She must have been a beauty in snake terms. A Queen of Rattlers. She was mature and fully grown. In life, her diameter was probably four inches round at least. But a human chopped her up. Her corpse was left in the street in a most violent and disturbing display.
I was on my hike, trying my hardest to decrease my time to the trailhead listening to encouraging music, walking up Michael Lane in Pacific Palisades. She came into view in a startling display. I stopped dead in my tracks, stunned at what I saw spread out on the street.
Part of her torso, which at first looked like a branch of a tree, glistened in the sun. The scales were vivid. The cuts made were clean and straight. The instrument of death was probably a shovel. Several yellow-jackets were busy feeding on the carrion. But more shocking was her skeleton several inches away. It was naked. Exposed. The 30 plus pairs of vertebrae curved up toward heaven beautifully arched to protect the internal organs now gone. Next to the porcelain colored skeleton was coyote scat. Just beyond the long strip of thin bones was a ten inch translucent strip that was the remains of the gut.
The head and tail were missing. It took me a few minutes to get my breath back.
As I looked in disbelief, I tried to piece the scene together. Then I tired to walk away. But I felt so overwhelming sad for the disrespectful display of death that had once been the life of a Queen, now fragmented and dissected by a human and one or more coyotes.
Yes, a rattler can seriously mess you up. But so can humans. Is that a reason to kill humans? Maybe . . . if you are insane.
The snake wouldn’t premeditate a plan. She wouldn’t sit in the bushes and wait for you to walk by and then strike. But if confronted, yes, she will coil and rattle in an attempt to scare you away. And she can also bite without warning. That is if you step on her, or corner her, or threaten her. It would be very painful and can cause serious consequences, including possible paralysis and death. Depending on how lucky your day is going.
For the Queen, her day had gone poorly. The human, who felt he had the right to crush the life of one the world’s best rodent-population-reducers on the planet, surely took the head and tail. I don’t think the coyote would have found much value in munching on the venom glands in the jaws nor the rattles. No meat to be found there.
I picture the human placing the head and rattles in full view for his friends and family. Maybe he will put them in a jar and bring them out after a couple of beers. Or maybe he will mount them in some kind of display of horror and death and place it in his living room. When people view it, he will say what a close call it was! A predator in his mist that could have done him in with one juicy bite. But he had conquered the beast. Then he will act very brave and those in his presence will be amazed by his close brush with death. After all humans are programmed to hate snakes. Didn’t it start with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Didn’t everything go bad because of the “serpent’s” influence?
In his telling of the tale, the human will leave out the fact that he is about a million times bigger than the snake and allegedly more intelligent than the snake, who cannot hear, and who has lousy eyesight.
The snake also lacks arms and legs. So why the heck do humans feel the need to kill a snake just because they can? To me it’s equivalent to killing a disabled person or anything that is smaller or out numbered.
This is the second rattler I have seen in this area. Over the years, I have seen four snakes on this part of Michael Lane – 2 rattlers – the other was alive and I rolled stones at it so it would go back into the hills – one Milk Snake and one Gopher Snake (Pictured below) that looks exactly like a rattler but doesn’t have fat diamond-shaped jaws.
Gopher Snake Michael Lane, May 26, 2015
On Michael Lane, one side of the street is lined with homes, and on the other side is the outskirts of Topanga State Park. The month of May, and especially around Memorial Day, is when snakes are waking up, and coming out of hibernation. I know this because I have lived in the canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains for a very long time. By mid-June they are have gotten to where they need to be and movement quiets down until fall.
If a rattler shows up in your yard and you have kids or pets, you have no choice than to kill it. You can call the fire department and they will kill it for you. But if you don’t have kids or pets, you will be ridding your property of the best natural rodent eliminator.
I can imagine the comments I will get, so you should know that I am terrified of rattlers just as much as anyone. My dog came to face to face with one and that is how I know they bite without coiling or otherwise indicating they are going to bite. My dog survived. But it was terrifying and awful.
Today I used two small branches like chopsticks and put the Queen back in the bushes. Yellow jackets and all. I will have snake dreams that I hate as a result. But it was just too disrespectful to leave her so exposed in death. The coyote scat was significant and the delicate vertebrae looked so very venerable. What I learned is what surgeons coyotes are. And I am glad that another predator got to eat the dead snake. Probably in coyote circles rattler meat is a delicacy. The only way a coyote would get that lucky is when a dumb ass human chops up a rattler and leaves it on display to show his super human strength.
Now I know people reading this post will think I’m nuts. I’m not. But I am disturbed by humans who feel they have the right to harm and kill animals sometimes out of fear, or meanness, or stupidity.
Here’s to the Queen of Rattlers who was chopped in two on the outskirts of Topanga State Park on May 25, 2015.
Queen of Rattlers RIP
Here are some pictures I have taken on Trailer Canyon Trail that is right off Michael Lane in Pacific Palisades.
Milk Snake 2012 – On large rock in background