Even More on Rattlesnake Relocation

Even More on Rattlesnake Relocation

Dr. Erika Nowak from Northern Arizona University commented on my last rattlesnake -->

About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.


  1. Harry Greene says:

    Could someone spell out why bottom line “better than killing them” please?

  2. Harry Greene says:

    Sorry, should have been more careful: could someone please spell out why, bottom line, translocation is “better than killing them” (I’m assuming that in context this was meant to include farther away than Erika’s one square kilometer)?

  3. The prior post that was based on an interview w/Dr. Hayes dealt with this issue since many people kill them without considering translocation, and since my blog involves co-existing with our wildlife, that’s the viewpoint I also take. At least it gives them a chance.

  4. Thanks for this post Linda – co-existence is such an important message, and challenging to open minds on how to do so in a way safe to both sides. The research that rattlesnakes have social and family groups is very interesting to me; wow, who knew!

  5. Harry Greene says:

    Like you I’ve long worked for coexistence with rattlesnakes and other potentially dangerous animals through research, teaching, and outreach, and as Andrew Durso responded to your earlier piece, I fervently hope to convince folks to simply accommodate these wonderful reptiles. But, as noted in our exchange on March 26th, beyond the distinct possibility some (many?) translocated snakes won’t make it, Hayes didn’t cover potentially negative effects of adding more rattlers (with potentially alien genes, novel parasites and diseases) to an existing population–populations that are likely already at carrying capacity, such that adding new ones, especially lots of new ones, reduces the survivorship of those already there. In the end this comes down to our individual values as humans faced with difficult dilemmas: do we err on the side of the individual animal right in front of us, or the overall well being of animal populations? It’s in the context of that problem that for me, translocation would not always be preferable to humanely killing some particular “problem” rattlesnake.

  6. One major aspect to relocation that is missing from any discussion is the method of release. A snake relocated poorly (over-stressed, over-heated, bad area, etc.) will die very quickly even if it’s just moved a short distance.

  7. You know, I never thought I would say it, but I’m inclined to agree with Harry that humanely killing a rattlesnake you found in your yard that you couldn’t live with (which would of course be the preferable option) is a better alternative to translocation in cases where there are likely to be negative effects on rattlesnake populations because of translocation. The risk of snakebite is probably greatest when you try to kill a snake, 2nd greatest when you translocate it, and least when you decide you can coexist with venomous snakes and become informed about them. The risk to the ecosystem is probably greatest (overall) with translocation, 2nd greatest with killing the snake, and clearly the lowest with coexistence. It would be good if someone tried to measure this.

  8. Thanks for this post; this is such a controversial topic where humans have moved into snake habitat. As for the “translocation is better than killing them” issue, I think that Steen did a great job addressing why neither of those is a sustainable solution (http://www.livingalongsidewildlife.com/2013/10/the-only-good-dog-is-dead-dog-why-it.html). Even if you don’t want snakes in your yard, if you don’t address why they’re there, you can move/kill all you want and more will show up. The Tucson Herp Society’s brochure is great for addessing the yard problem. Damn its hard to convince most people to leave them be, though!

    And thanks for referencing our blog. Although the topic comes up frequently, this is our most comprehensive article on rattlesnake sociality that you may wish to point your readers to:

  9. Hugh McCrystal says:

    I have worked with fire department translocation procedures for over 25 years. We have honed our relocation procedures down to: try to talk homeowners into letting the snake stay and move on when it does. Then if that doesn’t work, 300 yards max for venomous, 100 yards max for nonvenomous. Never move a snake out of habitat. If the snake is far away from undisturbed habitat it goes to the closest “best” habitat. We also carefully keep snakes from getting overvheated, release them onto sheltered spots from the elements, are careful to be gentle in how they are handled. We try to educate folks about what snakes really do, and for the most part, it works. The hardest part is getting the word out to firefighters such that there is consistency. Keeping release distance very short is critical to individual survival and not impacting other nearby family groups negatively.

  10. Does this apply to all species and subspecies? I don’t relocate a lot of rattlesnakes beyond moving them from a roadway or out of campsites, but the only rattlesnake species in my area is the timber rattlesnake (crotalus horridus).

    • Linda Richards says:

      I’ve never heard of a difference among species from the specialists I’ve interviewed so assume not…..

  11. Surely, it’s the people that are the problem, not the snakes. I assume snakes were in their territory for many millennia before arrogant humans thought it would be a nice place to live if it weren’t for the original inhabitants. I have no idea, of course from the safety of my English Castle, but surely, there must be ways of snake-proofing the patch of the environment the human needs, or alternatively human-proofing the snakes habitat.

  12. William Hayes says:

    In all frankness, this conversation disappoints me. The message one reads is: (1) moving a rattlesnake long distance (beyond its home range, perhaps 0.5-1 km or more) is inhumane, because the odds are good the snake will die an inhumane death, and it might disrupt social relationships and introduce “alien genes, novel parasites and diseases” to an existing population before it dies; (2) if the snake can’t be moved a short distance, then it’s better to kill it; and (3) it’s not good to translocate a lot of snakes into one area.

    I have no beef with point #3, which of course can create a big problem. However, I see nothing wrong with the average homeowner who wishes to see a snake or two removed each year from their property to nearby habitat a bit beyond the snake

    • Linda Richards says:

      As always, Dr. Hayes, thank you for your thoughts – I do think it’s important to give them a chance. I’m also going to put a quote from this write-up at the top of the post.

  13. William Hayes says:

    I erred. It was 100% survival of 8 radiotracked Red Diamond Rattlesnakes subjected to long-distance translocation. The ninth snake disappeared; like others moved a short distance in the experiment, the transmitter may well have died.

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