Lately, folks across the country have witnessed a strange mating dance between rattlesnakes that appear romantic but are actually quite dangerous.
In actuality, the “dance” is ritual combat. It occurs when two timber rattlesnakes males compete for the attention of a nearby female. Recently, an Indiana hiker found a pair of potential mates caught in the strange dance and observed from a safe distance. But really, with how focused these two rattlesnakes were on their opponents, it doesn’t seem that they cared much where the human wandered, so long as he didn’t interrupt their dance.
In this instance, Nick Engler was hiking the Grubb Ridge Trail near Bloomington, Indiana when he spotted the two rattlers in the brush. It’s one thing to spot or hear a rattler on the side of the trail, but to catch such an intense moment on film is pretty spectacular.
Check out the clip below.
At first glance, it seems like the two rivals are actually lovers, tangling each other in a moment of passion. But once you look closer, you’ll notice that the snakes are actually battling for dominance, methodically pinning each other’s tails and constantly searching for the right moment to strike.
Engler posted the clip to the Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio Snake Identification and Education’s Facebook page where he received a lot of praise for his catch. There was also a good bit of admiration for Engler’s panting hiking partner, waiting patiently on the other side of the trail.
“This is two male snakes engaging in ritual combat,” Engler wrote in the comments of his post.
He continued, “They’re trying to assert dominance to impress a nearby female. Neither snake dies and did not in this case, one just slithered away after about 20 minutes of this.”
Indiana Hiker Compares Rattlesnake Ritual Combat to ‘Snake Charming’
As Engler alluded to, the ritual combats that timber rattlesnakes demonstrated isn’t typically one that ends in a fatality, though they may last a long while before one male actually submits to the other.
Of course, to the passing hiker, the regular demonstration of the timber rattlesnakes is quite rare.
“The way they were suspended vertically looked like those snake charming videos and it just didn’t seem real at first,” Engler recalled in the comments of the post. “I have never seen anything like this before.”
And, in fact, herpetologist Phil Colcouch with Zoo Knoxville confirmed the “secretive” nature of this species.
“Rattlesnakes are really secretive animals, let alone in combat, but once you’re there and seeing it, they’re pretty oblivious to the world around them. They are laser-focused on that combat,” Colcouch told WBIR after a separate rattlesnake ritual dance.
That said, if you do happen to catch the rarely-seen ritual dance of two rattlesnakes, it’s best to keep your distance and observe from afar.