Searching the internet for answers to this question can produce a lot of misinformation. Mostly, you'll see photos of giant rattlesnakes that are held close to the camera to look larger than they actually are. This is a trick called forced perspective, an old standy of fishermen everywhere. While the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake and some Western Diamondbacks in parts of Texas can routinely reach adult sizes of 6', this is more and more rare, and a 6' rattlesnake of any species is an uncommon sight. In Arizona, the largest rattlesnake species we have is the Western Diamondback, which can get to about 4' long as an adult. While individuals up to 5' may be reported from time to time, it is likey that they are smaller. Of over 12,000 rattlesnakes we have documented in the state of Arizona, only 2 were in excess of 5', a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake in Cochise county at 5'1", and a Blacktailed Rattlesnake at 5' even. Reports of "I see 7 footers all the time" are, to put it nicely, fish tales.
Usually, 1/2 to 1/3 of the length of the snake is about how far it can strike. However, this depends on many factors, and should never be tested. It is a good thing to keep in mind, however, as a reminder that a snake will not "lunge" off a trail to attack a passerby or jump through the air. The best thing to do if you see a sanke and are worried about it biting you is to just leave it alone.
This is a complicated topic that we are asked from time to time. Fortunately, there are many reasons why it is both a good idea to not kill the snakes, and why you aren't likely to see them again.
First, we'll just get this out of the way: we like snakes. We like animals in general, and our service is one aspect of many that is done to protect native wildlife and educate the public about how to safely live with it. There are services who (illegally) kill the snakes they capture, and quite a few more that have good intentions but the snakes do not survive. Part of our service to the community is to not just keep people and pets safe, but the native wildlife as well for us all to enjoy. Liking rattlesnakes may be an unpolular opinion, but it is one that we have and feel passionately about.
Secondly, rattlesnakes are simply not as dangerous as they are made out to be. They do have a very venomous, potentially deadly bite, but it is often very avoidable. Interactions with wildlife are the cost of living in the Sonoran desert, and it is the responsibility of each of us to do what we can to minimize the threat to ourselves. For rattlesnakes, there are many options to keep them out of the yard. Snake fencing, property inspections, and modification of habitat are all great options that can reduce or completely eliminate rattlesnakes from coming onto the property. The sighting and removal of the snake itself is a symptom of the larger problem: there is something on the property that is attracting the snake or providing some sort of advantage. If a yard makes good habitat, animals will use it, including rattlesnakes. Seeing a rattlesnake and then having it removed is the first step to safety: the real difference comes with what happens after - a snake fence, reducing the amount of rodents on the property, or other actions that will keep the snake from coming back. Fortunately, our many years of field work with wild rattlesnakes gives us knowledge about what these features are and how they can be eliminated.
To sum it up, yes we release all snakes that are captured within Arizona statutes, but do so in a way that will prevent its return and allow it to rehabituate naturally, out of the way of people and pets.
Sometimes. In the low desert areas around Tucson (and most of Arizona) snakes may be somewhat active all year, popping out on sunny days to enjoy a bit of warmth. Here, however, you won't see the large piles of snakes you see in cooler environments. Snakes here may brumate in groups or alone, and not always in the same place. They often use packrat nests, rocks, and areas with lots of debris to make thier winter home. That does, unfortunately, often include homes. Garages and sheds are the most common place we find them, with a close second being concrete slabs under pool filters.
Snakes will be moving towards these areas during late October, and will emerge in late February or so. That is when they are most often encountered, though we do receive calls to capture multiple snakes in similar situations during even the coolest times during the winter.
This is a complicated question, because it can have multiple meanings. Generally, when people ask this question, it is to understand how likely they are to run into a rattlesnake. The answer is in the Spring, mid-March through April, according to our call records. This is when people are most likely to run into rattlesnakes out on trails or near the home. However, this is not only due to increased snake activity, but human activity as well. The beautiful Tucson Spring is when most people enjoy the outdoors and are getting to yard tasks, so it has just as much to do with more people being out as it does with snakes. When snakes are actually the most active would be in the late Summer and early Fall, once the monsoon rains have brought moisture and temperature stability. During this time, rattlesnakes are giving birth, eating, moving around quite a bit, and generally very active. Much of this activity takes place at night, however, so people are not as likely to run into them at that time.
After years of experimentation for what is the best compensation for the task itself and the needs of our customers, we do do not use a fixed rate. Since we are able to remove snakes 24 hours a day, the fee is mostly based on distance and available agents in the area. This gives our field agents the flexibility to charge less for service that is nearby, or near a field location that is already being visited. The number and complexity of situations that may often present themselves during the course of a snake removal is another consideration. A fee per-snake would be ridiculously expensive if we were to remove 10 or more snakes at once (which we do from time to time). Generally, snake removal services range between $80 and $140, and sometimes much less depending on the situation. We also provide a variety of other services that each situation may call for, like finding out why the snake is there to begin with, and telling you how to prevent future snakes from showing up. Give us a call at 5203086211 and we will be able to give you a quote right away.
Sometimes. However, the snake is almost always going to be just dropped on the other side of your fence or moved to the edge of your property and released. While we follow the same guidelines as any free or low cost service, we take extra are to release the snakes to a place where they have the best chance to survive and not return to your property.
No. Rattlesnake meat that you buy in restaurants or specialty shops are all wild-caught in Texas, by dumping gasoline into the ground at their winter dens. They are then kept in incredibly inhumane conditions before being tortured and killed for a crowd. Buying rattlesnake meat supports this terrible event.
Generally, rattlesnakes prefer warm, stable temperatures. This stabilization is usually due to the yearly monsoon season, which brings humidity to the desert and a subsequent explosion of life. During the summer, however, most species of snake hide from the heat and become almost entirely nocturnal. So, even though the monsoon (July-September) may have the greatest amount of snake activity, they are not necessarily as often seen because their active times are not the same as our active times. The time that people most report rattlesnake sightings, according to our hotline and identification service, is the Spring, roughly late March through the end of April. During this time, rattlesnakes are active in the daytime, and so are people! Lots of beautiful weather and mild temperatures mean snakes are more likely to be seen on the morning hike.
Again based on our hotline activity, snakes head in to brumate (similar to hibernation) by about the third week of October, and emerge again in early March. Of course, snakes may be found above ground any day of the year, even relatively cold days if it is the first rain for awhile, or other conditions beyond their control like development or destruction of den spaces. If you are here visiting family for Christmas, it is unlikely that you will find a rattlesnake ... but it is possible, so don't do things that you wouldn't do in the summer, like reach into places you can't see or take out the trash without shoes and a flashlight.