Trip Details

Location: Jackson County, Iowa

Weather: 74 degrees. Sunny to partly cloudy. Low wind.

Time: 11:00 a.m.

Herpers: Jim Scharosch

Another trip out to the spot where we have been working with the timber rattlesnakes. This is the location where we have been watching the females on the rookeries all year. On my last visit, there were babies and a few females hanging out at the rookery rocks. This trip I expected to see that they had vacated the rookeries and had moved nearer to the dens to stage before winter set in.

I stopped at the south den first and at one of the lower outcrops I shined this large Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) under a large shelf rock.

I never saw more of this snake than just this coil, but based on the size of the coil I would guess it to be a three foot adult. I moved on and the only other thing I saw at the south den was this chipmunk.

They rarely sit long enough for me to take a photo, or maybe I just usually don't care enough to take the time. I moved to the north den and stopped at the lower rookery. As expected there was nobody home. I went to the second rookery rock and found the same. That meant the snakes should be somewhat near the den, so I headed that way.

At the base of a large shelf overhang, I spotted what looked like a baby timber from about fifteen feet away. It was in the leaf litter, so I was quietly congratulating myself for spotting it. When I got closer I could see a second one right behind it that was not visible from my initial vantage point. Here is a picture of those two snakes in the lower left of this shot.

And closer up....

The more astute of you may have noticed that there were actually four timbers in that first photo. I didn't notice it until I was almost on top of them. I quit congratulating myself at that point. Here are the other two.

I went up over the rise to the upper part of the den complex and saw this guy looking at me.

I snuck in closer to get this shot.

It was another three foot or so long adult. I was going to take one more step closer and when I looked down there was another baby timber about eighteen inches from my left foot. Not sure how I missed it when I crept up there, probably too focused on not spooking the one on the ledge.

I shined the den crevices with my flashlight and saw another baby timber and this two foot sub-adult way back in a crevice.

After that I climbed to the top of the den rock. I have always thought that someday I would see a big pile of timbers up there. Not today, but I did see another baby, which was the first snake I had ever seen up there.

I hiked around for a bit without seeing anything else, then after about twenty minutes circled back to the upper portion of the den. As I was walking, I spotted this sub-adult timber coiled perfectly near an outcrop. It wasn't agitated at all at my presence and laid there looking at me while I took photos. It was difficult shooting in the mottled sunlight and my photo doesn't do justice to how beautiful this timber was.

I climbed back down past the den and saw this two and a half foot timber laying on a ledge. He sat still for a while, then rattled like crazy and shot back into a hole in the rock face. I could hear him rattling down in the hole even a few minutes after he made his escape. This was another tricky photo with the shadow right on the snakes head, but you get what you get when you don't mess with them.

My last stop was at the lower den area where I had seen the original four babies. I wanted to shine the crevices above them, and I turned up one more small sub-adult timber in a location that was pretty much impossible to get a photo in.

That was it for the day. Seven neonates and six sub-adults on up was a great day. It is always fun being out near the den when the snakes are moving.

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