Project RattleCam MegaDen Camera

Project RattleCam is expanding!
Help us unlock the secret lives of rattlesnakes with a second RattleCam at a MegaDen in Colorado!

We need your help to fund this project. Dr. Emily Taylor and her grad students are busy studying mother and baby rattlesnakes on-site in Colorado at the MegaDen, and I'll be her fundraising assistant (Tanya). I currently volunteer to relocate rattlesnakes with Central Coast Snake Services, and I'm totally obsessed with the RattleCam. I hope you will be too!


Current Setup
We have one RattleCam on the central coast of California, which helps scientists study the behavior of wild Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes, and you can watch them go about their day by visiting https://rattlecam.org. The camera is at a rookery, which is a "communal nursery" where pregnant female rattlesnakes gather to bask and then care for their babies. While we're still learning more about the secret lives of rattlesnakes, it appears the females raise babies collectively, as a group.

Goals and Budget
Our goal is to place a second RattleCam on a MegaDen in Colorado, which is where hundreds of pregnant female Prairie Rattlesnakes gather to have their babies (pups) in late summer. Dr. Emily Taylor is currently on-site hosting a huge study on the female snakes, and you can check out her exciting updates here: https://twitter.com/Rattlecams. You can also view some past photos of the Colorado location at the Zooniverse study . We hope a RattleCam at a larger den with more snakes can not only raise awareness and interest in these awesome animals, but also answer some of the many questions about rattlesnake behaviors that are not yet answered. For instance:
  • Do the same snakes return to the same place each time they give birth?
  • Do the babies born at a rookery return to the same place to birth their own pups?
  • Do pups prefer their mother, or will other mothers care for them equally?
  • How many snakes give birth at the location each year, and when?

Help us find out!!

We estimate our costs to be around $15,000 for equipment to operate a camera entirely remotely, including the camera itself, batteries, solar panels, and streaming equipment so we can all watch the live stream together. We also have stretch goals, and there will be operational costs to maintain the equipment and a stream using a cell data plan since it's not near any internet, so we can and will make use of any donations beyond our goal. All funds raised here (after taxes and fees) go to purchasing equipment for and operating RattleCams.

We also often have swag for sale that benefits the project, as well as our free snake relocation program, hosted by our parent company, Central Coast Snake Services (CCSS). Please check out our website, and sign up for the newsletter there: https://www.centralcoastsnakeservices.com/

If you're interested in making a tax-deductible donation that can be matched by your (and your spouse's) employer, here are steps to donate through Cal Poly, it's very important to specify the project as instructed so that it reaches Project RattleCam, otherwise it goes to a general fund.

Thanks for joining us in this community science project to share the secret lives of snakes with the world!

About Rattlesnakes
Rattlesnakes are amazing, docile, and beneficial animals that are one of the most misunderstood and unfairly judged. They can live up to 60 years and have complex social lives, hanging out with family and friends, which RattleCams are now helping us to understand. They are one of the only reptiles that give live birth (no eggs!) and care for their babies for the first couple weeks before sending them out into the world. They live secretive lives that we hope to learn more about through this project.

Rattlesnakes are so amazing for several reasons, and actually beneficial! Like many snakes, they eat rodents, which are pests to people and crops. Check out this snake we relocated that removed a huge rat from a burrow near the home and ate it before we relocated it a safe distance away. By controlling rodents, rattlesnakes help control diseases spread by rodents, and reduce rodent damage to homes. Furthermore, their venoms are used to create and inspire drugs to help fight illness such as blood clots, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. They live in areas with extreme drought and need little food or water to survive, and may benefit in some ways from climate change.

While it's true that rattlesnake bites pose a fatal risk to humans and pets, bites are very uncommon because snakes do not want to bite. Rattlesnakes only bite in self-defense, when they feel threatened, and they would always rather escape to a safe place than bite if possible. In my personal experience relocating rattlesnakes, when spotted they either duck quickly down a burrow or hold perfectly still, hoping you won't see them, because they're scared of you. Most of them don't try to bite or rattle at all, even after grabbing them with snake tongs; they are incredibly docile animals unless provoked. Most bites to humans occur when one is accidentally stepped on, or when humans intentionally interact with them. That's why it's best to respect the animal, give it space and leave it alone, and stay on trails where snakes won't be underfoot.

If you're concerned about your pets, we recommend leashing to keep them on trails and out of snake habitat like grass and brush, and also finding a local trainer for Rattlesnake Aversion Training because pets can be curious and investigate a snake. Our parent company, Central Coast Snake Services, hosts this training regularly for people local to the California central coast; please contact us at our website for details: https://www.centralcoastsnakeservices.com/. You can also watch a presentation put on by Dr. Emily Taylor about Keeping Your Dog Safe in Snake Country for more information.

About Dr. Emily Taylor
Emily is a herpetologist, environmental physiologist, and Professor of Biological Sciences at the California Polytechnic State University who has been studying mating systems and physiology of rattlesnakes for 25 years. She is thrilled to continue spying on rattlesnakes alongside you all in this community science project.

Emily also founded Central Coast Snake Services to assist people in safely managing interactions with rattlesnakes, one of the only animals in California that are potentially deadly to humans, providing snake ID, free residential rattlesnake removal (what I do!), snake rehabilitation, snake safety training for people and pets, and rattlesnake exclusion fencing on the California central coast.

More Links
See our links page for more articles and presentations: https://www.centralcoastsnakeservices.com/press--links.html

Project RattleCam is brought to you by scientists from Cal Poly SLO, Central Coast Snake Services, and Dickinson College.

About Me
As mentioned above, my name is Tanya; cybersecurity incident responder by day, volunteer rattlesnake relocator for CCSS when the snakes call (see some of the snakes we've relocated here), and houseplant and succulent hobbyist in my spare time. I'm passionate about changing the outlook on snakes; they're not scary they're scared of you, and are impressive animals in so many ways. I enjoyed a rattlesnake safari with Emily, and I brought in the Rubber Boa my partner found. I'm honored to help with this project.
  • Jessica Wadleigh 
    • $20 
    • 6 d
  • Anonymous 
    • $10 
    • 7 d
  • Allyson Burke 
    • $10 
    • 8 d
  • JAMES MAUGHN 
    • $25 
    • 9 d
  • Karen Matthews 
    • $50 
    • 13 d
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Tanya L 
Organizer
San Luis Obispo, CA
Emily Taylor 
Beneficiary