The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 11-08-2003, 08:28 PM
AskNott AskNott is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Anderson, IN,USA
Posts: 14,062
Does a rattlesnake really smell like watermelon?

An old friend of mine was a hunter and a top-notch trap shooter. I'm a city feller with very little woods sense. When he'd spin his tales of deer, rabbits, squirrels, and coyotes, I really had no reason to doubt what he said. He once told me, "If you're walking along, and you suddenly smell watermelon, stop in your tracks. Look around, and listen for a rattlesnake." I'd never seen a rattlesnake outside of a zoo, but I filed that away.

Well, the last time I saw old Dan, he was about to retire. It was late 1999, and he laid a bunch of paranoia on me about stockpiling guns, the impending UN takeover, and running the highways backwards. "Ye cats," I thought, "my old friend has gone off the rails." It made me very sad, and I didn't think until much later that the hunter's lore might have been just as crazy.

So, tell me. Does a rattlesnake smell like watermelon?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 11-08-2003, 08:35 PM
Blackdragon Blackdragon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Of course they do, all members of the animal kingdom smell like a fruit. Frogs, lime. Koalas, kiwi. Penguins, banana. Antelopes, apple. Unicorns, pomegranate. And so on.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 11-08-2003, 08:55 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 10,519
Re: Does a rattlesnake really smell like watermelon?

Quote:
Originally posted by AskNott


So, tell me. Does a rattlesnake smell like watermelon?
No.

Rattlesnakes ( and I've had my hands on a few ) smell like rattlesnakes, which is not even remotely close to watermelon. It's a slightly musky odor, actually.

- Tamerlane
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 11-08-2003, 08:59 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 10,519
Oh and the odds of smelling a rattlesnake before you hear one is probably close to nil, unless you come across a den full of estivating animals. They don't generally stink that strongly as individuals unless you are up close.

- Tamerlane
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 11-08-2003, 11:02 PM
Zoe Zoe is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
When I was about seven or eight years old a young friend of mine told me that if you smell watermelon to be careful, there is a snake close by. I have never in over fifty years heard anything else about it until your post. At least I know she wasn't just making that up to scare me.

I would trust those who have handled snakes to know the truth though.

Blackdragon, I was taking your answer perfectly seriously until I got to the last one. Unicorns really smell like casabas. The uninitiated are told that they smell like pomegranate before they take part in the Great March of the Celestial Virgins. You do know about the march, don't you?
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 11-08-2003, 11:05 PM
Nametag Nametag is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: California
Posts: 7,728
No, they don't smell anything like watermelon. However, when left to their own ground, rattlesnakes like to get together for Midori daiquiris, and at such times there is a definite melon scent to the air.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 11-08-2003, 11:11 PM
Nametag Nametag is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: California
Posts: 7,728
No, they don't smell anything like watermelon. However, when left to their own ground, rattlesnakes like to get together for Midori daiquiris, and at such times there is a definite melon scent to the air.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 11-08-2003, 11:38 PM
DreadCthulhu DreadCthulhu is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: R'lyeh
Posts: 2,007
Well, all the rattlesnakes I have eaten have smelled like, as well as tasted like, chicken.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 11-08-2003, 11:45 PM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Maybe they got it confused with rattlesnake watermelons?
(Why are they called that, anyways? Because of the pattern on the rind?)
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 11-08-2003, 11:57 PM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
No, it's because, unlike other watermelons, a rattlesnake watermelon, when left in the sun, will totally desiccate before decomposing, making a cheerful rattle.

100% of FACT.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 11-09-2003, 12:04 AM
Triskadecamus Triskadecamus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Please, let's not all rush out and begin sniffing rattlesnakes. Why don't we leave this one to professionals?

Cecil?

Ed?

Hmmmmm.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 11-09-2003, 02:00 AM
Derleth Derleth is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
I once faced down a rattler, and I was in no mood to get close enough to smell it.

In fact, my main goal was to avoid getting that close involuntarily.

