Saturday, May 17, 2014

Snake encounters

Lots of snake activity today, but no good photos.
This morning my dogs reacted to a loud keening noise and stormed to the side of the yard where our fire wood is stacked. I heard the buzz of a retreating rattler and found a dying packrat. Cody and Frodo were so excited that I had to pull them away. I wanted to watch the rattler come back to its prey, but I got distracted until I heard Frodo bark again. I arrived to see the rat, pulled along by the snake, disappear under the wood pile. The snake, probably a Diamondback Rattler, had moved into the packrat's nest. The packrats themselves are very disruptive neighbors, so we will try to let the snake stay and hope nobody gets bitten except the rats.

Gopher Snake tracks

Crossing the dirt road to visit our neighbors, we found the tracks of a big Gopher Snake that had crawled into a squirrel hole. This snake must be huge and heavy judging from the deep undulating imprints. (Diamondbacks move in a much straighter line)

 In the late afternoon I took the dogs on a walk into the state land next to our property. This should have been the first 100F day of the season, but the sky was slightly overcast and it never got quite so hot. Zebra Tail Lizards were hiding under a thin layer of sand and kept jumping out right under the dogs noses. The dogs are getting old and experienced by now, and Cody has pretty much abandoned the chase. He used to be so intend that he'd jerk the leash from my hand and jump right over the creosote bushes. Young Jackrabbits were zigzagging between the shrubs, taking Laika and Frodo with them in break-neck pursuit.

Sidewinder Rattlesnake, Photo by the late Young Cage
Suddenly there was a quick motion in the sand, and both Cody and Bilbo tore towards it. I heard the buzz from a small rattle. A small, light colored snake was launching itself backwards, nearly flying over the sand. Only the head seemed to stand still, focusing slit-pupiled eyes on me. And there was a little horn over each eye - a Sidewinder, my very first! I got no photo because the dogs were misbehaving and getting much too close. They seemed to know that this was no Diamondback. The snake headed backwards straight to a hole in the ground and disappeared.
Picture Rocks is at the eastern border of the distribution of this sand-loving species. I know that they have been found in Red Rock and along the Santa Cruz River bed.
This is the 4th species of rattlers in our direct vicinity. Diamondbacks are the most common, followed by the occasional Mojave and so far a single Tiger Rattlesnake in our wash, and now this Sidewinder.

I have been watching more and more Desert Iguanas over the last years, while the numbers of Ornate Tree Lizards and Spiny Magisters seem to be declining sharply. It is a if the warming climate and the prolonged drought are pushing western species from the infamously hot Yuma Dunes deep into our area.

1 comment: