Timber rattlesnake on the move!

25 Mar

Zoe, the female Timber rattlesnake that we are radio tracking, is out of hibernation and on the move!  I discovered that she had moved from her over-wintering site when I journeyed into the woods yesterday evening for my weekly data collecting trip to their locations.  I visited Utsanati’s (the male) site first only to find him still underground in his den.  I then made my way upslope through the budding blueberries to where Zoe has been since November of 2011.  As I made my way up the steep mountainside I began to realize that the signal from her transmitter seemed different and I started to wonder is she had moved.  When I arrived at her den site–a dead snag surrounded by its fallen rotting limbs–I confirmed that she had in fact moved and that the signal was strongest to the south so I made my way in her direction.  As I made my way up the mountain the wind picked up and a light rain began to fall so I moved as fast as possible but still with enough care because I was looking for a rattlesnake!  Soon I arrived at the source of her signal–the same rotting stump that she had taken refuge in for several days last fall!  Interestingly, she had backtracked from her winter den site where she has slept for over four months to this refuge that she had used just before going into hibernation.  Why was she here?  Only she knows for sure but I believe that she is making her way up hill from the cooler north side of the mountain where she spent the winter to the warmer southeastern slopes of the mountain where she can more effectively thermoregulate.  I was unable to see Zoe because she was holed up underground but at least I now know that she made it through hibernation.  Hopefully soon I will find her out basking on the surface and I will be able to get some photos and video of her condition.  Until then below is a photo of Zoe from last fall before she went into hibernation.

Only moments after I arrived at her location the rain started to fall much harder and off in the distance I saw a squall line approaching over the nearby mountains so I finished my data collecting and made haste to get out of the woods before the deluge hit.

Soon, I will venture back into the forest in search of the rattlesnakes and turtles and keep you posted on their progress.  Until next time watch your step when you are going off trail because it seems that the snakes are moving early this year due to the warmer temperatures.

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