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Prairie rattlesnake=Crotalus viridis viridis

October 3, 2017

 

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Prairie rattlesnake

October 3, 2017

People often ask about Gunther, our dog.  He looks something like a smiling dust mop, but he is a Brussels Griffon with an underbite.  We like to take Gunther on long walks in the mountains and the prairie.  Yes we have mountains.  In fact, the state’s tallest mountain, 12,799 feet, Granite Peak, is but a few hours from here.  If you decide to climb Granite, I’d say leave your dog at home.

We took Gunther to Big Pryor Mountain instead.  Big Pryor is about the same size and roughly the same appearance as Mount Sentinel in Missoula.  P. and I got skunked the first time we tried to climb Big Pryor with our young grandchildren, Cyrus and Roland, who easily scampered to the top.  Gunther made it also, but we turned back after about three-fourths of the way.

Saturday we tried for the top of Big Pryor again and this time we made it, even having to walk through snow the last quarter mile.  We walked 1.7 miles and gained 1,200 feet.  Actually P. made it to the top and I almost made it.  I could see the top from where I turned back.  Gunther made it to the top for his second time.  He dashes about, running from P. to me and back again.  Gunther made it to the top a third and fourth and fifth time.

The weather was changing from sunny and warm to cloudy, windy, thunder & lightning, and sleet as we descended.  The road from the trailhead is dusty and soft dirt that can change to gumbo with a heavy rain.  We wasted no time heading back to Billings.  Until P. spotted the snake.

“There’s a snake!  Back up!” P. said.

I slammed the brakes, put it in reverse, and backed up.

“You’ll run over him again,” P. warned.

Soon I saw what looked like a wadded up sock on the dirt in front of the car.  I figured I had run over the snake, probably a bull snake, and it was all curled up with agony in the throes of death.

I hauled the emergency brake and walked over to the snake.  Well, it had a rattle, but the wadded up snake wasn’t moving.  I figured I could find a stick or something to tease it off the road.  I saw long stalks of grass in the field, but no sticks.  I remembered P. and I had walking sticks, so I grabbed a stick that looks like a ski pole and commenced to bother the snake.  I figured it would simply slither away like a garter snake.

But no.  It didn’t do much of anything at first.  The snake uncurled some and rattled his tail.  I could see his triangular head and the hairs on my neck stood out.

Then it leapt a couple of feet into the air toward me!  It struck at my stick several times with its mouth wide before assuming more of an “S” shape on the road, tail still buzzing.  My, I was impressed.  This prairie rattler was pissed!  I had no reason to kill or injure the snake, so I continued to try to move it off the road.

Wasn’t a very old snake, if you believe rattlers get a new rattle each time they shed their skin.  Probably just three or four segments on its rattle.  It was about 18 inches long, but fat.  Probably weighed a pound or so. The latin name for the prairie rattler is Crotalus viridis viridis.  Sounds dangerous for a snake capable of killing a person.

I thought I still needed to get the snake off the road, so I put my pole tip under it, about halfway down its length, when P. leaned on the car horn, convulsed with laughter when I danced back, flailing the walking stick, like a crazy man.

My friend Lloyd Yellowrobe said prairie rattlers move toward their dens when the weather is about to change.

Well, we saw another rattler about a dozen miles farther down the road, but this one was larger and dead, stretched straight.  I noticed a couple brass shell casings, looked like .44 magnum, near the snake’s carcass.  It still had its head and tail intact, but it had several holes in its body.  This one was nearly two feet long.

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One Comment
  1. Divad Trahnel permalink

    Dang shooters! Live by the gun…

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