence. It was nesting season and though we saw fewer snakes than in years past, who we did see made it even more special.

We saw one of our oldest friends, TWA, and her new family — the fourth litter we’ve observed. We first met a clearly pregnant TWA in the spring of 2011 at the outset of our Arizona Black Rattlesnake social behavior study. She was the biggest, oldest mom that year (and every year since). As large and black as an adult male in that population, her long, non-tapering rattle indicated she stopped growing long ago.

TWA, female Arizona Black Rattlesnake, with one of her newborns, September 2019
TWA, female Arizona Black Rattlesnake, with one of her newborns, September 2019

TWA often shares her nest with younger moms and as is usually the case, sticks them with the child care duties. In fact, in 2011, 2013, and 2015, we never observed her with her kiddos, only with the sitter. But on our last day in 2019, we finally saw TWA with one of her babies.

Based on what we’ve learned about this population, TWA was (at least) in her early teens when we met her in 2011, so she’s pushing 20 years old now and still producing big, healthy litters. It’s hard to study snakes long enough to learn how long they live because there is very little funding for that type of work. We’re fortunate that your support enables us to continue learning from this remarkably tolerant group of rattlesnakes.