Tag Archives: henry

Countdown to Snake Count: 3…

By far the most commonly seen snakes at Muleshoe headquarters, and most places where they live, are western diamond-backed rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox, hereafter diamondbacks). They are wide-ranging, found in a variety of habitats, and eat pretty much anything that fits in their mouth. They also don’t seem to mind humans moving into their space; several at Muleshoe spend most of their active season at headquarters and of course there’s that group that over-winters under one of the buildings at headquarters:

Diamondback behavior at dens is quite different than Arizona black behavior we discuss at SocialSnakes. While most rattlesnakes in Arizona breed in the monsoon season only, diamondbacks also breed in the spring. So you can often see courtship and combat right at their dens!

Henry (adult male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) in combat!

We didn’t see anything like that at the headquarters den this year, but next year we’ll be ready with timelapse cameras to catch any action.

Unfortunately for diamondbacks, not all human neighbors are as accommodating as we are at Muleshoe. Often when diamondbacks show up in a human’s yard (or from the snake’s perspective, humans show up in their territory), they are killed or translocated (moved). Translocation may seem like the humane choice, but Snake Count attendees will learn on Saturday why that may not be the case. As always, prevention is the best cure. Check out this brochure from the Tucson Herpetological Society on how to make your yard less snake-friendly (if you don’t want snakes there).

We like our yard snake-friendly 🙂

Sadly diamondbacks are also the rattlesnake most commonly collected for rattlesnake roundups. We have written a little about roundups before and a show that glorifies them. Frankly it’s too upsetting for me to say much, so I’ll refer you to Rise Against Rattlesnake Roundups if you wish to learn more about these horrific events and what you can do to stop them.

Now to end on a more positive note, here’s my favorite diamondback of all time, looking stunning. We haven’t seen Henry in a while, maybe he’ll show up for Snake Count – will you?


January rattlesnakes?

We’ll take a short break from tales of Jaydin to share a somewhat unusual snake sighting at the preserve.

Last winter we had timelapse cameras on three snake dens, but never saw anyone until March. Well this year, on 20 January, we were pleasantly surprised to see not one, but two female western diamond-backed rattlesnakes on the surface just outside their den – which turns out to be right under our nose, at preserve headquarters!

western diamond-backed rattlesnake

The following day both snakes were out again and we were able to see that one of the girls was an old friend.

21 January 2013

21 January 2013

We originally encountered her in our front yard last summer, while Henry was courting her 🙂


31 August 2013


Henry, 31 August 2013, apparently not happy that we interrupted his courtship.

Could Henry have denned with these ladies this year? Only time will tell.

Changing of the guard

Wow, it has been awhile, but I won’t bore you with the details of why we’ve been absent. What’s important is that WE’RE BACK! We (and the snakes) had a busy summer and even though the snakes will be headed to their dens soon, we’ll have plenty of stories to share all winter long while they’re waiting for the spring.

When we started this project one year ago, we implanted radio transmitters with one-year batteries into seven rattlesnakes. So we made the somewhat difficult decision recently to remove those transmitters and give most of those guys a break. They deserve it, but we’ll miss them. We said goodbye to: Henry (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake), Stuart (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake), Boyett (male Arizona black rattlesnake), Glendy (male Arizona black rattlesnake), and Barney (male Arizona black rattlesnake).

Wait a minute, Barney? Who’s that? We lost Barney last October, but he appeared like magic this September, pretty much right where we originally encountered him. Where did he go? Who knows, but at least we know he’s OK.

We (OK, mostly me) couldn’t bear to let Jaydin (male black-tailed rattlesnake) go, so he is still with us.

Henry (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) spends most of his time near the preserve headquarters, so we continue to see him pretty regularly:

Henry (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) at the head of the Nature Trail, 5 October 2012 (Henry, bottom left; Jeff’s foot, top right).

Now let’s meet the new guys (and gals!!!).

female black-tailed rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus)
We can’t take credit for finding this beautiful girl, Jaydin led us to her. The full story deserves (and will get) its own blog post, but the short version is that Jaydin courted Persephone for about a week this summer. She is named for the Greek goddess Persephone, queen of the underworld.

male Arizona black rattlesnake (Crotalus cerberus)
baneBane was originally encountered during Snake Count Spring 2012, when he was spotted drinking from Secret Springs. At that time we measured, marked (painted his rattle) him, and set him free. He re-entered our lives in August while we were sitting in the wash, recording data and taking photos of Jaydin. Along comes Bane, cruising through the leaves a few yards from where we sat; it’s almost like he volunteered for the study. Bane was named for the main villain in The Dark Knight Rises, which may seem a little odd given that we’re trying to improve rattlesnakes’ reputation. Bane certainly caused a lot of trouble for Gotham, but we appreciate his ‘for the people’ attitude and his soft side, which I won’t elaborate on in case you haven’t seen the movie (SEE IT!).

female Arizona black rattlesnake (Crotalus cerberus)
catWe again hosted the field biology class from Bangor University this fall. Whilst discussing social rattlesnake behavior in the Commons, Cathy crawled onto the patio just outside the door (another volunteer?). She is named for one of the professors leading the class.

