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Rattlesnake on my houseboat

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Active Member
I was down over the weekend, Saturday to Tuesday. We were staying on the east side of Halls Creek Bay on a sandy beach in the first large Bay, towards the front. Monday morning we had been sleeping on the top deck of the houseboat under the stars. A few minutes before 6 we decided to go downstairs and avoid the early sun. We gathered the sheets and pillows and started downstairs. When I got to the back screen door half asleep, I started opening it and saw something light colored across the door. I heard the rattle and closed the door simultaneously, while saying oh sh*t there's a rattlesnake on the boat. The snake slithered into the boat. We are freaked out by this time, and there are three kids under the age of ten sleeping in the bottom of the boat.
We ran to the front of the boat and I had locked the door the night before. I needed something to get the snake off the boat and grabbed a shovel, which was my only option besides a plastic rake.
When I got back to the back of the boat I couldn't see the snake but assumed it had slithered somewhere near the rear bed. I began taking everything out of the space next to the bed trying to find the rattle snake. I think I was awake by this point.
I found the snake in between the screen door and the door behind the curtain. It was not moving and didn't seem to know that it had been discovered. I got my better half to hold the curtain, much to her dismay. I started trying to get the snake onto the shovel and it started rattling. It was doing everything it could to get away from the shovel. It started going for the bed and I was being kindly asked by my better half to cut it's head off.
When it became apparent that I wasn't going to get it outside, that it was pissed and heading further into the boat I began using the shovel to slice at the snake and do as I had kindly been asked and cut the head off. The second hit was about four inches behind the head and the snake pretty much stopped.
The first time I came to the lake it was around 1986-87. I've been coming pretty regularly since, and am on my second houseboat now, this one a 60' aluminum monohull (my old boatel burned down in the fire at offshore a couple years ago). In that time there had only ever been one other sighting of a rattlesnake anywhere near us. That time it was in some tamarisk near shore and was shooed away easily.
At 1:30 that night my wife had walked downstairs for a snack and in retrospect thinks she got rattled at but didn't know what the sound was. This time I found a rattlesnake across the back door to my houseboat at sunrise. I'm glad it was me and not one of my kids or anyone else that walked into this snake.
Some research after we got home says it was probably a midget faded rattlesnake. It was 24" +/- about 1.5" around and pinkish, red sand colored. It had 6 rattles so it had shed at least six times, making it probably 2-3 years old. I was just told this snake's venom attacks the respiratory system and not the blood like other Rattlers. Also the venom is apparently 30-40 times more venomous than other larger ones. This one bites prey then goes away and waits for it to die.
I learned some things.
1. I regret leaving the back door and letting the snake out of my sight. Don't do this if you find one on your boat if you can help it. I'm glad the snake didn't go further into my boat or one of my kids may have been bitten. Had that happened, it would have been serious.
2. when doors are not all the way closed critters can get through the jamb and into the boat. I should have shut the door further and kept the snake trapped outside or at least in between doors. I was scared.
3. Not everyone knows what a rattlesnake sounds like. It's probably a good idea to make sure people at lake Powell know what the sound is. I did as soon as I heard it, but I also saw a snake.
4. Some rattlesnakes are nocturnal, and can get onto the back of a houseboat at night. Don't know what to do about this one. Any advice is appreciated.
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Escalante-Class Member
I hate snakes. All of them but especially rattlers.

Maybe because of my healthy respect (or to be more specific, sheer terror) of them, I can’t omagine anyone not knowing what that sound is when they hear it.

You offer sound advice should i have the misfortune of having one on our boat.


Well-Known Member
Maybe kinda on topic:
This last Saturday out in our front yard and not at Lake Powell so that's kinda why it is sorta on topic.

My wife was out trimming a small pampas grass bush when she came in and grabbed the camera. I asked what it was for and she said she found a snake under the pampas grass. I said perhaps I should take a look since the odds are pretty good it was poisonous. Turns out she was quite lucky that she did not get bitten.

