Many of us have heard stories by word of mouth and chain emails concerning a supposedly new phenomenon related to the behavior of native rattlesnakes of the south and southwest, alongside the presence of a growing number of the more recently introduced feral hogs.
The story goes that a thriving and growing population of feral hogs in this region has introduced a new behavior in rattlesnakes to generally cease from rattling in order to avoid detection by the hogs that are supposedly known to charge at a rattlesnake giving such a warning, as a desired source of food.
This theory assumes rattlesnakes are known or proven to have previously rattled more often before the increase in hog population than they have in recent years. Some have said, though, that rattlesnakes simply do not rattle that often---only as a last resort when directly provoked.
It also implies that the snakes must have each personally or nearly encountered a threatening herd of feral hogs a number of times in order to develop this new behavior of self-preservation.
If this was true, and these snakes previously survived these early encounters before the new learned behavior, would they see hogs as posing a serious threat at all?
It also seems the popular emails devoted to this subject lose some credibility when comparing their stories to their attached photos. The most common emails, with stories related to Texas, feature a photo of a giant eastern diamond-backed rattlesnake, which is native primarily to Georgia and Florida. Some have rarely been spotted in eastern Louisiana, but certainly not in a natural setting in Texas.
It has been documented that feral hogs have been known to eat rattlesnakes, but this is apparently the exception and not the rule.
I’ll admit that before some research I had not experienced or learned enough about this subject to begin to form a personal opinion. After this research, though, I found that my peers make some compelling arguments based upon evidence and personal experiences.
I’m left with the opinion that this phenomenon is not impossible or absolutely discredited, but that it is unlikely to be true.
With a few exceptions by county regulation, there is no closed season for the hunting of feral hogs, as their prevalence and destruction to ranch and farm operations is common and widely known throughout the state. And as for rattlesnakes, well, you be the judge.
It would be interesting to gain some new insight on this subject from some folks who may have personally observed the behavior of either of these two species recently or over a number of years.