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April 19, 2014

Focus on Wildlife: Rattlesnakes

— When I was a young boy, my mother used to tell us that thunderstorms in April happened to let the rattlesnakes know that it was time to wake up from their winter hibernation. 

Mom was a fabulous storyteller and she would spin tales that bent your grasp on reality. One tale that she told, over and over, was about those white, thin, rising spires of steam that you often see along mountain ridges on cool mornings. 

Her story about these delicate fingers of steam concluded that they came from bears who were brewing their morning coffee. These tales were so convincing that I was probably 10 years old before I realized that bears don’t drink coffee and that the steam was actually coming from the thermal mountain seeps.

Well, back to rattlesnakes.

After spending the morning fishing on Little Pine and Pine Creeks last Saturday, I decided to leave the crowds behind and try my luck on catching some natives on spring-fed Truman Run. Fishing the opening weekend of the statewide trout season up in Lycoming County has been a family tradition for decades.

As I moved from hole to hole, scrambling along rock ledges and shimming across downed trees, I decided that it was time to take a little rest in the crisp sunshine.  Apparently, a timber rattlesnake had the very same idea. This rattler had to be nearly five feet long, and by the bulge in his mid-torso I could tell that he had just devoured some forest rodent.

He was stretched out on “my rock” and he had a very contented and serene look on his face. His tail was draped over a big stone and he rested his head on his body just above the bulge in his belly.  Since he was resting so peacefully, I decided to find another spot for my afternoon nap.

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