We used fixed videography to record the natural ambush foraging behavior of northern Pacific rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus) in central coastal California. We captured approximately 2,000 h of snake behavior over two field seasons. During this time we recorded two occurrences of an unusual behavior which has only been reported twice previously: after selecting sites at which to ambush prey, two different snakes used their anterior bodies to move vegetation away from their strike path. Both individuals used similar stereotyped behavior, forcibly jerking their head and neck upward in a rapid movement. The head jerks were either preceded or followed by head-scanning and lateral head movements. These observations suggest that hunting rattlesnakes may be able to anticipate future events and use past experiences to solve current problems. This report adds to the growing literature on reptile intelligence.
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Vol. 60 • No. 4