I don't recall a smell at all, come to think of it.
__________________
"Ridicule is the only weapon that can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them."
If you don't stop to analyze the snot spray, you are missing that which is best in life. - Miller
I'm not sure why this is, but I actually find this idea grosser than cannibalism. - Excalibre, after reading one of my surefire million-seller business plans.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 11-09-2003, 02:08 AM
DougC DougC is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
- - - Also: as far as IL snakes go, when they "rattle", they don't rattle, they buzz: it souds like a hornet hovering, but louder. The tips of their tails will shake back and forth about a quarter-inch, about as fast as a hummingbird moves its wings--so fast the end of the tail is just a blur.
~
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 11-09-2003, 05:05 AM
An Arky An Arky is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 8,325
Dunno about rattlesnakes, but Water Moccasins (sp?) most definitely have a musky odor, almost like B.O. or something.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 11-09-2003, 06:51 AM
fireman fireman is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
The one time I came across a rattlesnake in the wild, I thought it smelled like sh*t, until I realized that was me I was smelling!
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 11-09-2003, 08:47 AM
Kreekurmudgeon Kreekurmudgeon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
An Arky is correct about the water moccasins (cottonmouth moccasins, a.k.a "stump-tail"). They smell musky to me, though I've heard some people describe it as watermelon odor.[B]
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 11-09-2003, 11:18 AM
chorpler chorpler is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Vegas, baby!
Posts: 3,259
Quote:
Originally posted by Nametag
No, they don't smell anything like watermelon. However, when left to their own ground, rattlesnakes like to get together for Midori daiquiris, and at such times there is a definite melon scent to the air.
Nametag is my hero.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 11-10-2003, 07:51 AM
plnnr plnnr is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
I was working with a USGS survey team one summer and we unearthed a nest of copperhead young (eggs and some newborns) - the whole area smelled like cucumbers. I don't know if the same would hold true for rattlesnakes or not.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 11-10-2003, 08:13 AM
SentientMeat SentientMeat is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2002
I believe "Smells Like Estivating Rattlesanke" was the original working title for the grunge anthem by Nirvana.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 11-10-2003, 11:25 AM
lieu lieu is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Bedrock
Posts: 24,974
I've shot and cut the heads off several water moccassins before and brought them home either to skin or use in a prank. They do indeed have a musty, dirty smell that reeks of decay. Don't know that it made me think of melons but it twern't real pleasant.

A friend has a couple of rattlers under glass now. Let me check with him and get back to you, although I'd generally tend to give good weight to Tamerlane's opinion.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 11-10-2003, 10:17 PM
AskNott AskNott is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Anderson, IN,USA
Posts: 14,062
When old Dan first told me that, I thought I'd want to wear thick boots to harvest watermelons in rattler country.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 11-11-2003, 12:55 AM
n2o n2o is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
I've had a few old timers tell me Cooperheads smell like cucumbers. Me and my fathers friend was walking in a field and I caught a hint of cucumbers in the air. About the time i got the words out of my mouth he was running back to the car.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 11-11-2003, 02:13 AM
t-keela t-keela is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
I've handled several rattlesnakes and eaten a few. Also handled plenty of moccasins, copperhead, coral, and others. Wild snakes have a stench that hard to describe. It's not real strong or overpowering unless you get it on your hands. Then it is quite noticable.

If any of you have ever smelled a rotten watermelon in the field. Actually had some on you...you know got a good dose of it. It has a certain stench that could be considered similar. Ripe watermelons smell great, sweet, delicious...fried rattlesnake smells sweet and delicious but not like a watermelon.

The only time I smelled watermelons and saw a snake was when I used to haul watermelons as a kid. Snakes like to hang out in the watermelon patches because the sand is warm and the prey is plentiful (field mice, lizards, moles, gopher etc.).

Never heard it said snakes smell like watermelons before. Actually made me laugh until I gave it some thought.

You can bet I'm gonna check it out more. Hell, I see snakes quite often.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 11-22-2012, 09:58 PM
Collin237 Collin237 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2012
A "rattlesnake" is a type of watermelon cultivated in the South before the Civil War. The name refers to its pattern of stripes.

Perhaps Dan was making a joke about the Civil War.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 11-22-2012, 10:44 PM
al27052 al27052 is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 1,331
I know some Guaymi Indians down in Costa Rica who can actually smell snakes from several yards away.

I wouldn't have believed them, but their demonstrated sense of smell was ridiculously good. Every time I cut into a papaya, if they were anywhere within 100 yards or so, they would show up within 2-3 minutes for a slice. I'm pretty sure they were smelling it.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 11-22-2012, 11:24 PM
AncientHumanoid AncientHumanoid is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by al27052 View Post
I'm pretty sure they were smelling it.
Fruit to Human Telepathy.

::Now You Know::
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 11-22-2012, 11:42 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by al27052 View Post
I know some Guaymi Indians down in Costa Rica who can actually smell snakes from several yards away.

I wouldn't have believed them, but their demonstrated sense of smell was ridiculously good. Every time I cut into a papaya, if they were anywhere within 100 yards or so, they would show up within 2-3 minutes for a slice. I'm pretty sure they were smelling it.
Either that, or there are always some snakes within 100 yards of wherever you are.
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 11-22-2012, 11:46 PM
johnpost johnpost is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by al27052 View Post
I know some Guaymi Indians down in Costa Rica who can actually smell snakes from several yards away.

I wouldn't have believed them, but their demonstrated sense of smell was ridiculously good. Every time I cut into a papaya, if they were anywhere within 100 yards or so, they would show up within 2-3 minutes for a slice. I'm pretty sure they were smelling it.
zombie or no

you would think with all their jungle skills they could find their own food and not just smell other peoples food.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 11-23-2012, 12:08 AM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 22,523
Rattlesnakes don't smell like watermelon but Hoop snakes smell just like new tires and can be detected up to 50 yards away by the smell alone. Unfortunately, that is still not far enough to escape if you catch a whiff.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 11-23-2012 at 12:09 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 11-23-2012, 08:59 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
Keeping my password unchanged
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Just mentioning that cucumbers do smell a lot like watermelon. Same family, I think.

