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?

Henry

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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 🙂

CRAT017_20120831

31 August 2013

henry_20120831

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!!!).

Persephone
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.

Bane
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!).

Cathy
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!

melissa

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.

4th

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!

melissa

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.

melissa

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.

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!