Is This a Real Photo of a Rattlesnake That Died in a Wildfire?
An image of a frozen, charred snake that circulated after California wildfires is real, but it was taken during an earlier fire in Oregon.
Its caption read:
A rattlesnake frozen in death during the California wildfires. His last defiant act was to strike at the flames that consumed him. RIP dear snake.
This particular image (inaccurately) featured a location of “Paradise Valley Estates.” Many thus connected the image to the town of Paradise, California, which was devastated by the catastrophic Camp Fire, which started in early November 2018.
When this snake could not outrun a Northern California Wildfire, he stopped, turned around, and decided to die fighting. Be the snake. pic.twitter.com/Mntn7FNalO
— Jesse Ryan USA (@JesseRyanUSA) August 14, 2018
It is the Taylor Creek Fire “Don’t Tread On Me” photo.
Dustin Davis, 32, of College Place, Washington, shot the photo of a rattlesnake frozen in its fiery death throes on Wednesday, August 8th, 2018 at 12:55 PM local time during the early stages of the Taylor Creek fire in Oregon. Davis was fighting the fire as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment of the Oregon National Guard.
Davis told me Monday night in an interview on Facebook Messenger that, “On a mop-up mission my buddy Miles and I stumbled upon that little guy. I knelt down and took the picture with my iPhone. I was very intrigued by the way it had died and was really moved by it.”
The striking pose of the dead rattlesnake is shocking, but not unprecedented. We were able to find a query about a similar situation from 2016, but with no satisfying answer:
so a few years back a wild fire tore through rual valley center ca. while out walking several weeks later I came across a small cast iron oven and when I opened it there inside was a baby rattle snake that had died while in the striking position .how could this be .it wasn’t laying down or hadn’t collapsed from the smoke or heat but was seriously angry at that fire .so I looked around and found another between some rocks.crazy.how could this have happened since there were other animals lying on the ground that hadn’t survived the heat or smoke.im just looking for an answer for this incredible act
It is possible that these snakes died and were frozen by a form of cadaveric spasm, in which muscles can “freeze” into position during death:
The condition is not part of rigor mortis, which is characterized by a progressive rigidity of the deceased body due to biomechanical changes in muscles occurring 10-12 hours after death. Cadaveric spasm is a persistent occurrence when it happens, and the individual will continue to hold that pose from death until putrefaction allows for decay of the affected limb. However, cadaveric spasm can be seen in archaeological remains if the affected limb is buried. It has been argued that cadaveric spasm is most likely associated with high muscular exertion prior to death in especially intense emotional situations. Often it is associated with violent deaths and major disturbance of the nervous system.
This haunting image of a snake frozen in the aftermath of a wildfire is real, but it wasn’t taken during the Camp Fire of November 2018 (when the iteration at the top of this page was shared). The photograph was snapped by Dustin Davis during the Taylor Creek Fire in Oregon as most initial versions stated. However, as early as August 14 2018, a Twitter user misplaced the location of the image as “Northern California.”