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Rattlesnake Encounter by John Black

I recently returned from a bp'ing trip to the Valley of Fires in NM. There are places where it is easier to climb up the lava than to walk around it. On one such climb, I came face to face with a medium rattlesnake that was about 4 feet away from me and not that happy that I was there. It was only about 55 degrees outside and getting warmer. I had nowhere to go, if I had fallen, I would have been killed. I knew that I could not take my eye off of the snake to try and climb down or away, so I decided to not move. I raised as high as I could on my toes to try and get a little more room for my arms to move and I leaned as far into the rock that I could for stability. I waited for what seemed like a long time and the snake was not going away.

He finally made a strike and I tried to swat it away with my hand. By some stroke of luck, I managed to grab the snake right behind the head. I guess I instinctively squeezed, because I suddenly had a rattlesnake in my hand. I managed to finish climbing up the lava (by this time the snake was FIRMLY in my grasp).

My first thought was to kill it, but I quickly decided not to. I was on it's turf and I had already won the contest. I had no right to take it's life and so I found a crack large enough that I could safely put it into and keep an eye on it to make sure that it was not coming back out. When I finally let the snake go and I sat down (to clean the poop out of my shorts), My hands were shaking and the full enormity of the situation started to sink in. It was about 10 minutes before I could stand up and start walking again. I was just lucky that it was still a little cold outside and that I was at the limit of the snake's reach, or I am sure that he would have gotten me right between the eyes.