Help us name this snake!
female Arizona black rattlesnake (Crotalus cerberus)
633Jeff came across this little lady while tracking Glendy in August. Like Glendy, she has a fondness for the mesquite forest and only recently traveled to Hot Springs Wash, probably on her way to her den. She was the first female Arizona black rattlesnake we found in Hot Springs and she is a young adult. Please help us name this snake! Email us your suggestions; we’ll pick the top 3-5 and have a poll on our facebook page to choose the winner!


Update: We have a winner! Luna was the name chosen by our facebook fans.

And so it begins…

The night beforeAbout 6:30pm, 3 July 2012.

Though we had a few tantalizing sprinkles in June, the monsoon officially arrived last night. We got about a half inch of rain at headquarters and the 4th of July has started out cloudy and cool.


About 8:30 am, 4 July 2012

For the first time in weeks, every snake we checked on this morning was visible on the surface.

Henry (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) was sitting out next to the twin lakes this morning in the mud. While we were recording data, he left his favorite crater and moved into the grass.

Henry, coiled in his usual crater, 4 July 2012.

Henry in his new spot in the grass, 4 July 2012.

We next checked on our other western diamond-backed, Stuart, whom we haven’t seen in a couple weeks. He’s been in a burrow at the base of a mesquite tree, where we assumed he was preparing to shed his skin. This morning he had moved into the wash and was coiled on the surface, freshly shed.

Stuart, male western diamond-backed rattlesnake, 4 July 2012.

We then tracked Glendy (male Arizona black rattlesnake), who was just upstream from Stuart. Glendy appeared to have been out last night in the rain, as he was splattered with mud.

Glendy, looking a little dirty after the storm, ,4 July 2012.

Because it was still cloudy and cool, we decided to take the long way back and look for snakes on the road. And we were rewarded with this little beauty:

Mohave rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus), coiled next to the road, 4 July 2012.

Mohave rattlesnakes are extremely rare here. Although we frequently (almost daily) see western diamond-backed, Arizona blacks, and black-tailed rattlesnakes, we have never seen a Mohave on the preserve. We’re told they show up once or twice a year, usually after it starts raining. As you can see above, Mohave and western diamond-backed rattlesnakes look very similar. The easiest way to distinguish the two species is by examining their tail bands:

Mohaves have relatively more white than black (left photo), while western diamond-backeds have fairly equal amounts of both (right photo).

Of course this snake was sitting on her tail, so we had to give her a nudge to get a good look at it:

Mohave rattlesnake, unhappily showing her tail in the bottom right.

The lizards and ants have been very active all day (enjoying the clouds and humidity), but we haven’t seen any more snakes… yet. As I finish this up, I hear distant thunder and its getting dark again. Hopefully we’ll luck into some more rain (and snakes!) tonight.

Have a safe and snakey 4th!


P.S. (5pm) It’s raining again!

April showers bring May flowers; June showers bring…

As I mentioned in my last post, we are in the midst of the hottest, driest part of the year in Arizona. Temperatures keep rising (over 110F in some parts of Arizona today) and the relief of the monsoon is a long way off. Or is it?

Saturday afternoon started clouding up and thunderheads formed. I was still skeptical that it would rain, but the clouds and light breeze felt really nice regardless. Then, around 2:30pm, it happened:

Normally a desert rattlesnake would take advantage of a little storm like this to get a drink. But Henry (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) has been hanging around the “twin lakes” and hunting in that crater for about a week, so he’s had plenty of chances to quench his thirst.

Can you find Henry’s crater?

Here it is circled in red.

Henry wasn’t the only one enjoying the weird weather. Even before the storm arrived, the humidity was up, which seemed to bring out the reptiles. This little girl was hanging out behind our house, maybe hoping for a drink?

Regal horned lizard (Phrynosoma solare)

And a little later we spotted a very large Sonoran whipsnake ‘periscoping’ through the footbridge leading to the visitor’s center:

Sonoran whipsnake (Coluber bilineatus)

Literally minutes after the first drops of rain hit the ground, we saw a ring-necked snake crawling into our yard:

Ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus)

After the rain stopped, Porter (male black-tailed rattlesnake originally encountered during Snake Count) crossed the road toward the visitor’s center. He went up the stairs to a part of the building used for storage, smelling intently before coiling up on top of a wall. We set up some cameras on him and walked away.

Porter (male black-tailed rattlesnake) under surveillance.

