(originally posted 8/28/2012)
Some rattlesnakes don’t have rattles.
I know right. Crazy.
I probably should have made sure you were sitting down before sprung that on you.
Here’s the thing. It’s true that all rattlesnakes are born with rattles. I hope you’re either sitting down now or never bothered to get back up from the shock of the first sentence because there is a kind of rattlesnake where the rattle actually falls off because they don’t want it anymore.
The reason? Because the damn rattlesnake hunts in the trees instead of on the ground and the rattle accidentally rattles all the time and scares off the prey. I know what you’re thinking. Snakes that hunt in the trees are bright green, the length and thickness of a jump rope and have an evil demented smile on their face all the time. They eat frogs and such and every frog dies with the same last thought going through their amphibious head, “A snake up here? Really?!” Rattlesnakes on the other hand are short and thick and sit camouflaged under a rock or sitting in leaves until a mouse or rabbit walks by and they spring into action with a quick bite. They are not built for life in the canopy.
These rattle-less snakes beg to differ. Maybe there was a shortage of mice and rabbits or perhaps they got bored with the ease at which meals were acquired, but whatever the reason they looked up at a tree and said to themselves “That’s the life for me.”
You can be sure that nature did nothing to encourage them. All the other rattlesnakes probably scoffed and all the green tree snakes resented the intrusion, but at some point in time the first slow, fat, clumsy rattlesnake stopped fighting their arboreal tendencies and up they went. Not only that, but after enough times of having their rattle go off at the wrong moment they decided enough was enough and cut it loose.
The rattle falls off because unlike other rattlesnakes who have the first segment of their rattle attached to the end of their tail, this particular rattlesnake has a degenerative first button that falls off with each shed. I think it goes without saying that the other rattlesnakes consider more than the tail of this rattlelesssnake ‘degenerative.’
Now the obvious question is whether to admire this behavior or root for their inevitable extinction. The easy choice is to enjoy their eventual evolutionary failure, but I think most people see too much of themselves in these sans-rattle rattlesnakes to take any pleasure in the fact that half of these dumb reptiles probably fall to their death in the first couple years of life off the terra firma.
Of course there are some of you that probably think the coolest part of being a rattlesnake is the rattle and the idea that a snake would abandon this birthright to chase some crazy tree-dwelling dream is offensive. I can understand this group of folks fully getting on the “get your pudgy ass back on the ground” bandwagon.
I guess here is where I typically leap to the defense of the snake that aspires to live a different life than that expected of him and to rage against the ‘snakes’ that want to hold him down. I’ll be honest though, in this particular case I sit with both an angel and a devil on one shoulder and Andy Kaufman perched on the other. Do I really want a tree full of rattlelesssnakes stalking birds and falling on innocent passer-byers? Truly, the Tony Clifton of snakes.
I can feel the cool hand of reason slipping up my skirt on this issue and no amount of purposely using three S’s in rattle-less snake makes me feel anything less than a fraud.
If I truly aspire to be a degenerate, why can’t I lose this rattled feeling?