- Posted April 18, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Travel photo of the day
Leaving the rattlesnake dens
My friend at Buffalo, Alberta lives east of Drumheller. His name and ranch location will not be disclosed. He runs about 3,000 head of cattle on 26,000 acres on the Red Deer River and owns the land that has three of the largest rattlesnake dens in Canada.
He took me to them down the steep coulees to the river bed where the snakes travel tens of miles each fall from the prairies to their dens in cliffs near the river bottom.
You see him going up the cliffs with a great stick. That's because of the slope but also to push the rattlers out of the way as they are thick by the thousands on the hillside in fall, all warm and fat and ready to hibernate for the winter. The first frost of fall starts their migration back to these great cliff caves. This is something akin to the travel of Monarch Butterflys to Mexico each year. No one understands how or why they do this. It just happens. Man does not command nor understand the natural world. All we can do is gaze in awe.
In the great dens the snakes ball up by the thousands and keep warm in temps hitting -45 Celcius at night with great winds in December.
They start migrating out of the dens and up to the prairie where they hunt from April to October.
But deep underground each fall and winter they are safe, warm and won't freeze. This is nature's
way of making sure they leave offspring.
Many of the rattlers reach 16 years of age, with 16 segments to their rattles. Some of the mature males are as thick as a man's forearm and up to 7 feet long.
The photo of the snake you see was about 12 years old and 6 feet long. And was but a foot from my grandson's leg when we knew he was about to strike. He was hidden in long grass by the side of the road hunting prairie dogs. We were very lucky that day as the hospital was 100 miles away. Tho I have been bitten by a rattler in this same area, I survived.
Like Australia's Outback, this land has beauty and danger at every turn. I take only close friends into this area to the dens and the east country of the Red Deer River. It is littered with great dinosaur bone beds, all exposed, all undiscovered by scientists and there are so many they can't get to them all.
It is a treat to see it all for real, but with every step there is a price to pay: danger at every turn. But I live here and can handle almost anything. It's that kooky driver in Fiji or a freak wave on Kona during a typhoon that will get me. But then again I presume to know nothing. Men walk by faith, not by vision.
Sixty years ago, we would travel this area on dirt roads, no pavement, no gravel, no road signs. The snakes in the fall would cover the roads by the thousands. We hated to stop for fear they would be in the long grass by the road side as we fixed a tire, went to the bathroom or got water for the truck radiator. The snakes were always there, you could rely on that.
Today they are protected. NO one can kill them.
What was once a national hatred (rattlesnakes) has become a fulltime passion: preserving all living things that have a place in God's plan.
I might add: I have lost three good friends to rattlesnakes. It was not my friend's error's: they happened at the wrong place in time. They paid with their lives. I too was bitten, but lived by a miracle. The snakes have a place as do sharks and King Cobras. Perhaps man has become too dominant? I don't know: but I really do respect the place and order of all living things. I wish man would learn a bit more about co-exisintg in harmony with all living things. I have not killed a living creature since Viet Nam. And I walk away from fights. And am called a coward and Wuss. Though dead men could be laying by scores about if it were it my way. But then again, I just walk away. I no longer care mates.
I have done my killing. Now its time for healing. If you do not understand this then you do not know life.
Snakes only bite if you step in their space.