Monthly Archives: May 2012

Goodbye to a friend

Chris, 10 October 2011.

It is with a heavy heart that I report the death of one of our snakes, Chris (male Arizona black rattlesnake). While I love all of the rattlesnakes at Muleshoe, Chris has a special place in my heart because he was the first Arizona black rattlesnake I found here (from 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 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!

First encounter with Chris, 26 September 2011.

Since coming out of his den in early April, Chris has been a busy bee. He headed straight for hot springs wash and was in a new spot nearly every time we tracked him. He crossed the wash at least three times and that behavior may be what killed him. Moving is dangerous business for snakes as it makes them easier for predators to see (think about your encounters with wild snakes, were those snakes more often moving or sitting in cover? Also see Bonnet et al. 1998).

Monday (21 May) morning Jeff tracked Chris into a thickly vegetated area adjacent to hot springs wash. As he was carefully trying to locate Chris without getting too close, Jeff spotted red, and knew we had lost him. Only a little bit of bone and his radio transmitter were left. Nature doesn’t waste and every bit of Chris had been eaten by his predator or scavengers that came along after. No one wants to see that, so here are some of my favorite photos of Chris:

October 2011: his favorite habitat along hot springs wash.

April 2012: my first glance of Chris this year.

May 2012: my last look at Chris a week ago.

Rest in peace, my friend

melissa

Further reading:

Bonnet, X., G. Naulleau, and R. Shine. 1998. The dangers of leaving home: dispersal and mortality in snakes. Biological Conservation 89: 39-50.

Advertisements

We’re back!!!

OK, I (melissa) am the only one who has been gone, but that meant no blog updates.  I’ve spent the last month finishing up fieldwork at our other project in central Arizona. And my how things changed at Muleshoe while I was gone! When I left, snakes were just starting to come out; now things are really hopping.

Kay

Kay, female black-tailed rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus)

Kay, a female black-tailed rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus), crawled into our lives at the end of March. Last fall we really wanted to find two black-tailed rattlesnakes for our study and would have REALLY loved to have a big, beautiful girl like Kay. But, Jaydin was the only one we encountered last year. Kay was crawling very near to where Jaydin was hanging out at the time, so maybe we’ll see the two of them together someday!

Now on to the usual suspects…

Henry

Henry, male western diamond-backed rattlesnake, 16 May 2012.

It took me a full week to locate Henry (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake). When Jeff last tracked him a few days before I got back, Henry was underneath a storage shed less than 100 feet from our house. He climbed up and over the hill behind Muleshoe Ranch Headquarters, only a 10 minute walk, but far enough to not be picked up by our telemetry gear. Sigh. At least we know where he is now.

Stuart

Stuart, male western diamond-backed rattlesnake, 13 May 2012.

Stuart (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) has been hanging out in the mesquite bosque near the horse barn. And he visited the barn (and the horses) a little while ago:

Ripley (horse) with Stuart at his feet (photo by Jeff Smith).

Jaydin

Jaydin, male black-tailed rattlesnake, 11 May 2012.

When I tracked Jaydin (male black-tailed rattlesnake) earlier this week, he was hanging out in Hot Springs wash in the forest. This seemed like really easy tracking for Jaydin, so of course it didn’t last. He has since moved back toward his den, up into the scrubby hills.

Chris

Chris, Arizona black rattlesnake, 11 May 2012.

Chris (male Arizona black rattlesnake) has been moving around a lot, but sticking to Hot Springs wash or very near. When I last tracked him, he was cruising through some thick vegetation on the wash – mesquite bosque boundary.

Boyett, Arizona black rattlesnake, 12 May 2012

Boyett (male Arizona black rattlesnake) is the one snake who has not yet made it back to the area where we found him last fall. Instead he is using a drainage near Secret Springs (where he was found). The night I tracked him he was coiled in the open, sticking out like a sore thumb (pictured above).

Glendy

Glendy, male Arizona black rattlesnake, 10 May 2012.

Glendy (male Arizona black rattlesnake) is back to the mesquite bosque nearest to Headquarters. The first night I tracked him (pictured above) he had found a great hunting spot in a bunch of mammal burrows near an old trash dump. Should be lots of food there for him! He has since moved a little upstream and I wanted to post an additional photo of him so get an idea of how much (and often) these rattlesnakes can change color

Glendy

Glendy, male Arizona black rattlesnake, 17 May 2012.

Both photos of Glendy have been corrected for differences in lighting, so the differences you see in color are real. This is a topic Jeff and I have been investigating for some time and hopefully we’ll have more to report on that here in the future.

This week is the Center for Snake Conservation’s Snake Count. We have been keeping track of all the free-ranging snakes (everyone that doesn’t have a radio transmitter) encountered at Muleshoe and the next post will likely be a wrap-up of what we’ve found. If you read this before 20 May – GET OUT AND COUNT SNAKES! Everyone can help! Visit the Snake Count website for more information.