A Phoenix woman hiking along a trail stumbled across a couple of male rattlesnakes locked in an elaborately orchestrated “combat dance”. Frankly, it looks a lot like a mating ritual, especially when you consider that this behaviour is usually only seen during breeding season. But apparently they really are fighting.
“I noticed something across the wash, on the hill, waving, like ribbons caught on a bush or something,” Laura Miller told Arizona Highways. “I zoomed in with my camera and saw they were snakes.” She captured all that weaving and bobbing in two short videos:
This isn’t the first time unsuspecting lovers of the great outdoors have stumbled on battling rattlesnakes; it’s common behaviour, especially among diamondbacks. Back in 2014, Los Angeles mountain bikers came across a ‘combat dance’ that lasted a good five minutes, before the combatants slithered away. As Greg Pauly, a herpetologist at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, told The Dodo at the time:
Male rattlesnakes will often spend multiple days with a female until she is ready to mate. If another male comes along, the two males will engage in this “combat”. The combat typically involves the two rising up into the air and trying to push the other back to the ground. Usually the larger male wins and the other leaves the area.
That means that Miller made the right decision to pack up and walk away when she lost sight of her battling rattlesnakes. Chances are there was a female rattlesnake quite close by.