Circulating message claims that attached photographs show a large mass of rattlesnakes emerging from a den at Palo Duro Canyon, Texas.
The images are genuine. However, the location where the photographs were taken remains unclear. While this version specifies the location as Palo Duro Canyon, alternative versions have listed several other locations in the United States. The images have been circulating since mid-2008. The species of rattlesnake shown in the images has also been hotly debated.
Subject: Palo Duro Canyon, Texas
This picture was taken last week, July 7th at the ranch by a cowboy looking for strays. For you folks that are not educated on Rattle snakes, this generally only happens in the spring when they come out of the den and the weather is warm enough for them to sun. The cowboy thinks the drought is so bad in West Texas that they are not going far from the den and returning daily.
These images, which depict a tangled mass of venomous rattlesnakes, circulate via email and social media and have also been posted to myriad blogs and forums across the length and breadth of the interwebs.
While the images have created fear and revulsion among many commentators, others have apparently been more concerned with exactly what species of rattlesnake is depicted and exactly where the photographs were snapped.
The supposed location of the find has been listed variously as Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, Phelan, Lucerne Valley, Rosamond, Palmdale, Lancaster and Beaumont in California and other locations in Texas, California, Wyoming and South Dakota.
The snakes have also been identified by various commentators as either Mojave Greens or Western Diamondbacks.
Alas, at this point, I am yet to discover enough verifiable information to finally silence this ongoing debate once and for all. But, what is clear however is that the pictures were not snapped “last week” on July 7 by a cowboy looking for strays. Metadata on the photographs suggests that they were taken on May 11, 2008. And, research indicates that the images have indeed been circulating since mid-2008.
According to reptile expert Mike Cardwell, the photos were not taken in California and are not Mojave Greens as claimed in some versions of the message. In a June 2008 V V DailyPress news article Cardwell is quoted as noting:
They are NOT Mohave rattlesnakes. They are prairie rattlesnakes, native to states like Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico, west Texas, etc.
While the Palo Duro Canyon cannot be dismissed as a possible location, it should be noted that images of the canyon area do depict a quite different landscape than that shown in the circulating photographs.
It is common for Prairie rattlesnakes to give birth at communal den sites and a mother can produce anywhere from 1 to 25 young per reproduction event. Snakes are also known to form mating balls.