Hikers get an eyeful: Rattlesnakes mating on the trail

Last weekend my friend and fellow hiker Todd Fraser captured images of a pair of rattlers mating alongside a trail in the San Jacinto Mountains of Southern California.

More than a decade ago I was hiking in Big Sur and I witnessed an amazing sight: the mating dance of two rattlesnakes. Unfortunately my usually trusty Nikon camera malfunctioned and I was able to capture the moment only in my mind.

I was so pleased to see Todd’s stellar photos which brought back memories of my own viewing of co-mingling rattlers in the Ventana Wilderness.

Another hiker caught the snakes doing what snakes do on video. Check out this video of rattlesnakes mating.

Let us now discuss the sex life of the rattlesnake.

Though they breed in the summer, rattlesnake females store the sperm and do not reproduce until the following spring. Most snakes lay eggs but rattlesnakes give birth to live babies.

Rattlesnake moms, though, are not exactly nurturing. Within hours of birth, the baby snakes wriggle out into the world on their own in search of food and receive no assistance from their parents.

Despite the common fear of rattlers, a relatively small number of hikers actually see them and rarely is anyone bitten. An estimated 300 yearly snake envenomations occur in greater Southern California. Only a small percentage of these bites cause serious injury.

Nevertheless, hikers, watch your step. It’s obvious rattlesnakes have a healthy rate of reproduction and we’re unlikely to find rattlesnakes on the endangered species list anytime soon!