It began with the Wildlife Trivia Question of the Week in News.bytes issue 295
: "Western rattlesnakes prey mostly on small mammals and lizards, and birds when available. But what preys on western rattlesnakes?"
G.W. writes: "Wait , now... you're telling me that VOLES prey on rattlesnakes? Everything else I could believe, including the poultry chef :-), and I guessed all the rest... but voles? Unless they eat the eggs..."
Editor's response: An unfortunately unclear wording of the answers. Answer (d.) should have read something like: " Mammals, but not those listed above."
The correct answer would then be:
(d.) Mammals, but not those listed above
(g.) Other snakes
First off, as a long-time colleague of BLMers, let me send my thanks to you for News.Bytes and to BLM generally for the good work you do. Multiple-use philosophies are indeed difficult to implement in a diverse society such as ours.
But relative to rattlesnakes and voles, perhaps you have neglected to consider the often-overlooked desert panther vole (Lagurus curtatus desertensis Pool 2006) which grows as large as a cat and consumes large numbers of rattlesnakes, storing them in underground chambers for winter-time food. Often their upper canine teeth will grow to a length of six inches and become razor-sharp. This creature was originally described and named by the BLM California State Director [Mike Pool], who studies desert wildlife in his spare time.
Curiously, although rattlesnakes and kingsnakes are normally mortal enemies, they sometimes hunt in pairs. While the rattlesnake distracts the prey by the normal tail-rattling, the kingsnake, being a constrictor, sneaks into sleeping bags of desert visitors, winds itself around their necks, and slowly strangles them. Unfortunately, the rattlesnake, because of its awesome reputation, often gets blamed for this.
It is also a little-known fact that the kingsnake adds a ring to its body coloration for each of its victims, not unlike the gunslinger of the Old West, who would likewise carve another notch in the grip of his Colt 45.
We thank Phil for helping to un-clarify this issue of voles and rattlesnakes for the benefit of our readers.