Did you know snakes can swim?
LAKE HAVASU CITY – Swimmers know to look before they leap into the water to ensure it’s deep enough and there’s nothing to crash into. Now there’s another reason to look. There could be a rattlesnake in the water.
A 55-second video posted on Facebook over the weekend shows a rattler calmly floating around in Steamboat Cove on the Arizona side of Lake Havasu. Peter Quesada of Riverside, California shot the video from his boat at 8 p.m. Saturday.
“My wife and I wanted to go for an evening swim in the cove when we saw the snake,” Quesada said. “We pulled up to it and could definitely tell it was a rattler.”
The couple decided to cruise back to Bridgewater Channel. Once there, they chose not to swim.
“We ended up leaving the cove, but first we told everyone parked around there what we saw, to warn them,” he said.
The weekend visit was not Quesada’s first trip to Havasu, nor was it his first rattler sighting.
“I’ve been coming to Havasu since I was born,” said Quesada, 31. “This was the second time I’ve seen a rattlesnake here. The first time, I was a little boy and I saw (the rattler) on land.”
Snake sightings on water are not common, but they do occur, said Jeff Howland. Now the manager of the Bill Williams Wildlife Refuge, he previously worked as a herpetologist for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
“Snakes will go to the water to drink, but who knows why that snake was there,” Howland said of the Steamboat Cove serpent. “It could’ve fallen off a rock into the water, got lost and was just trying to get back to land. Regardless, the lake is not snakes’ primary habitat. But still, seeing one in the water is not that unusual.”
Quesada made the video of the rattler around 8 p.m. The time of day didn’t surprise Howland.
“Evening is when snakes are just coming out,” he said. Though the lake’s overall temperatures were cool – and refreshing – that day, he also doubted that the rattler was taking a swim to cool down.
“Snakes go underground to cool off,” he said.
Not all snakes swim, Howland added. But many do.
“They’re not real common on the Colorado River, but garter snakes spend a lot of time in the water. They eat fish,” he said.
Quesada certainly learned his lesson about snakes in the water.
“Keep your eyes open when you’re out on the water,” he said.
Howland agreed with that advice.
“A snake in the water can still bite,” he said. But he noted that it would be difficult for a rattlesnake to leap out and strike from the water.
“Normally, a rattler can strike out to a distance of about half of its body length. But it would be unusual for the snake to do that in the water. There’s nothing for it to push off of,” he said.