'He's a special snake': Rare, blonde timber rattlesnake now on display in Mississippi

JACKSON, Ms. – It is probably one of the rarest rattlesnakes that most people will ever see. With a genetic condition that left the timber rattlesnake with a creamy blonde appearance, it stands out in the wild and statistically wouldn't have survived.
However, this survived to adulthood and was captured and moved to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, where it is now on display.
"People come in to look at the snake specifically," said Jamie Merrill, the museum's conservation biologist. "It's a beautiful snake. People think it's beautiful."
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Merrill said the snake has a genetic condition called T-positive, which makes its coloration very different from regular wooden rattlesnakes.
Although not a true albino, a rare genetic condition caused this timber rattlesnake found by Yazoo County's Danielle Ladner to appear nearly white, and the snake is considered so rare that the likelihood of encountering one is unknown is.
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A rare snake
"It's pigment reduction, not complete pigment loss," Merrill said. “It's off-white with tan chevrons.
“T-negative would be a total loss of pigment. T-positive are slightly rarer than T-negative.”
Terry's herpetologist Terry Vandeventer also said it's rare; so rare that it cannot be calculated. In an interview shortly after the snake was caught in 2021, Vandeventer said that one in several thousand timber rattlesnakes will be born with the disease.
So the odds are one in several thousand at this point, but they drop off from there. Vandeventer said the chances of a normal young snake reaching adulthood in the wild are already slim, but with a T-positive snake that doesn't have camouflage to protect it from predators, the chances of survival are significantly lower.
"Most people don't make it with a normal throw," said Vandeventer. "The vast majority of baby snakes don't make it, but this one did. Nobody knows how rare it is.”
More: X-ray shows a python and its tracking tag eaten by another snake in Florida
Snake was an amazing discovery
The snake was discovered by Danielle Ladner of Yazoo County. She collected muscadines to make jelly. She was about to leave and bent down to pluck some of the muscadines she had collected and found the snake was 2 feet from her face.
Fearing snakes, Ladner said she initially yelled and ran away, but the snake was unlike anything she saw, so she went back and photographed it. After sharing the photos with a herpetologist, she found the snake to be highly unusual.
Concerned about the snake's safety, she called the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Agency personnel came and caught the snake and took it to the museum. The snake went into brumation, a form of hibernation, for several months. Once it started eating regularly, it was put on display.
Ladner said she went to the museum to see the snake.
"I took all the children with me," said Ladner. "We were excited.
"I felt like he had put on a fair amount of weight. He looked really good and healthy. I'm not a contortionist and never have been, but he's a special snake. I'm glad he's safe and everyone can come see him."
Follow Brian Broom on Twitter at @BrianBroom.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Rare, Nearly White Wooden Rattlesnake on Display at the Mississippi Museum

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