It is always a little sad to say goodbye to the rattlesnake families at the end of the nesting season. It’s a difficult time for the neonates (newborns); in this population they have less than a month to find their first meal and locate a safe place to spend the winter. That’s a tall order for a two week old snake. So when the little ones disperse from the nest, we can never be sure that we’ll see them again. Today, we share stories about some of the lucky (or skillful?) neonates that survived that first winter.

Eve (large brown female rattlesnake) nested with another female, Peach (not pictured), in 2010. Together they cared for about 10 neonates, although Eve was the one most often seen on the surface with the little ones. Above you can see Bozo basking with Eve in August 2010.

Fast forward to April 2011, when the rattlesnakes are emerging from their den. Here Eve is captured by our timelapse camera coming out to bask.

Bozo follows about 20 minutes later. They crawled onto a pile of leaves in the sun:

After basking a bit with Eve, Bozo gets restless and heads off camera. A little while later, Eve appears to notice he’s gone, searches for and finds his trail (note how her head is tapping the ground), and heads off in the direction he left.

Another neonate from Eve and Peach’s nest we called Dagger. We haven’t thoroughly examined all the footage from the timelapse cameras, but so far, we have not seen Dagger at the dens in Spring 2011. So either we’ve missed him or he did not den with his nestmates, because….
Dagger was hunting near the dens in late August 2011. He hung around the area for at least a week, trying out several different spots to get a meal. Then on 1 September, our timelapse camera caught him crawling into the rear entrance of Cap Mama’s nest (she gave birth that day).
Unfortunately that is the only footage we have of Cap Mama’s nest that day, so we don’t know if Dagger interacted with her or the neonates.

The photo on the left is of Adam (neonate on left) and Woody (right), his mother. Woody’s nest was farther away than most in 2010, about 150 yards from her den. Regardless, Adam found his way to the den where we saw him in April 2011 (photo on right). Our timelapse camera caught Woody and Adam as they basked together that day:

This is Devil Tail, who nested alone at her den in 2010. Shortly after she gave birth, a large male rattlesnake, who also dens here, visited and basked with the family:

Still image of the group: DSC_3845
The adult male is the large black rattlesnake at the top of the image and Devil Tail is the smaller, brown adult (mostly her tail and rattle are visible). Both of the neonates pictured here were seen at the den the following spring (2011).
Above is ‘520’ in April 2011.

And this is Unibrau in April 2011. Unibrau was adopted by Bill Rulon-Miller – thanks!

Sigma & Barb
Barb, another of Devil Tail’s neonates, is pictured here with Sigma in April 2011. Perhaps nesting right at the den increases your chances of surviving your first winter, because Devil Tail’s kids seem to be doing pretty good!