That evening was cool and humid. It felt like perfect snake weather to Jeff and me, so we took a short hike in nearby Bass Canyon. We were rewarded with this adorable little lady:

Female Arizona black rattlesnake (Crotalus cerberus)

While there wasn’t enough rain to measure, the spike in humidity encouraged snakes to come out. Like me, the animals also appear to be ready for the monsoon to begin.


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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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.

Spring is here!


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).

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, 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, 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!

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


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, 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!


December and January were pretty quiet here at the ranch; as you can see from the above photo, the weather has not exactly been snakey. OK, it only snowed a couple times and melted pretty quickly, but it has still been too cold for snake activity. Even Jaydin (adult male black-tailed rattlesnake) finally settled into a den and has not moved since the end of November. Although western diamond-backed rattlesnakes are known for their winter activity, neither Henry nor Stuart have peeked out of their den yet. We have a timelapse camera set up outside their den, and so far have only seen their bee neighbors coming and going. Chris (adult male Arizona black rattlesnake) has also not moved or been seen lately.

But we have good news: Jeff found Glendy, one of our lost Arizona black rattlesnakes! Turns out we were having problems with our equipment and Glendy hasn’t moved more than a few meters. He is in a cave with at least one neighbor, probably a Sonoran whipsnake (Coluber bilineatus). We set a timelapse camera on their den, so hopefully we’ll have photos of both of them soon.

Surprisingly, the only other snake visible in its den is the remaining Arizona black rattlesnake, Boyett. This is surprising because I’ve never heard of anyone seeing this species in the winter, while sightings of western diamond-backed rattlesnakes are common. We are monitoring three diamond-backed dens and can’t see anyone, but can see two of our three Arizona black rattlesnakes. But that is one of the many things I love about snakes: we know so little, so we are always learning new and very cool stuff!


October draws to a close

I’ve always thought of October as the end of the snake season. Snakes settle into their dens and we check on them less frequently because they are no longer making long movements. But, if you ignore snakes over the winter, you’ll miss out on some really cool behavior, like this:
A poor quality video of rattlesnakes drinking snow during the long, dry winter of 2005-2006.

Regardless, October is certainly NOT the end of the snake season at Muleshoe Ranch. At the spot where four days ago I watched Jaydin (male black-tailed rattlesnake) cruise along the hill for an hour, I turned on my telemetry equipment… and… heard nothing. So I headed up hill and yep, there it was. I could just hear a faint beep, indicating that Jaydin was very far away and/or there was treacherous terrain between us. So I headed off in the direction of the sound, downhill, uphill, downhill, and then up again. Here’s what that lovely hike looked like:
Not pictured here are the shin dagger, mesquite, acacia, and cacti that cover these hills.

As I was unprepared for this hike, by the time I found Jaydin I was exhausted, but how can you be mad at this pretty face?

After this big move, Jaydin stayed put for a little while. Weird!?! Not really, if you click on the above photo to view the full size image, you can see that his body is extended.  Jaydin got himself a meal, which has slowed down his progress to wherever he’s heading. More fun with Jaydin next month!

Jaydin’s former neighbor Boyett (male Arizona black rattlesnake) skirted along the hillside to face Hot Springs Wash and settled in the scrub there.

Glendy crossed the road (again). He stayed in the mesquite forest between the road and the ranch for a few days before crossing the wash and settling into an amaranth patch. Because this spot is pretty close to our house, we checked on Glendy often over the next few days. He appeared to be trying to get a last meal in before going into his den.

As we guessed, Chris had arrived at his den last time. From the boulder where we last tracked him, he went uphill into the talus and settled near some vegetation. While this spot certainly looks like it could house many rattlesnakes, we will likely have to wait until spring to find out if Chris has neighbors (we haven’t been able to see Chris since he entered the talus).

Henry (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) spent a few more days at the twin lakes before moving up on the hill above. He bounced around to several spots before settling into a hole at the base of a yucca.

Stuart (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) was trying to compete with Jaydin for being the biggest pain. He moved from his spot near the horse corrals (S04 on the map below) up onto the hill above (S05), not far from Henry. Then he moved to the north side of the hill above what we call Juniper Wash (S06). He stayed here all of one day before moving to the opposite side of the hill, into a patch of yucca (S07).

On a somewhat sad note, we lost a snake this month. Barney, our other male Arizona black rattlesnake, was last seen on the side of road mid-October. We haven’t been able to get his signal since. We have had trouble tracking him since the beginning as there is loud interference at the same frequency as his radio transmitter. So he probably isn’t dead, he just finally moved far enough away that we can’t hear him over the interference noise.  We’ll keep looking for him and expect to see him on the ranch next summer, if not sooner.


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.

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.

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 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 (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’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:


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 (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 (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.