Monthly Archives: October 2011

16 October 2011

The week began with a visit from our dear friend Roger Repp, who wanted to check out our new study site and track some of the snakes. We had barely started our hike down Hot Springs Wash when we came across a very healthy looking Sonoran whipsnake (Coluber bilineatus). As is typical with this species, it disappeared before we could get any pictures. October is not the best time of year for “herping” (looking for reptiles and amphibians) in Arizona, but Muleshoe breaks all the rules. Our next find was something that is not typically active this time of year, a Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum). And he was very active, barely pausing long enough to give a decent photo.

gilagila
He finally found a hole beneath a mesquite tree and disappeared. Now it was time to find Chris!

After some difficulty with our equipment, we located Chris (male Arizona black rattlesnake), who had moved downstream and was stretched out on a pile of branches and other debris piled up by this monsoon’s floods.
chris

We headed back to the ranch for a delicious lunch and satisfied with our finds that morning, Roger headed back to town. As Roger often does in his Suizo Reports (you can follow those here), I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story:

chris
Chris made a huge movement, out of Hot Springs Wash, across a mesquite forest, and ended up under the boulder in the foreground. In the background is a large talus, a feature sometimes associated with rattlesnake dens. Has Chris arrived at his den site already?

boyett
Boyett (male Arizona black rattlesnake) left Secret Springs and ended up on the grassy slope above, resting under a boulder (pictured above) and later beargrass.

jaydin
Jaydin’s (male black-tailed rattlesnake) first stop after leaving Hot Springs Wash was also Secret Springs (pictured above) and a couple days later he was up on the same grassy hillside as Boyett. When last tracked, I watched Jaydin cruise along the hillside for nearly an hour, at times approaching me quite closely, seeming very determined to get somewhere. This should have been a warning to me of what Jaydin was about to do, but at the time I just enjoyed watching him fearlessly move about:
jaydin

 

glendy
Glendy (male Arizona black rattlesnake) loves his mesquite forest. He crossed the road a couple times, but never moved very far, which is a good thing because telemetry is difficult in dense vegetation! The signal emitted by the transmitters implanted in the snakes bounces off trees, making it very hard to figure out where the snake is. I stepped within a meter of Glendy at this spot before I realized I had walked right past him!


Barney (male Arizona black rattlesnake) also left Hot Springs Wash for the mesquite forest near the road. Dangerously near the road – you can see it in the upper left-hand corner of the photo.

henry
Henry (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) spent a few more days near the casitas before moving up to the twin lakes – a pair of hot spring-fed ponds that are used to maintain native fish. There are also a ton of frogs in the ponds, which may be what attracted Henry.

stuart
Stuart (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) spent a couple days beneath an overturned horse trough at the spot where we saw a pair of courting western diamond-backeds on our first day. Then he settled under a mesquite tree near the horse corral.

melissa

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First week

coluber
A Sonoran whipsnake (Coluber bilineatus) at Muleshoe Ranch.

Our first week of tracking was pretty uneventful.  We release snakes as soon as possible after their transmitter implantation surgery so that they can recover in their habitat. So typically the first week or so is pretty slow; the snakes lay low while recovering and don’t make big movements.

Henry, our largest western diamond-backed rattlesnake, headed straight for the hot springs.  Throughout the history of Hooker Hot Springs, people have come here for the healing properties of the springs.  Was Henry also seeking magical healing?  Probably not.  Rattlesnakes often hunt near pools, and it is more likely that Henry was trying to get a meal.
henry
This photo was taken the day after we tracked Henry at this spot. The red arrow points to the crater Henry left in the mud.

Our other western diamond-backed, Stuart, found a fantastic log to rest beneath on the weedy hillside adjacent to the casitas. He was closer to the casitas than most guests here would like to know!
stuart

No rest for the Arizona blacks; Chris immediately moved out of the drainage and into the mesquite forest.  A couple days later he moved further downstream, still in the mesquite forest.
chris

Barney made a short movement to a pile of branches piled up by this summer’s floods and stayed here for a couple days.
barney

Glendy crossed the road but remained in the mesquite forest where he was originally found.

Jaydin, our black-tailed rattlesnake, was on the move.  He was first seen under a downed log adjacent to Hot Springs Wash, then moved into a huge debris pile upstream.
jaydin

Quiet so far, but as the active season comes to a close, the snakes are on the move and a bit harder to keep up with…