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Hiker catches rattlesnake battle on camera at Government Canyon State Natural Area

Snake battles are common, but rarely seen by people

Courtesy: Mrs. Roni Martin
Courtesy: Mrs. Roni Martin

SAN ANTONIO – If you are one of the seemingly rare ophiophilists (someone who loves snakes), then you probably think this video is very cool. But if you tend to be afraid of snakes (ophidiophobia), chances are, it may creep you out.

The video was taken by Roni Martin during a hike at Government Canyon State Natural Area. It shows two male snakes fighting over a female right on the trail.

Judit Green is an Urban Wildlife Biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. She says snake fights are actually a common occurrence in nature, but it’s rare that people are able to witness it in the wild.

 “The two rattlesnakes in the video are battling each other, trying to pin each other down, in order to prove they are the stronger of the two, and thus winning the rights to mate with a nearby female,” Green said.

When you watch the video, you notice that they don’t strike or bite each other.

“Think about it, if two males were biting each other you would potentially have two dead snakes--and the genetic gene pool stops there,” Green said.

Hikers who witnessed the battle say it went on for at least 30 minutes.

The abundance of wildlife is one of the qualities that makes Government Canyon SNA so special. In addition to snakes, visitors could also encounter “roadrunners, painted buntings, foxes, coyotes, turkeys, a variety of hawks, the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, butterflies, etc.,” Green said.

Government Canyon is more than 12,000 acres of protected natural area. It’s open Fridays through Mondays and holidays, but visitors should check the Government Canyon State Natural Area Facebook page before going, because sometimes the trails are closed due to weather. The gates to the area will also temporarily close if the area has reached capacity for visitors.

Of course, snakes don’t just live in natural areas. You can find them in most neighborhoods in San Antonio. Green says that’s actually a good thing. 

“We have several non-venomous snakes that help keep non-native rodent populations in check within our neighborhoods,” Green said. “The Texas Rat snake is one of the most common snakes found in our yards, protecting us by eating rats that carry diseases that can harm us and our pets.”

Green says if you do encounter a snake, it’s best to keep your distance and see if the snake moves on. If not, find a way around the snake or turn back.

If you want to learn more about snakes, and even see some live ones up close (and in cages), Government Canyon SNA has an event coming up April 8 called SnakeFesst. You can read more about it here

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You can also follow the San Antonio Urban Wildlife Facebook page which provides news and information about urban wildlife and habitat in the greater San Antonio area.

 

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