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Western diamondback rattlesnake        Images © Mark A. Chappell

Western diamondbacks (Crotalus atrox) are notorious for their nervous dispositions and impressively aggressive defensive behavior.   Coupled with their large size and wide distribution, these characteristics makes them one of the most dangerous of the rattlesnakes -- although the percentage of bites that end fatally is very small, and simple precautions will prevent most bites in the first place.   One of these snakes (upper left) was captured by a friend in the southeastern California desert; I photographed it on a sand pile that resembled the sand dune-mesquite habitat where it was caught.   I used a long-focus macro lens to keep my distance from the snake, which (understandably) was not happy about the situation.   The other snake was photographed -- also with long lenses --under a small bush near a campground on the eastern shore of the Salton Sea in southeastern California.   I gently (and carefully) prodded it out into the open with the handle of a butterfly net, and it posed in a striking coil in the shade for quite a while.   A friend and I took many pictures, and so did several tourists who wandered by and wondered what we were doing.

  • Nikon F2, Nikon 200mm macro lens, Kodachrome 64 (1979)
  • Canon 1D4, 800 mm IS lens with extension tubes, or 70-200 mm f4 IS zoom, some with 1.4X extender, 300 mm f4 (borrowed from a friend), most with fill-in flash (2011)