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Posted by tedn on February 20, 2003 at 15:19:52:
Eastern Diamondback rattlers have a large projection above their eyes that makes it impossible for them to see above making it possible to pet them.
While working as lecturers at the old Ross Allen Reptile Institute in Silver Springs, Florida we would get bored and would often do silly things like pet the rattlers during the show! I would usually wait until the end of the lecture right after my rattlesnake would break the balloon. Telling my audience to watch for the fangs as the snake struck the balloon...which was so fast that it was obviously impossible to see them...then I'd reach down and pet the snake on top of its head! It would blow everyone away...the secret was to make sure the snake was watching my feet, instead of my hands, by moving my snake proof boots. The only time, that I'm aware of, that someone was bitten doing this was when the lecturer failed to move the other snakes far enough away. We would usually have twenty or thirty snakes out on the floor at one time. Ross Allen was bitten in one of these shows which cost him a year out of work. The rattler got him from behind and above the boot!