This is what was there, about 18" long and appeared to be somewhat young. I'm guessing maybe a year old or so. I have trouble telling the midget faded from a western at a young age so I'm not sure which it is. Older is a lot easier since the faded is, aaah, well faded and drab. The young ones though have such pretty sharp colors.
I caught him and contained him/her in a bucket until a wildlife guy came by to get him. He was to be let loose out away from our neighborhood. It saved me the trouble of taking him out somewhere to release him.
This fellow looks to be somewhat young and quite pretty.

On an informational note: About two thirds of first strikes are either low venom or dry strikes from a rattler. Venom is quite precious and best not to waste it unnecessarily on scaring somebody away when a dry strike will do the job. This technique is developed with age and youngsters are not very good at it. What I am saying is you are more likely to receive a venomous strike from a youngster rather than an adult.



Well-Known Member
Like others, this would be my worst nightmare also!

I've been going to LP for 43 years (first trip in 1975 when I was 11), and regularly since 1991. I've only SEEN a rattlesnake two times - 1) on my first trip in 1975 over Memorial Day weekend, with water rising rapidly, a floating log up Cathedral Canyon had several rattlers on/in it that were not very happy about floating in the middle of the canyon, and 2) in Warm Creek in +/-2010, we saw two very large (4' range) rattlers sunning themselves on the rocks on an April hike with our dogs (luckily, the dogs didn't see them and we left the vicinity quickly).

Now, I've HEARD rattlers while hiking at LP over the years, but never did see them, and I've seen snake trails down to the water many times in the morning coming from higher ground for a drink or a swim, so I know snakes are plentiful in some specific canyons that we don't go to any longer for that reason, but I only heard them.

A story I told a while ago on this board - my daughter in law was about 20 yards above water level in Gunsight Canyon Memorial Day weekend 2016 petting lizards - she's smitten with the lizards at Lake Powell. She came back to the boat and told us that she kept hearing this strange sound while she was petting this lizard for 10 minutes. I pulled up YouTube and played the sound of a rattlesnake for her - sure enough that's what she was hearing!

Anyway, chrisut, thanks for the story - entertaining to read from behind my desk, with no signs of snakes anywhere near me, but otherwise scary, and informative to keep an eye out while on the lake for such things. And a good reminder to pull up the boarding ramp at night for my trip in a couple of weeks! -Doug
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Active Member
This was one of the few trips that I never put the boarding ramp down once. I have no idea how the snake got onto the boat, and my best guess is that it's swim up to the back of the boat and climbed up that way. Because it was on the back of the boat and there is no way to get there from the front of the boat other than either through the cabin, or over the top of the boat I can only assume it came up the back. Possibly could have come up one of the ropes I guess, but that seems unlikely as the ropes were loose enough that they were in the water as well.


Well-Known Member
I know people say let them be so they will reduce the mice population but they don't have my sympathy.

Serious recovery for any victim of a bite. Plus about 10 grand for anti venom. Usually not covered by insurance I'm told.
Plus 20 to 30 grand for chopper evacuation. Minimum for chopper ride I hear. Then the chopper company bills an 'additional' 30 grand
ending up driving some people into bankruptcy.
But..... we have spent a week on Powell every year but two since 1996 and never seen or heard one.
Only fearful of the Red Canyon Giraffe.


Well-Known Member
We had one curled up in the corner of the garage and couldn't move it without killing it unfortunately. The thing was still striking and moving for several minutes after the head was removed.


Well-Known Member
At least they were able to keep the rope out of the prop.
We used to have snakes climb in our small aluminum flat bottom boat while frog gigging at night on ponds.
The horror.....the horror


Escalante-Class Member
They do swim, and it isn't unusual for them to climb on a boat, also in monsoon season they do wash off the top of the cliff's......... and never just reach under a tamarisk w/o first looking.
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