If you think snakes are cool, you’ll absolutely love this. On May 21, John McCombie, a snake enthusiast from Pennsylvania, came across a stunningly pale serpent. “So, I [had] an epic moment today,” wrote McCombie in a Facebook post. “This day will go down in the history book.”
The “epic moment” McCombie is referring to is an encounter with an all-white timber rattlesnake. McCombie was looking at a regular timber rattler—which typically have a patterned grey-brown coloration—when the small pale snake caught his eye. “Based on its size, it was born last year between the end of August and mid-September, so it’s likely less than 1 year old,” McCombie told Newsweek. “It was only about 12 to 15 inches long. It remained coiled up the entire time, so I couldn’t get an exact measurement. I watched this snake for over an hour and it did very little movement.”
The white snake almost certainly suffers from albinism, an inherited genetic condition that inhibits the body’s production of melanin. Albinism is distinct from leucism, which results in only a partial loss of pigmentation. In this case, the rattler’s pink-and-white eyes are a clear indication that it is albino and not leucistic.
According to Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, timber rattlesnakes are widespread across the U.S. They are venomous but are considered more docile than other rattlesnakes, and bites on humans are rare. Albinism is rare in wild rattlesnakes, especially because albino snakes are unable to blend into their environments as well as their normally pigmented counterparts—leading to increased mortality. McCombie did not disclose the exact location of the albino rattler and left it undisturbed.