Nice try dude. Nice try … your camo doesn’t work in the dirt!
Nice try dude. Nice try … your camo doesn’t work in the dirt!
This year we caught and relocated a record number of blue speckled rattlesnakes from the South Mountain area. In the process, I finally “unlocked” the species and can now find them easily, where before I had a bit of a tough time in that range. The two that got the revelation started told the tale when released to nearby rocks. It’s clear to see why this light blue coloration, which stands out like a sore thumb anywhere else, makes perfect sense. When in its environment, these snakes are nearly invisible.
This time was ok though This was during the solar eclipse that occurred in 2012, one of the most unique herping experiences I think I may ever have.
I was called to remove a speckled rattlesnake from a property near the Phoenix Mountains right as the eclipse started. Damn responsibility! My plans to try and safely see the eclipse were trumped by a service call, but of course it has to be done. I caught the snake, released it to the mountain, then rushed to a place I know to try and watch the eclipse. By looking through both of the dark rear windows of my FJ Cruiser, I could see it with only minimally intense pain to my eyeballs.
So, yes, very cool – but after 20 minutes, I got greedy. The light cast by this event was a strange orange twilight that covered everything, oddly dark with few shadows. What if I could find a rattlesnake really fast and get photos in this light? Silly and unlikely of course, but maybe I could scrounge up a diamondback – this was one of the places I frequented that year, and definitely possible.
5 minutes later, I am looking at this sight – an amazingly colored Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake laying in ambush. This was not only an amazingly unique lighting situation, but the first of this species that I had seen in this location. 10 minutes left of odd light, this rock will have to do as a tripod.
It’s not the best photograph I’ve ever taken, not at all, but I know I’ll never get another chance at that particular light. The chain of events were just a bit unreal.
And it wasn’t done yet.
When I was done photographing the speck, I went back to where I had dropped my camera bag to approach, and there is a tiger rattlesnake laying across it. Unbelievable! This is the first of many times I’ve seen this individual, out and about a full hour before he’d due to leave his cave (which he was doing like clockwork every day for the next month). The light was no longer good for it, so I just got the same old flash shot, but this snake was a total freebie.
I did accidentally disturb the speck, before I saw the tiger, so I got another shot that’s a little more of the posed variety. It’s still cool.
In my opinion, our little lone Elapid is one of the coolest things to see. Not rare, but rarely seen. Not dangerous, but deadly. This one was captured in the driveway of a home in North Scottsdale that belongs to one of the clients for my snake removal business.
The place is situated right between desert and a nice, wet golf course, so there’s a lot of traffic. I saw a toad that looked to be trying to eat something, and this coral was what it was after. Awhile later, I saw the same toad doing the same dance, but was instead trying to eat a threadsnake, which was what the coralsnake was probably after. What a mess I had walked into.
I kept the coral for awhile as part of an educational display before releasing it to the nearby preserve, a little bit fatter and well hydrated.
We were hiking a wash through some Colorado desertscrub and not seeing anything at all. It happens.
We did see some other usual big desert things though, the things that I would have gone wild for when I was a kid, and the things that I see people tweet about as potential desert nightmares when they spend 45 minutes in layover at the airport. Giant centipedes, giant spiders, giant scorpions – the usual crew. This one was cool though, in that on closer inspection, we had also found our one and only snake of the night.
I lived in Idaho for a long time, or about as long as I have anywhere being a military kid. I saw rattlesnakes here and there. Out fishing, or by the side of the road driving to some useless place. When I was younger I was obsessed with reptiles and dinosaurs, doing an early version of the activity I do now, various snakes in various jars, poorly kept and not understood. Like a lot of things, I stopped by highschool. It wasn’t due to lack of interest, but, as I realized later when I picked it up again, I didn’t know it could be taken in as a serious activity. I’m not sure why, but I did. Whenever I was outdoors, I was flipping logs, checking the edges of the river, looking.
When I was 16 or 17, I went fishing with a group of my friends at a nearby reservoir. I don’t remember how the fishing went. What I do remember is this: a rattlesnake buzzed me as I walked the upper edge, above the water. What I did next, I will never understand. I found a stick, initially wanting a closer look, and I killed the snake.
