Monthly Archives: April 2012

Allison

Because of our remote location, there is no trash pickup at Muleshoe Ranch.  We have a couple trash bins where we accumulate bags of trash from residents and guests until we get a chance to take it to the local dump (~one hour away).  Over the winter, rodents moved into our trash bins and created quite a mess.  Hauling trash bags is not fun; hauling trash bags that are leaking due to being chewed by rodents is just gross.  Of course we don’t use poison at Muleshoe because that works its way into the food chain and harms animals other than its intended target, so the trash rodents were getting out of control.  Then Spring arrived, and with it, nature’s rodent control: Allison.

We first observed Allison hunting near the trash bins on 9 March.  Allison is a large female western diamond-backed rattlesnake who was in really good health, perhaps good enough to give birth later this year.  On 11 March, Allison had some hunting success:

Excellent!  Perhaps Allison will help us clean up the trash area.  The following day she moved right into one of the trash bins:

You may have noticed that unlike many of the rattlesnakes pictured on this blog, Allison is often in a defensive posture.  Like most animals, rattlesnake attitudes vary among individuals – you might say they have personalities.  Lucky for us, Allison is quick to respond to human presence by rattling and posturing.  Why lucky?  Many would interpret this behavior as ‘mean’ or ‘aggressive,’ but it probably indicates that Allison is scared of us.  And since she currently lives in a high traffic area for staff and volunteers, it is lucky that our resident rattlesnake alerts us to her presence well before there is danger of stepping on her.

Despite regular searches, we didn’t see Allison for nearly two weeks and were starting to wonder if she had moved on.  There was still plenty of food (rodents) in the trash area, so we couldn’t understand why she’d want to leave.  Then on 25 March, we found a dying rodent near the trash bins.  Assuming this was Allison’s latest meal, we set up a camcorder and slipped away.

About two hours later, Allison found her prey and consumed it.  Unfortunately, the camcorder battery shut off just before she arrived, so we only have still pictures taken through the fence:

The benefits of having Allison take up residence near our trash bins were twofold.  First, she did appear to have an effect on the rodent population – they were less noticeable after she moved in.  Next, because she was hanging out near the casitas, but usually behind a fence, several visitors got to see a free-ranging rattlesnake in a non-threatening situation.  A group of friends who visit Muleshoe every year got to watch Allison eat and a couple young children got to see her up close through the fence.

We hope to see much more of Allison in the future.

And the last snake has risen

So in our last post there was one rattlesnake left that was still in his den as of 30 March. I checked on that snake this morning and am happy to report that Chris (male Arizona black rattlesnake) has emerged! He has not yet moved away from his den site, but was getting some sun on the surface.

Where's Chris?

Chris

There he is!

The radio transmitters implanted in our snakes are temperature sensitive, so can estimate their body temperature when we track them. While I was tracking Chris today, his temperature increased from 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit) to 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). So I’m guessing he hadn’t been on the surface for long and was still warming up.

Wildlife activity is really picking up at the ranch! If you’d like to see more pictures and get updates of what’s happening at Muleshoe, you should ‘like us on facebook.’ Occasionally we even post pictures of something other than snakes…

vultures

Big turkey vulture roost in bass canyon

Spring is here!

Jaydin

Jaydin (male black-tailed rattlesnake) 24 March 2012

Or rather, has been here (I’m a little behind in posting :-)). After many boring weeks of tracking our rattlesnakes and seeing almost nothing (we were sometimes able to glimpse a few inches of two of the Arizona black rattlesnakes), nearly all of them have now emerged from their dens.

The first signs of spring arrived in mid-February, when the western diamond-backed rattlesnakes started basking just outside of their dens. We’ve had remote timelapse cameras set up on Henry and Stuart’s den (male western diamond-backed rattlesnakes), Glendy’s den (male Arizona black rattlesnake), and two other dens (you can read more about one of those dens here and here). One of the new dens only had one occupant this year, a male western dimaond-backed rattlesnake we call Dwight. We finally had a snake to show interested visitors to Muleshoe, as he was reliably out basking, every day, all month (he’s now gone).
Dwight

Glendy surprised us by coming out one wet, chilly morning in February:
             
Glendy, 17 February 2012 (click on photo for larger version, but he’s still difficult to see).

3 March: Of course Jaydin (male black-tailed rattlesnake) was the first to emerge – is anyone surprised? He was still a little sluggish, but looking beautiful sitting a few yards from his den.

Jaydin (male black-tailed rattlesnake) 3 March 2012

8 March: Stuart (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) was the next to emerge from the den he shared with Henry (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake), a bee hive, and several other rattlesnakes (more on that in a future post). He has been resting underneath a rock downslope of the den ever since. Henry stayed inside until 29 March.

Stuart

Stuart, 8 March 2012

9 March: A female western diamond-backed rattlesnake showed up near the guest housing on the ranch. So snakes are now on the move… Allison will get her own post very soon.

Allison

Allison, 11 March 2012, not at all happy to see us.

15 March: Our first yard snake of the year and it’s my favorite, a very large gophersnake!
gophersnake

25 March: Boyett (male Arizona black rattlesnake) has emerged and was seen coiled beneath an oak tree just outside his den.

Boyett

Boyett, 25 March 2012. Who would have thought a jet black snake in yellow grass would be so hard to see?

Boyett closeup

Boyett, 25 March 2012. Can you see him now?

26 March: Glendy (male Arizona black rattlesnake) was coiled just outside his den. A few days later he left the immediate area posed nicely for a photograph:

Glendy

Glendy, 31 March 2012.

As of 30 March, Chris (male Arizona black rattlesnake) has not yet left his den. Interestingly, he was the first to arrive at his den (we haven’t seen him since 13 October) and will be the last to leave. We will likely have news of his egress soon, social dens at Muleshoe, and (finally) some female rattlesnakes!