Rattlesnake slideshow/lecture April 19
- Many thanks to John Griffith for writing this great article!
The Rattlesnake Lady:
She won�t bite, but she will rattle your view on snakes
By John Griffith
Few things immortalize the Wild West more than cowboys, cow drives, and
rattlesnakes. But while cowboys still enjoy popularity in rodeos and
cigarette advertisements, and cows have become popular Mcworldwide,
rattlesnakes have been� well, they�ve been chopped in half with
Snakes have had a bad reputation in western cultures since Genesis.
Thanks to science, we�re starting to realize that snakes aren�t really
mindless muscles that slither around with hypnotizing eyes,
skin-piercing fangs, and the evil intent of ambushing a picnicking
family. Still, Katie Colbert, the Rattlesnake Lady, would advise you to
watch where you set your cooler.
On Thursday, April 19th at 7 p.m., Katie Colbert will give a slide
presentation on America�s most misunderstood and unappreciated reptile
at the Ukiah Civic Center (directions below). Colbert is a wildlife
biologist with the Sunol-Ohlone Wilderness Region of the East Bay
Regional Parks. This event, which is sponsored by Peregrine Audubon
Society, is free to the public, though donations are happily accepted.
Colbert describes a rattlesnake's worldview as �six inches high and
crisscrossed with the scent trails of rodents.� For the last nine
years, she has studied them on their own turf. She stalks them with the
help of radio-tracking technology and has made some amazing
discoveries. She has followed the same snake back to the same
rock-covered den where he has wintered for five years in a row. She�s
even discovered two female rattlesnakes-possibly sisters-that prefer to
spend their time together.
All of this may sound way too endearing for something that has severe,
unblinking eyes (snakes don�t have eyelids) and a mouth full of venom.
It gets even more interesting. Rattlesnakes and their prey have
co-evolved. Poisonous fangs gave rattlesnakes a major advantage over
rodents. With one quick bite rattlesnakes could coil up, watch their
prey die, and then eat the victim after it stopped struggling. Yet one
of their favorite menu items declared an arms race and has evolved too.
Adult ground squirrels are no longer affected by the snakes� venom.
They have become immune.
While some could claim that ground squirrels have benefited from
humans� vast, rowed forests of fruit-bearing trees (orchards), no one
could make the same statement for rattlesnakes. We have taken over
their habitat and do not allow them to live near us. Even when we
encounter them in the wilderness we often kill them. Katie says that
those nature lovers who think they are sparing a snake�s life by moving
it miles away to a �safer place� are giving that snake a death sentence
as well. It takes a long time for a rattlesnake to become acquainted
with every rodent trail, lizard hangout, and good hiding place. When it
is moved out of its territory, it often exhausts all of its precious
energy reserves trying to adapt to the new location-and dies.
The best way to co-exist with rattlesnakes is to understand them. Now
we have a rare opportunity to do just that. Katie Colbert is sure to
inspire you to think more deeply the next time you hear that hissing
rattling sound that sends adrenaline shooting through the veins of even
the toughest outdoorsman. She encourages you to come to her
presentation with an open mind. Her co-presenter would appreciate it if
you left your shovels at home - for he� is a rattlesnake.
The rattlesnakes' worldview will be revealed at the Ukiah Civic Center
on April 19th at 7 p.m. From 101, take Perkins St. west to North State
Street. Turn left. Go three blocks and right on Seminary Avenue.
Proceed to the Civic Center parking lot.
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