On a recent visit to Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico my friend, June and I encountered stupidity on an entirely new level.
A gentleman visitor backtracked along the main hiking path along the ruins to tell us about a rattlesnake that had just left the trail. We stopped dead in our tracks. Then we heard the rattling and saw right off the path the coiled Western Diamondback rattlesnake. The snake was mad as hell by the sound of its rattles.
I zoomed my camera as far as I could to capture a photo at a respectability safe distance. Instinctively, it seemed to know I was a taking a photo and turned its head towards me continuing to rattle. It was not a happy snake and could potentially strike at given moment.
Knowing how close the snake was to the path I did not want to walk by until it calmed down. That’s when another photographer came up behind us on the path and walked passed us without saying excuse me. When he saw what we were being cautious of he stopped and started pointing his damn tripod at the snake laughingly stating, “It’s not dangerous. It’s just a snake.” June told him to leave the snake alone, but he refused. With another jab of his tripod towards the rattler, he walked off chuckling.
After the snake stopped rattling, we preceded one at a time to the far left of the path walking quietly. I turned to look back and saw two couples coming up behind us on the trail. I walked back a few feet and told them about the rattlesnake and to be cautious when walking by, as well as to leave the snake alone because it was threatened.
June and I continued hiking towards the Alcove House. We turned around probably a quarter of a mile and looked back. What we saw left us in disbelief. The irresponsible couples were standing close to the snake with their small point and shoot cameras and camera phones taking photos. June and I commented on their stupidity. As we continued hiking, we paused again to see them still standing in the same location laughing, pointing and taking photos. Ya can’t fix stupid and you certainly can’t caution people on what to do when it comes to wildlife. My warnings to them just went in one ear and out the other. It would have been their own faults if one of them got bit. It would have been great to have a seen a ranger patrolling any part of the path that day.
You don’t mess with a rattlesnake. While they are beautiful creatures its potential striking distance is equal to 1/3 to 1/2 of their overall body length. Western diamondbacks stand their ground, coil, and continue to hiss and rattle when threatened. I’m thankful for my biology and wildlife professors who taught me during my extensive fieldwork to respect wildlife on all levels, especially rattlesnakes.
Photograph – © Christena Stephens Photography