Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Arizona black rattlesnakes trickle in…

One week to go and we haven’t found any Arizona black rattlesnakes yet (remember, we wanted six). The clock is ticking.

On the afternoon of 26 September, I started my snake search by checking on the bird-eater. He was in his usual spot, waiting for a thirsty bird.
bird-eater

I then hiked downstream in hot springs wash and didn’t see another snake for hours. This is such a beautiful place, it is difficult to be disappointed by not seeing any snakes.

At about 5pm, it was time to turn around and head back in defeat. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a jet black little disk under a fallen log. Finally, our first Arizona black! Unlike some, Chris has almost no yellow scales on his back – he is completely black. Very pleased with my find, I happily headed back to the ranch.
chris

Our next snake search came a couple days later on the afternoon of 28 September. While Jeff checked out the mesquite forest near the ranch, I checked to see if the bird-eater was still around.
bird-eater

Yep, bird-eater was in his usual spot, but facing upstream today. Since bird-eater thought this was such a good hunting area, I decided to explore it more carefully for others. On a perfectly-sized ledge on the bank of hot springs wash, was another beautiful Arizona black rattlesnake.
barney
Barney

Meanwhile, Jeff ran into an Arizona black rattlesnake on the move near the old corrals where Glendy King was shot. Glendy King was the original homesteader at Muleshoe Ranch, so we named this snake Glendy.
glendy

The final Arizona black was found by Jeff a couple days later. Boyett was hunting on the banks of secret springs, a spot where cottonmouths seem more likely than rattlesnakes.
secret springs

And now the real fun begins, as we follow these guys around…

melissa

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Off with a bang!

muleshoe
We arrived at Muleshoe Ranch at ~13:45 to meet with the manager and finalize plans for our new project. We are hoping to find 10 rattlesnakes in the next couple weeks: two western diamond-backed (Crotalus atrox), two black-tailed (C. molossus), and six Arizona blacks (C. cerberus).

We got the grand tour of the ranch, including all the places favored by resident rattlesnakes. We ended our tour at the horse barn, always a good place to find snakes because rodents are attracted to barns and snakes are attracted to rodents. But in the weeds just outside was not a snake, but a juvenile Gila monster – surely a good omen of things to come!

We had invited the field biology class from Bangor University to help us look for rattlesnakes. They arrived at ~15:00 and were still piling out of the cars when someone shouted “snake!” A very large western diamond-backed rattlesnake was crawling onto the parking lot. Henry, as he is now known, had been seen hunting at the large puddle on the road nearby. One down, nine to go!

We headed toward the horse barn to show the students the Gila monster. Less than 10 minutes passed before another western diamond-backed was spotted crossing the road from one junk pile to another (junk piles are another excellent way to attract snakes). He slithered into one of the piles before we could get a good look at him. Jeff checked out the other junk pile (that the snake was headed toward) and found not one, but two more diamond-backed!
courting snakes
It appeared to be a male courting a female and seems likely that the other snake was also attracted to this female. It would have been interesting to see what happened when the three were together, but there was no way the first snake was coming out with all of us hanging about. So we moved on.

Two more diamond-backeds were found shortly thereafter; one in hot springs wash (Stuart) and another crossing the road. Then, another shout from the students “snake!” immediately followed by “its eating a bird!” A diamond-backed that had been hunting next to a pool in hot springs wash caught a bird coming to drink or bathe (bird-eater).
bird-eater

Rattlesnakes hunting birds were once thought to be rare, but it now seems that at least some individuals specialize on birds (Check out: WOW Arizona and tenbestphotos].

The group split off at this point with most headed downstream and others searching on the ranch. Although diamond-backeds certainly ruled the day, an absolutely gorgeous black-tailed was captured while crossing a dry section of the wash (Jaydin) and another group of students found a ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus). We have two diamond-backeds (Henry and Stuart) and one black-tailed (Jaydin), but still need some Arizona blacks. Still, a very successful beginning to the new project!

melissa