Tag Archives: persephone

Countdown to Snake Count: 1…

Snake Count is here!

I’ll end this week’s roundup of snakes with the snake that started my obsession with rattlesnakes, black-tailed rattlesnakes (Crotalus molossus, hereafter blacktails).

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Many, many years ago, I attended the International Herpetological Symposium just for fun, as the only reptiles I worked with at the time were of the feathered variety. I met (who is now) my oldest and dearest friend at that meeting, who was key in reawakening my lifelong love of snakes. And there was a presentation that blew my mind and changed the course of my life forever. Harry Greene talked about his black-tail project and in particular that they take care of their kids.

Snakes? Take care of their kids? So long birds!

It was five more years before I started my first rattlesnake project and I haven’t looked back since. I still haven’t seen parental care in blacktails, but I have gotten to see them do some other really cool things.

Jaydin (male) in a tree.

persephone in tree solo

Persephone (female) in a tree.

Jaydin (left, male black-tailed rattlesnake) and Persephone (right, female black-tailed rattlesnake), 24 July 2012.

Jaydin (left, male) and Persephone (right, female), 24 July 2012.

Timelapse video of Jaydin courting Persephone (one day of that courtship).

Jaydin in combat with Marty over Persephone.

Maybe this will be the year, 15 years later, that I finally get to see a blacktail family (Persephone, please?).

Who says dreams don’t come true?

🙂 melissa

Snake season is here!

Last month we told you about the western diamond-backed rattlesnake den we recently ‘discovered’ at preserve headquarters. Well, this past week has been a busy one for our rattlesnake neighbors. We have seen about a half dozen adult males and females hanging out and/or dispersing from their den.

Here are some highlights:

An adult male briefly chin-rubs female #22 as he emerges from the den.

An adult male briefly chin-rubs female #22 as he emerges from the den.

Female #22 dispersing from the den.

Female #22 didn't go too far - she's seen here a couple days later under a rock in our yard :-)

A couple days later female #22 is under a rock in our yard 🙂

In the following video another female emerges from the den and shortly thereafter disperses.

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It almost seemed like this guy was showing off for our guests! While he rested here, everyone got a great view of him from above and below at the visitor center.

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A closer view of the above rattlesnake resting outside the visitor center.

Our first snake sighting of 2012, was nature’s rodent control, Allison. Because she showed up at headquarters so early in the year, we thought she probably denned nearby. Turns out her den is very close indeed!



At a nearby den we wrote about last year, the snakes are starting to emerge as well. We didn’t set up cameras there this year, but we hiked over there yesterday and found this friendly face peeking out from the outcrop:
LDatrox

In other news, Persephone (female black-tailed rattlesnake) was seen basking near her den, so she may be on the move soon too. Stay tuned for more!

ANNOUNCEMENT: Join us at the Muleshoe Preserve for Save the Frogs Day on Saturday 27 April 2013. Details on this event can be found here.

melissa

Rattlesnake romance

At a certain time of year, a male snake focuses his efforts on breeding. He moves long distances in search of potential mates (a video of this behavior, scent-trailing, can be seen here). However, finding a female is only the first step; now he must convince her to mate with him.

A pair of black-tailed rattlesnakes: Jaydin (male, left) and Persephone (female, right).

Rattlesnakes are great romantics. Males may spend a week or more courting one female to convince her of his worth. How he does this is the subject of today’s post.

A male may sit nearby, next to, or even stacked on top of a female, presumably to guard her from other suitors.

test phrase

Male western diamond-backed rattlesnake stacked on top of a female. Can you see her face?

If another male comes to call, they may engage in combat over the prized female. We will discuss combat in more detail in a future post, but for now let’s look at courtship through our favorite snake, Jaydin (male black-tailed rattlesnake).

On 18 July, we were excited to see Jaydin with a beautiful female, who we now know as Persephone.

Persephone (left) and Jaydin (right).

Persephone (left) and Jaydin (right).

We set up a timelapse camera to better observe their courtship. Here’s a clip from their third day together:

Jaydin crawls out of their shelter first and coils at the bottom left of the screen. Persephone emerges shortly thereafter. Jaydin immediately goes to Persephone and begins chin-rubbing her, which is exactly what it sounds like: he rubs her body with his chin to express his intent. This behavior starts about five seconds in and continues throughout. Much more vigorous chin-rubbing can be seen in the following videos.

Perhaps to show she’s not ready, a female may quickly flip her tail at the male. We never observed Persephone doing this, but we have seen it in Arizona black rattlesnakes:


At ~eight seconds in, the female Arizona black rattlesnake literally smacks the male in his face with her tail. Does this mean “no” or “not yet”? We also don’t know how much rejection a male will take before he gives up or how much chin-rubbing a female needs to acquiesce.

While Persephone didn’t smack Jaydin away, neither did they appear to mate. And indeed they were still together:
…the next day
…and two days after that.

The fourth evening (21 July) Jaydin moved and we assumed that courtship was over. His signal was again coming from overhead, which seemed an unlikely place for courtship. But Persephone likes to climb as much as Jaydin does.

Jaydin & Persephone over 2 yards up in a tree.

Jaydin & Persephone overhead in a tree, 21 July 2012.

Close-up of Jaydin & Persephone over 2 yards up in a tree.

Jaydin & Persephone as seen from a nearby tree, 21 July 2012.

After three more days, they were still together at a new spot on the ground. Again we set up our camera here to record their behavior.

A week-long courtship ends in mating! Sometimes it is difficult to tell, but Jaydin was never camera-shy, so he made it very obvious for us 🙂 (Check out the video at ~55 seconds).

When we next tracked Jaydin, he was ~15 yards away and there was no sign of Persephone. When we took the camera down, we found another male black-tailed rattlesnake! Perhaps he was after Persephone too…

As you may have guessed, this is not the last you’ll see of Persephone, Jaydin and Persephone, or the new male. Stay tuned for more!

melissa & jeff

For a very different story of snake courtship and combat, check out Ménage à trois, a story of three gophersnakes.

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.