Rattlesnakes changing their tune, strike with no warning

Published: Oct. 14, 2010 at 4:45 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 15, 2010 at 7:26 PM CDT
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By Sara Story - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Some snake experts say rattlesnakes are not rattling like they used to, often striking with no warning. The distinctive sound means back away. "You usually hear them rattling before you even see them," said Bob Griffin, a rancher. "That's normal behavior."

But, the normal behavior by rattlesnakes is not being heard. Snake experts and ranchers like Bob Griffin say rattlesnakes are not rattling like they used to. "I think it's in their evolution," said Griffin.

Mike Clanton is a reptile keeper at Caldwell Zoo. He says it is normal for rattlesnakes to be silent before attacking their prey. "If they are sneaking up on the prey item, they would lose a meal," said Clanton.

But, when encountering a human or animal larger than itself, the reptiles normally sound off. "If they don't feel like they will get away from it or stay still, that is when they will rattle," Clanton explained.

Why are some ranchers and wildlife experts hearing less of the rattle? Daryl Sprout, a herpetologist and owner of Snake Encounters in Dallas had some answers.

"It is very true that in nature that natural selection is already beginning to prefer snakes that do not bring attention to themselves and therefore draw incoming fire from humans," said Sprout.

He says human interaction with the slithering creatures is on the rise, and as we invade their habitats, they are adapting, perhaps finding survival in silence. "Right now, clearly, rattlesnakes that don't draw as much attention to themselves when humans walk by are the ones with the higher survival rate," said Sprout.

While all snake experts may not be sold on the idea of silent rattlers, all agree to leave them alone, noisy or not. Snake experts also say the volume of a rattlesnake rattle could depend on the species and location of the snakes.

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