Bob at The Journey has posted yet another photo of a rattlesnake, this one at Humpback Rock located along the Blue Ridge Parkway. He noted that the rangers have called this an "unusual" snake season.
I have a theory of why it would be an unusual year for snakes: the rain. It has been extremely wet this spring. I base that theory on something that occurred in 2000.
When I saw Bob's post, I pulled out my Guide to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park book, a dog-eared, worn copy that I've had for years, and looked up written notes from almost a decade ago.
In 2000, we had a wet summer in the mountains and Shenandoah Valley. On September 2, my sister, brother-in-law, SWAC Niece (who was only five years old at the time), my husband and two kids (who were 12 and 16) took a picnic lunch to the Skyline Drive to spend the day in the Park after a weekend camping trip had been rained out. When we got to Milepost 77.5, the Ivy Creek Overlook, we pulled in and decided to tailgate and make sandwiches for everyone while the kids stretched their legs and explored.
SWAC Niece was walking on the rock wall when her dad, who had also hopped on the wall, cautioned her to get down. Stretched out lengthwise and sunning on the other side of the wall were three full-grown snakes ... two were copperheads and one was a black rattlesnake. I timidly peeked over the wall because I thought he was kidding us ... why would a rattlesnake and copperheads be in the same vicinity like that? Besides, I had heard of black rattlesnakes but had never seen one.
There they were, three snakes stretched out at the base of the wall soaking up the warmth in the cool air, completely unfazed by visitors.
About that time another vehicle pulled into the overlook and a little kid in flip flops about four years old jumped out and headed straight for the break in the wall leading to the grassy side that sloped down the mountain. My brother-in-law immediately called out to the parents who stopped the child from going any further.
The sight of so many venomous snakes at a Park overlook was such an unusual event that I made notes in the guide book for future reference.
Later that day we talked with rangers who told us the wet, cool weather had caused unusual snake sightings. So I'm wondering if the wet, cool spring this year has caused more snakes to seek out the warmness of rocks and walls to stay warm which has made them more visible to hikers.
Whatever the reason, be alert out there.