Rattlesnakes do not like extreme heat, so the 100-plus-degree temperatures plaguing Arizona have made them irritable, to put it mildly.
Proof of a pervasive bad mood was recorded recently in Phoenix, when a snake wrangler with Rattlesnake Solutions tried capturing a venomous western diamondback in someone’s yard.
The brief video shows the buzzing snake managed two open-mouth lunges in just seconds — one so fast it shows up as only a blur.
Temperatures were near 110 degrees when the clip was filmed, according to Rattlesnake Solutions owner Bryan Hughes.
“This level of heat can be lethal (for rattlesnakes), which may cause added stress and increase the tendency to bite,” he told McClatchy News. “It’s hard to say if the bite speed itself is faster than it would be at more reasonable temperatures. In either case, it happens faster than the eye can see and certainly faster than a human can react. Fortunately, with a strike range of only around half to two thirds of its body length, this is easy to avoid.”
Temperatures in Arizona have been near 120 degrees in recent weeks, McClatchy News reported last month.
The snake in the video could have died from the heat, had the homeowner waited much longer before calling, Hughes says.
Folklore would have people believe rattlesnakes enjoy hot weather, but that’s not the case, he says. They prefer the upper 80s, and prolonged exposure to heat around 105 degrees is deadly, Hughes says.
“To avoid this, each summer they enter a behavioral phase called aestivation. It’s similar in concept to hibernation (in winter), except it is to avoid hot, dry conditions,” he said. “In our part of Arizona, rattlesnakes typically aestivate in small groups through June and early July. They may use the same den every year throughout their lives.”
That means there are fewer rattlesnakes underfoot during extreme heat.
However, there’s a downside that is a bit scary: Finding one rattlesnake during a heat wave means a well-hidden den of them is aestivating nearby — and “it has likely been there for several weeks,” Hughes says.
Rattlesnake Solutions does not kill the snakes it catches. Instead, they are taken to wilderness areas and released into a compatible habitat, he said.
Summer is the “slow time” of year for rattlesnake captures, but the company is still catching up to 10 a day, he said.