Old Man of the Forest

Our department’s graduate students took our fall camping trip over the weekend to southern Ohio, and we were treated to a really special animal:

That’s a big timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) hiding out under some fall leaves. This endangered species is both secretive and well camouflaged, so you could easily walk right past one of these bad boys even if you were lucky enough to be near one.
This particular snake is part of a long-term study to understand the movements and behavior of these snakes in Ohio. A radio transmitter guided the volunteers who track these snakes directly to this individual, and we were lucky enough to follow along.

My lab mate Matt Holding was asked to get DNA samples from this snake over the summer, and he remembered this individual fondly. Here is a photo of Matt with this same snake so you can get a sense of scale. The volunteers said that their last measurement of this individual was 54 inches, and it could very well be 15-25 years old.
So next time you are hiking around in timber rattlesnake country, keep an eye out and you may get to appreciate one of these incredible animals for yourself.
I mean really keep an eye out!

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