I was in absolutely no danger, and I was not scared. The snake gave warning, I listened, and then … who knows. I killed it, and we pushed it into the water. It’s dead body writhed in the water below, and that’s when the moment was over. The moment, being whatever bit of teenage stupidity caused me to need to overcome something that didn’t require it. A terrified, stationary animal, hiding under a bush, that I beheaded with a stick and kicked into the lake.
The rattle was on the ground under the bush, so I took it. I kept it for a long time before it was burned in a car accident my brother had.
To anyone that may read this that’s thinking – what’s the big deal. It’s a snake, if it were a person, or a dog, or a cat, or a horse … but a snake? Ya, I know. It’s all just perspective, right? We all have people or topics in our lives that people take the wrong way. Ya, but. Sure, but try and understand. Well, you don’t know him. It wasn’t like that. This is mine. A small cause, in trying to figure out why I did that, why others do it, and stop it. If you’re reading this and don’t understand, imagine being a dog owner and cutting the head off a dog as a child, or loving horses, but once you shot one for no reason at all.
So we save them, try to educate people who often just aren’t interested, and figure out whatever mental need causes someone like myself who just kills from being a young stupid male. My group has saved well over 1,000 rattlesnakes in Arizona at this point. It does not feel like enough to make up for that one small male Great Basin Rattlesnake that I did not stop to understand. It is though, I guess, a useful tool. It keeps me from getting angry at people who don’t know better, or sometimes do, but just don’t see animals as something of value. It’s hard to approach someone who’s just killed one of these animals for a twitter photo opportunity and say anything of use, but I can say that at least, at one point, I was you.
As a followup to the timber rattlesnake, here’s Pennsylvania’s other rattlesnake: the massasauga. They’re little, primitive, and really pretty. We were fortunate to have been able to find and photograph 2 during that day in the swampy areas in the West of the state. This is one of those species where every one I’ve seen, I kind of say to myself “well, this is the last one of THESE I will surely ever see, so take a few more shots.” We’ll see about that …
Hola! It’s been awhile. The 2013 field season is in full swing, as evidenced by my not having posted since, um, FEBRUARY! No worries – I have a lot of sightings to fill this thing up with over the winter. To start, here’s one of a timber rattlesnake we saw out in the cool spring air in 2012. This is the type of shot I am trying to get more of; I’ve been lucky to take lots of photos of snakes up close, sitting, defensive, sleeping, in ambush, you name it. As someone with great interest in these animals’ natural history, photos like this tell much more of the story. Where, what, how … the context can be as interesting as the animal itself.
We started out earlier than we should have, with the weather what it was … more for logistics than activity. It’s always better to be early than late, and we were definitely early. By the time we got our stuff together and climbed to the place where all the snakes would be, the fog and cloud cover was still hugging the mountain with no sign of lifting. After sitting around for at least an hour, we got to work anyway. It wasn’t long before Rich found 3 tiny baby rock rattlesnakes sitting out in the open. They were the first of a good number of this species found that day, and it’s always fun to find multiples.
Here are a couple – I’ll post others another day.
See him there? I could have gotten closer, but lately I’ve enjoyed taking shots like this – the snake in the environment it’s in, which better tells the tale. Photographers tend to gripe about it, the subject being so small, but that’s not really what this is all about.
This one was showing off some caudal luring skills. If I were a lizard, I’d certainly think that yellow wiggler was breakfast.
Here’s another diamondback from Eddy county – common of course but there are obvious physical differences between them and those that I find around Phoenix. They tend to be darker, higher contrast, and larger. Ya, a very common snake, but I’m happy to see every one that I do and will always photograph them, to the dismay of whatever herper is with me.
A couple more, of many found in the last few years. They all look so similar – I wouldn’t even know if I saw the same one twice.
Every July, when the desert is at it’s hottest, driest, most brutal time, temperatures don’t really ever drop out of the 90s in rocky washes around Phoenix. This is a great time to visit a couple of tortoises that use the same cut out in a wash to keep in the shade. There are probably cooler spots, but these are where they are, and I’ve seen them for the last few years like clockwork, any day in July.
This one usually has a diamondback friend, though not this time around. He smells like a cow, which is how I found him the first time.