Snakes in Yellowstone

Bob

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The Largest Venomous Snake in Yellowstone National Park: Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis)

Prairie rattlesnakes are also called western rattlesnakes — they’re the only venomous snake in Yellowstone. ©iStock.com/HRossD
Prairie rattlesnakes are also called western rattlesnakes — they’re the only venomous snake in Yellowstone. ©iStock.com/HRossD© Provided by AZ Animals
Although the bullsnake is the largest reptile in Yellowstone, it isn’t the most dangerous. The largest and most venomous snake within the park is the prairie rattlesnake. The prairie rattlesnake is a venomous pit viper related to other rattlesnakes, plus copperheads and cottonmouths. Using venom and heat-sensing pits on their snouts, pit vipers effectively hunt prey and defend themselves from predators.


A complete breakdown of the prairie rattlesnake​

Prairie rattlesnakes are the second-largest snakes in Yellowstone and the largest (and only) venomous snakes in the park. They generally grow to 48 inches long and are extremely thick-bodied snakes.

Like all rattlesnakes, the prairie rattler can be identified through the heat-sensing pits between its nostril and eye, and the distinct rattle on its tail. Dorsally, prairie rattlesnakes have large, dark, roughly oval white-edged blotches over a lighter color; usually shades of tan or brown. Additionally, prairie rattlesnakes usually have light-colored head stripes — two on each side. Like other rattlesnakes, prairie rattlesnakes have heavily keeled scales that have a ridge in the center of each. Keeled scales make their skin look rough to the touch.

Prairie rattlesnakes live in the lower elevation areas of the park, namely in places like Reese Creek, Stephens Creek, and Rattlesnake Butte. They prefer warm, dry areas, and these locations are the warmest and driest locations in the park.

Prairie rattlesnakes use powerful venom to hunt prey and defend themselves. They generally prefer small mammals but will also eat birds and reptiles. Common prey includes squirrels, mice, rats, prairie dogs, rabbits, and other snakes.

Despite their powerful venom, rattlesnakes are much more defensive than offensive and prefer to avoid humans at all costs. In fact, the park has only two documented cases of bites throughout its entire history of the park. If you encounter a snake, just leave it be!
 

TheMountainRabbit

"Because it's there."
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As a bit of a "snake nut", I've been looking out for one of these guys in Yellowstone to no avail... lots of garter snakes though. On our very first Yellowstone trip I actually managed to find a snake (garter) in Yellowstone NP before I'd ever even seen a wild bison - many years later my wife and I still get a chuckle out of it.
 

Bob

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As a bit of a "snake nut", I've been looking out for one of these guys in Yellowstone to no avail... lots of garter snakes though. On our very first Yellowstone trip I actually managed to find a snake (garter) in Yellowstone NP before I'd ever even seen a wild bison - many years later my wife and I still get a chuckle out of it.
Never seen one either, didnt think they were even there. Have seen the garters, bullsnakes and rubber boas tho.
 

TheMountainRabbit

"Because it's there."
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Joined
Feb 15, 2020
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I'd much rather see pissed off grizzly heading my way vs. a 4 foot rattler

Have I mentioned that I hate snakes :)
I had a ~4' diamondback snuggled under my tent for warmth at Enchanted Rock in Texas - while I was sleeping in it. I'm a snake lover, but waking up to a wiggling tent floor was jarring enough even before I realized what it was.
 

scatman

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Yeah, only found at the north end of the Park, so unless you spend some time up on that end in the low elevation areas, you won't see one. That being said, I have not seen one on my trips to that part of Yellowstone in the past.

Thanks for pointing out the rabbit binky @Bob. I had no idea that is what that movement was called. I may need to come up with a Scatman binky while I'm in the backcountry? :thinking: Stay tuned. I may need some BCP members' critique on this one - hint, hint @TractorDoc . :D

My rattlesnake sightings are either feast or famine by year it seems. Last year, I saw one here in the Wasatch. The year before, I saw maybe fifteen while out and about. One year I saw none, while another year I promise you that I saw one on every hike I did that summer here in the Wasatch.

If you are ever in the Wasatch and want to see one, then the North Summit of Mount Olympus hike is where to get it done. There are more rattlesnakes on that route than you can shake a stick at.

Some local Wasatch celebrities.
03.jpg

09.jpg

10.jpg
 

TheMountainRabbit

"Because it's there."
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Joined
Feb 15, 2020
Messages
274
Yeah, only found at the north end of the Park, so unless you spend some time up on that end in the low elevation areas, you won't see one. That being said, I have not seen one on my trips to that part of Yellowstone in the past.

Thanks for pointing out the rabbit binky @Bob. I had no idea that is what that movement was called. I may need to come up with a Scatman binky while I'm in the backcountry? :thinking: Stay tuned. I may need some BCP members' critique on this one - hint, hint @TractorDoc . :D

My rattlesnake sightings are either feast or famine by year it seems. Last year, I saw one here in the Wasatch. The year before, I saw maybe fifteen while out and about. One year I saw none, while another year I promise you that I saw one on every hike I did that summer here in the Wasatch.

If you are ever in the Wasatch and want to see one, then the North Summit of Mount Olympus hike is where to get it done. There are more rattlesnakes on that route than you can shake a stick at.

Some local Wasatch celebrities.
View attachment 119380
View attachment 119381
View attachment 119382
That last picture is fantastic. Might have to check out Mount Olympus next time I'm in SLC...

I should see if I can find pictures from my early days camping in Texas - lots more of our cold-blooded friends down there than my usual haunts nowadays.
 

scatman

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That last picture is fantastic. Might have to check out Mount Olympus next time I'm in SLC...

I should see if I can find pictures from my early days camping in Texas - lots more of our cold-blooded friends down there than my usual haunts nowadays.

Remember, it is the north summit, not the south one. The south one is the one with the maintained trail and popular, while the north summit is a route and not so popular. I have seen five rattlesnakes on the trail to the south summit, but I've been hiking that for 30 years, which probably 60 - 70 summits. So that makes seeing a rattler every 6 years, or 10 to 12 summits.

If you are ever in Salt Lake, get in touch and I'll hike the north summit with you. Of course, you'll have to wait for me at the summit. :moses: :)

Would love to see some shots of the ones you encountered in Texas. :thumbsup:
 
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