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Pay attention, that ground squirrel is trying to tell you something.


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#1 VarmintAir

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 12:56 PM

EDIT: VIDEO ADDEDOne of the things I learned many years ago is, ground squirrels will tell you when there is a rattlesnake nearby. Ground squirrels have a couple of well developed warning signals they use to communicate danger. The one I see most often, is where they chirp out a warning bark, at the same time their tail is jerked up and down in direct line with their spine. They do this when danger from a predator is imminent. The predator can be me, a coyote, weasel, bobcat, badger etc. The second signal not only warns other squirrels, but I have learned to read it, and recognize that it is telling me there is a rattlesnake in the immediate area. They start waving their tail back and forth like waving a flag. They wave it across their spine instead of inline with it. The other amazing thing is, they will allow me to walk up to within just a few feet of them. I could literally bend over and pick the squirrel up, I'm that close. Normally, I can't get much closer than 30 or 40 yards to them. Last week, while hunting ground squirrels with my .22 cal. Discovery, I had my first rattlesnake encounter of the year, and it was because I was paying attention to what a squirrel was telling me. I have this happen ten or twelve times a year while hunting ground squirrels. I spotted a squirrel on an old downed oak limb, and it wasn't paying any attention to me at all. It was about 45 yards away. I was going to take a shot at it, when it started flagging its tail back and forth. I knew immediately what was going on. I decided to head over to the area and have a look at the snake. As I was approaching, the squirrel jumped off of the limb, and started slowly making its way through the grass. It was very, very, cautious. By this time I was only about 15 yards from the squirrel and carefully following in its trail. We had gone about 25 yards when the squirrel suddenly crouched real low in the grass. It started inching its way up to a squirrel den that I could only see part of from my angle. We were working our way uphill, and I got closer, I could see a rattlesnake laying in front of a squirrels den. At this point I was maybe 4 feet from, and behind the squirrel, and the squirrel was only a few feet from the snake. I nudged the squirrel with my Stoney Point bipod and it ran behind me about ten feet. I actually shot video of all of this. I have pulled some stills out of the video to post here. I typically run into two types of rattlesnakes each year. Western Diamond-back rattlers, and Southern Pacific rattlers. This one was the latter, and about three feet long. I had been watching this guy for a few minutes when he decided to move on, and check out another squirrel den. They can tell when there are young squirrels in the dens. I have watched as a rattlesnake went in the entrance of a squirrel's den, while the female was carrying her young, in her mouth, out of a separate escape hole. Anyway, I find nature and her ways to be very interesting. Ninety nine times out of one hundred, when I see a squirrel flagging their tail side to side, and I check it out, there is a rattler present, and on those few occasions when there isn't, it's because the snake is already down in the den.View Video Here: http://www.youtube.c...feature=channel Some pictures from the encounter. Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

#2 Jason

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 01:00 PM

Wow!! That's some awsome pics!

#3 BullsEye

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 01:08 PM

VERY COOL!!!

#4 Bennie

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 01:38 PM

Thanks for the good info. There is no shortage of snakes were I work or were I play.

#5 dabob

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 01:49 PM

:signgreatreport3kg: :smiley_kewlpics: Great story and pictures.

#6 ShooterJohn

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 02:05 PM

Great pictures Cliff. The reason the ground squirrels wave their tail like that is to warn the snake by heating up their tails with higher blood flows. The adult ground squirrels are immune to rattlesnake venom because of a blood protein they possess when mature. They're letting the rattlesnake know they have been detected and to be prepared for an attack. The snakes are after the young which don't possess the protein to resists their bites. I learned this from a professor at the University of California at Davis when I was doing some ground squirrel research of my own. I can't find the link to the Universities site but I found this one to National Geographic.http://news.national...rrel-snake.html

#7 MikeNC

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 02:14 PM

:signgreatreport3kg: Love that kind of stuff

#8 Portagee_Shooter

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 02:27 PM

Thats a great bit of info and I appreciate it! I hike at Mission Peak Preserve in the Fremont hills a couple times a week and take my dogs with me most of the time. My younger dog is a year and a half and loves to chase squeeks and run around in the grass.Day before yesterday was the first time this year I felt concern about rattlers and kept an eye on where he was going as much as possible. Hopefully he'll have sense enough to stay away from getting bit. Thanks again and I'll keep my eyes peeled for that behavior.A pic from that day....

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#9 PredatorMaster

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 02:33 PM

:signgreatreport3kg: That squeek I shot last Sunday was doing the same thing. Good to know.

#10 Rimrock

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 02:41 PM

Thanks guys. This site is really educational. I have seen squirrels do that but did not know what it meant. Usually it was the last time they demonstrated it before meeting lead.

#11 ShooterJohn

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 05:24 PM

Great video!

#12 Mr Del

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 05:59 PM

You scare me. :fuhrer: :signgreatreport3kg: :smiley_kewlpics:

#13 ali-baba

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 06:26 PM

portagee_shooter, there is a guy named Patrick Callaghan that teaches dogs to stay away from rattlers. He uses live defanged snakes and low-level electric shock. apparently the dog can smell the snake before he can get bitten and the jolt teaches them to stay away. He used to do clinics around Cali. during the summers. If interested his address is www.patrickcallaghan.com

#14 CoyoteHuntress

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 06:27 PM

Very neat video... and Shooter John that info is great..

#15 CBR400RR

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 07:25 PM

Why didn't you shoot the snake?

#16 mackeralboy

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 08:15 PM

Cliff great footage as always. I have seen ground squirrels doing the side to side motion with their tails in the past but always atributed it to some sort of mating ritual. Thanks for the heads up. :smiley_kewlpics: :signgreatreport3kg: John you never cease to amaze me with the info you come up with. By the way do you have a good recipe for rattlesnake? Ground squirrel? :fuhrer:

#17 Portagee_Shooter

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 07:12 AM

Thanks Ali...I'll check it out

#18 VarmintAir

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 08:40 AM

Thanks folks, glad you enjoyed it. Over the past four and a half plus decades I've had hundreds of encounters with various types of rattlesnakes. I have never found one that wasn't interested in getting away. I have never even come close to being bitten by one and neither have my hunting buddy's, but then we don't screw around with them. We simply leave them alone. I really have no interest in killing them just because I can.However, if I find them around the camping areas, or the ranch buildings they get sent to the big rattlesnake den in the sky.

#19 CBR400RR

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 09:49 AM

I have heard that they do taste like chicken but so do a lot of other things. But you can not only eat them but use there skin to make diffrent things.

#20 Mr Del

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 10:30 AM

Eating rattlesnake is like eating a three foot chicken neck. :smiley-funny-post-sign: :good:

#21 VarmintAir

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 11:10 AM

Eating rattlesnake is like eating a three foot chicken neck. :good: :good:

Now that's just plain funny. :smiley-funny-post-sign:

#22 river rat

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 04:02 PM

those are some good pics we just killed three on my friends place and they tasted good

#23 Yodel Dog

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Posted 24 April 2009 - 08:08 AM

Eating rattlesnake is like eating a three foot chicken neck. :roflmao3[1]: :signlol2iu:

Or a 3' rack of ribs.

#24 indyjrt

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Posted 24 April 2009 - 01:32 PM

Did the squirrel get a pass?

#25 VarmintAir

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Posted 24 April 2009 - 04:37 PM

Did the squirrel get a pass?

Yep, at 10 feet he was real blurry in my scope, and I wasn't sure where to hold. :smiley_green_with_envy:

#26 indyjrt

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 03:09 PM

+1 for Karma




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