Rattlesnake-Kangaroo Rat Interactions



This clip shows the predatory strike of a mojave rattlesnake towards a Merriam’s kangaroo rat. Note that as in the squirrel clip, after envenomating the prey the snake releases it and then uses its highly refined chemosensory abilities to relocate the prey item after it has been immobilized and killed by the venom. However, kangaroo rats are saltatory species and probably leave a very disjunct chemical trail on the substrate when they are moving rapidly. Thus, it may take quite a while for snakes to relocate kangaroo rats that have fled. We found this snake swallowing a dead kangaroo rat the next afternoon (over 18 hours after the strike). The kangaroo rat had only moved 20 meters from the site of the strike.


This clip shows one of the first natural signaling interactions we’ve recorded between a desert kangaroo rat and a sidewinder rattlesnake. If you watch carefully, you’ll be able to see the kangaroo rat exhibit the characteristic foot-stomping signal given in the presence of snake predators. The sidewinder snake is poking his head out of the burrow entrance. The audio is recorded from the geophone placed near the snake (the tube at the end of the black cord), which allows us to hear the substrate vibrations produced by the foot-thumping of the kangaroo rat. Although snakes aren’t highly sensitive to high-frequency airborne sounds, they hear substate-borne vibrations very well. Also, note that since this clip was recorded using our real-time wireless cameras, the camera operator is able to control the pan/tilt/zoom mechanism of the camera to see more details. In addition, the camera operator can then alert the field crew to the interaction, allowing us to reposition cameras if necessary (i.e., if the snake leaves the field of view of the camera).