By Gary Bogue
Monday, October 3rd, 2011 at 8:02 am in Rattlesnake.
I always enjoy reading your column in the CC times.
I thought I would share with you my rattlesnake experience and offer some advise based on that experience. This photo was taken soon after this fellow tried to defend himself against a perceived threat by striking without (or very little) warning.
I was crossing a stream in NW Yosemite Park on a floating log. Upon reaching the far bank, I tossed my fly rod on to the bank and looked for vegetation to grab on to since it was a fairly steep bank. I identified some brush that I could grab and proceeded to jump to shore with both arms outstretched. From the snakes perspective, I looked very threatening and he responded by striking to within 6-inches of my chest. He may have rattled a split second before striking since I recoiled as my foot touched the bank but before I saw him. He struck straight out 4 to 5 feet and fell into the creek after he was fully extended. Once in the creek, he got in the defensive position as seen above. I retreated back across the log and found an alternative crossing. I was happy to leave him in good health since I never kill a snake (I had also had enough contact with him for that day.)
This experience produced an unprecedented adrenaline rush and the image is forever etched in my memory. I also used some profanities that I reserved for such events.
Now for my conclusions:
1) — Even very large snakes are hard to spot when they are not moving. I looked at the bank from a distance of 5 feet and did not see him even thought he was directly in front of me.
2) — I believe that snakes position themselves where rodents leave an order trail.
3) — The log that I crossed was one of the few places that a small animal could use to cross that stream.
4) — Therefore it is a very good idea not to use a rodent friendly stream crossing in snake country.
This event occurred about 3 p.m. approximately 13 miles from the nearest phone. Had I been struck, my backpacking partner would have gone for help and I would have waited at least until the next morning for medical help (16 hours while the venom digested my sternum). Following this experiences, I purchased a “Spot Personal Tracker” and keep it with me for the “911” option. A satellite phone would provide the same security.
I continue to make trips to this part of the Park but I spend a lot more time looking for snakes than I used to.
Don Smith, Fairfield, California
Thanks for relating your story and sending it to me. My readers who do a lot of hiking should take careful note. Glad it all worked out for you! The Spot Personal Tracker is a good idea. Readers who want to learn more about this device (you can request emergency assistance on varying levels and send out your GPS location at the push of a button) can go to:
Always watch your step. /Gary