But then, you have to ask, what do watermelons smell like? Do they smell as well as trained bloodhounds do?
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 11-23-2012, 09:10 AM
wedgehed wedgehed is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
No.

Rattlesnakes ( and I've had my hands on a few ) smell like rattlesnakes, which is not even remotely close to watermelon. It's a slightly musky odor, actually.

- Tamerlane

So...rattlesnakes smell like muskmelons?

Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 11-23-2012, 09:30 AM
Floater Floater is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
No, snakes use their tongues and Jacobson's organs to smell and I don't think melons are equipped with those.
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 11-23-2012, 09:53 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 55,260
I've never really been aware that even watermelons smell like watermelons. So far as I can tell, watermelons are sugar water with an interesting texture, and no distinguishing aroma at all.
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 11-23-2012, 10:24 AM
CannyDan CannyDan is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: East coast of Florida
Posts: 2,143
As long as this zombie is open anyway -- no, rattlesnakes don't smell like watermelon. I've handled hundreds, of perhaps a dozen or more species, and they all smell like rattlesnake.

And while we are dealing with myths, the quote upthread about someone who "unearthed a nest of copperhead young (eggs and some newborns)" is mistaken. The copperhead is ovoviviparous, meaning that shell-less eggs are retained within the body of the female until they hatch, and she then "gives birth" to live young. There are no copperhead "nests" containing eggs to be found anywhere.
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 11-23-2012, 10:27 AM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
I've heard the same warning about snakes. I was under the impression that the smell was from glands when they get upset.

Many animals produce a musky order when scared or upset. Even humans have the "smell of fear" when they are extremely frightened.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0306142536.htm

Quote:
When threatened, many animals release chemicals as a warning signal to members of their own species, who in turn react to the signals and take action. Research by Rice University psychologist Denise Chen suggests a similar phenomenon occurs in humans.

Last edited by aceplace57; 11-23-2012 at 10:29 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 11-23-2012, 11:14 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
I think watermelons smell like rattlesnakes. Probably a defensive adaptation on the part of the watermelons.
Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 11-23-2012, 11:28 AM
Napier Napier is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Mid Atlantic, USA
Posts: 7,981
Quote:
Originally Posted by An Arky View Post
Dunno about rattlesnakes, but Water Moccasins (sp?) most definitely have a musky odor, almost like B.O. or something.
Around here, it is said that water moccasins smell like cucumber. I don't know if it's true or not. Anybody else heard this?
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 11-23-2012, 12:39 PM
CannyDan CannyDan is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: East coast of Florida
Posts: 2,143
Quote:
Originally Posted by Napier View Post
Around here, it is said that water moccasins smell like cucumber. I don't know if it's true or not. Anybody else heard this?
No, but I've heard the cucumber thing applied to copperheads. I've only handled a small number of copperheads, although I kept a pair on display for several years. They could, when annoyed, threatened, or otherwise provoked, expel a musky smelling fluid from glands near the cloaca. All were decidedly non-cucumberish.

I have handled multiple hundreds of water moccasins, captured them in the wild (this sometimes involving swimming in the Everglades at night wearing a head lamp and carrying a 'snake hook'), bred them, exhibited them, and consider myself pretty familiar with them. They are in the same genus as copperheads, Agkistrodon. Same musk, and same lack of vegetable odors.
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 11-23-2012, 09:45 PM
al27052 al27052 is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 1,331
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnpost View Post
zombie or no

you would think with all their jungle skills they could find their own food and not just smell other peoples food.
They didn't want to spend all day foraging in the jungle, I guess. The whole reason I even knew them was because they wanted to live in the "big city", i.e., the tiny 10-home town at the literal end of the road in extremely rural southern Costa Rica. The Guaymi that were happier on their "middle of nowhere" reservation in the middle of the jungle stayed on their reservation.
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 11-23-2012, 10:37 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
Keeping my password unchanged
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
That might be because their fathers smell like elderberries.
Reply With Quote
  #41  
Old 11-24-2012, 05:58 AM
dimmy derko dimmy derko is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 868
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackdragon View Post
Of course they do, all members of the animal kingdom smell like a fruit. Frogs, lime. Koalas, kiwi. Penguins, banana. Antelopes, apple. Unicorns, pomegranate. And so on.
Nobody else has done it yet, so let me be the first to say that this is the best response EVAH to the question "Does a rattlesnake really smell of watermelon?" and I'll salute you, even if nobody else did.

Last edited by dimmy derko; 11-24-2012 at 06:00 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #42  
Old 11-24-2012, 11:59 AM
Freakenstein Freakenstein is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by Napier View Post
Around here, it is said that water moccasins smell like cucumber. I don't know if it's true or not. Anybody else heard this?
No, moccasin snakes smell like feet. So whenever You sense that smell, RUN!
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:43 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.