The Velvet Tail

The giant of all rattlesnakes!

I ran into a buddy of mine this morning on the lake.  He put his boat in across the creek from me and we met in the middle.  He was unusually pale this am (just recovered from a heart attack).  I asked ,”how are you doing”? he replied, “just lucky to be here!”  I had seen him since the heart attack and had already heard this from him.  He was talking about the giant snake he encountered at the ramp before dawn.  He got out of his truck to un- hook the boat and there in his way was a six foot long velvet tail.  Coiled and ready!  He had run over it with the boat trailer, but he was still alive and he was mad!  He thought he had run over a log , blown down from last nites storm.  He killed it with a boat paddle.  He was still out of breath thirty minutes later.  This snake weighed 33 lbs. (not the one in the pic).  It had 11 rattlers and a pretty red velvet patch six or so inches long above the tail.  This was not my first sighting of a velvet tail.

A few years back (25 or so), my buddy, Joey called and said let’s go hunting.  Now I was thinking he wanted to ride the road and poach a deer from the truck.  He said no we were gonna snake hunt.  It was an hour before dark and he said that is when they crawl out on the side of the road and can be ran over.  I was thinking if we ran over it ….it would destroy it.  He showed me the skin of one he had killed two days earlier.  This was huge and definitely not a snake from around here.  I was wrong!  Our first gravel road didn’t produce any snakes and we turned down another less used paved road and in no time we saw a “log” half way across the road.  Joey put both right tires smack dab on its head.  I looked back to see this huge snake wrestle itself in the middle of the road.  Armed with a garden hoe ( with a long handle) Joey finished it off.  Just over five feet long.  Ten rattlers and a nice velvet patch above the tail.  This was amazing !!!!  This was the biggest snake I had ever been “involved” with.  We finished out the trip and didn’t bag any more.  I watched as Joey skinned this thing and he needed help holding it on the pic nick table.  He salted it and stretched it out to dry.  I never knew we had these “big” snakes in our woods.  They are rare but they are there!  We killed some more that year and that was it for me.  I didn’t like the whole process.  It was dangerous.  Snakes have reflexes and can strike after they are dead.  These big velvet tails have some enormous fangs.  Not pin holes that I usually think would be the result from a bite.   My uncle worked on the rail road and said they dug up some nice ones weighing well over 50lbs and over 7′ long.

Recent Velvet Tail Killed In Arkansas Near Strawberry River

Crotalus horridus is the timber rattler.   There are many sub species in this family of pit vipers.  Some call it the “cane break” and most don’t get as big as these rare ones.  If you find an area that has one, well there is usually another. The neurotoxic component of the Type A venom is referred to as canebrake toxin, and is a phospholipase A2. It is analogous to the neurotoxins found in the venoms of several other rattlesnake species and, when present, contributes significantly to the overall toxicity. Other components found in the venom include a small basic peptide that works as a myotoxin, a fibrinogen-clotting enzyme that can produce defibrination syndrome, and a bradykinin-releasing enzyme.

After 22 months and over ten surgeries.

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