Timber rattlesnakes inhabit 50 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, making them relatively common, especially in the state’s rocky, forested areas. An albino rattlesnake, however, is an extremely rare sight, no matter the location.
With that in mind, when nature enthusiast John McCombie came across one while walking through a Pennsylvania forest, he knew documenting the “epic moment” was a must. At the very least, the special day would go down in his own personal history book, if not draw the admiration of countless other reptile enthusiasts online.
And draw admiration, it did, the stunning pink predator garnering thousands upon thousands of shares and comments in a single day.
At first, McCombie was checking out a typical timber rattlesnake, its signature grey-brown coloration blending in with the surrounding vegetation.
As he admired the regal rattler, however, something pinkish-white caught his eye. Refocusing his attention, he found it was another rattlesnake, this one smaller and the strangest color he’d ever seen.
“Based on its size, it was born last year between end of August and mid-September, so it’s likely less than 1 year old,” he told Newsweek.
“It was only about 12 to 15 inches long. It remained coiled up the entire time, so I couldn’t get an exact measurement. I watched this snake for over an hour and it did very little movement.”
Albinism in timber rattlesnakes is very rare, especially among adults
Sadly, the odds of this young snake reaching the ripe old age of 19 (the species’ average lifespan) are slim. Albinism, a genetic condition inhibiting the body’s production of melanin, is rare in timber rattlesnakes – and especially adult individuals – for a reason.
From a purely genetic standpoint, albinism is a highly unusual condition. Some scientists estimate it occurs once every hundred thousand births. Others, however, believe the number to be closer to one in a million.
It’s even rarer among adults because, as you can see, this little guy’s pinkish hue doesn’t exactly lend itself well to camouflage.
Timber rattlesnakes can bite and envenomate enemies to defend themselves if need be. Their primary defense, though, is their ability to blend into their surroundings. When given the option, the snake will run and hide rather than fight.
Snakes with albinism are at another disadvantage as well – the low levels of melanin can affect their vision. With less-than-perfect eyesight, the snake will have a far harder time hunting prey.
If this albino timber rattlesnake manages to survive, it will reach maturity between four and six years old if it’s male and between nine and ten if it’s female. At full size, it will stretch 2.5 to 5 feet in length, if it’s an average specimen. At the very largest, it could grow to 7 feet long.
The good thing is, you never have to worry about accidentally stepping on the albino rattler and receiving a bite in return. As long as you’re halfway watching where you’re going, you’ll see its pink scales from a mile away.