Local Pacific rattlesnake populations could soar as a result of climate change, according to a recent study conducted by California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.
Scientists remarked that it was unusual to find a species expected to benefit from the 2.5- to 10-degree Fahrenheit increase in ambient air temperatures predicted over the next few decades.
According to Cal Poly News, rattlers are experts at thermoregulation. Researchers found that, when given a choice, the snakes prefer a body temperature of 86-89 degrees Fahrenheit, a much warmer temperature than they generally experience in nature. The average body temperature of coastal rattlesnakes in the study was 70 degrees, and for inland rattlers it was 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
The air temperature rise is expected to increase both the number of months per year and the number of hours per day that rattlesnakes are active, providing them with a longer active season and more opportunities to breed and feed.
“Specifically, snakes will be able to emerge from overwintering earlier in the year and, in turn, wait until later months before going back into hiding,” the researchers wrote.
What’s more, rattlesnakes are not likely to suffer from hunger or starvation. Even though their main prey—rodents—are expected to be negatively impacted by climate change, researchers found that adult snakes channel energy so efficiently, they can survive on as few as 500 calories a year.
While some fear that more snakes may increase the number of rattlesnake bites in the future, researchers stated rattlesnakes are generally timid and only bite if they feel threatened.