Reptiles and Field Herpetology in Arizona and Around the US

Reptiles and Field Herpetology in Arizona and Around the US
Apr
22nd
2014

Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard

These Yarrow’s spiny lizards are the most common lizards you’ll see in the mountain ranges of South Eastern Arizona, and also one of the most beautiful. Their metallic scales can have such a high contrast between the blues and pinks and black base color that they look like pixels. They’re usually the first reptile I see when I’m starting a trip down there, and I usually photograph the first one. In this case, it was the last of the trip.

Yarrow's Spiny Lizard

Apr
15th
2014

Blacktails in Yavapai County

This is the first blacktail I found at one of my favorite spots in Yavapai county – a place that I didn’t even visit in 2013. This young molossus hiding under a rock was a bit difficult to photograph, but it was done.

Crotalus molossus

 

There’s a big female in the area that I have seen a lot. I wonder if she’s mom? She has a route that she takes every morning in August, moving between the bushes coming from wherever she was all night. It’s become so regular that one morning, rather than go looking for her, I just sat on a rock and waited for her to come along. She did of course.

Crotalus molossus

Apr
8th
2014

Tiger and Lichen

This shot of a baby tiger rattlesnake ended up much more colorful than I had anticipated, with the typical pink coloration of the snake to match the surrounding rock and neon lichen. This is one of only a handful of tiger rattlesnakes I’ve seen in this area, and the only snake of the morning on the way home from a 9 day field trip. I drove home after this, content with the last of hundreds of snakes seen on this one.

Crotalus tigris

Apr
1st
2014

Desert Massasauga at Sun Up

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Mar
25th
2014

Banded Rock Rattlesnake Not Coiling, As Usual

I never really put it together until now, probably since I’ve been keeping one of these for about a month now for education work (yes, licensed and legal) – I have never seen a banded rock rattlesnake in the tight coil that’s usually characteristic for rattlesnakes. Lot’s of these S shapes, or loosely spread across the rocks, but that’s it. The one I keep at home does the same; many poses, none of which circular. Has anyone else noticed this?

Crotalus-lepidus-klauberi-090613

Mar
18th
2014

Arizona Black Rattlesnake Habitat

Here’s one of my favorite canyons in Yavapai county to look for Arizona Black Rattlesnakes and Blacktailed Rattlesnakes.

 

You can see how this guy would be hard to spot in the middle of the day, even sitting right out in the open. (this one is from a different location)

 

Mar
11th
2014

Baby White Specks!

The only snakes that I breed are the white speckleds that were gifted to me several years ago. Here’s a shot that makes even snake haters think twice, mom with a 2 day old neonate.

Mar
4th
2014

Landscape Photography, or What You Do When Snakes Aren’t Moving

Just barely into New Mexico, before a long night full of Prairie Rattlesnakes and large reddish Diamondbacks:

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A quick one on the way to check a timber rattlesnake den:

allegheny2

 

On the way to Idaho to hang out at Great Basin Rattlesnake dens for a week:

 

While searching for a desert massasauga:

sauga-habitat

Feb
25th
2014

One More Ringneck

While I’m at it, here’s another one. I got this one to pose nicely, showing it’s colorful warning and grey topside at the same time. This may be my favorite picture of one that I’ve taken.

ringnecked snake in arizona


 

Feb
18th
2014

Palm Sized Terror – Regal Ringneck Warning

Here’s a regal ringnecked snake doing it’s thing, terrorizing the predator (me!) that insisted on picking it up. In 2013 I was lucky to see a good amount of these, sometimes multiples in a day, out on the crawl on cool evenings with just a little sprinkle of rain.

Of course if you aren’t wanting to eat him, it just looks pretty. This is one of the pictures in my “show these to people who don’t like snakes” folder.

Regal Ringnecked Snake

Here’s another one, photographed a different day to show the cool slate-grey topside. The grey is so perfect that I like to say it looks like someone forgot to paint the metal cast of the snake (I had some pewter dinosaur models as a kid). I’d say they look almost Elapid at times.

Regal Ringnecked Snake

For contrast, here is a close relative of our Arizona species from Pennsylvania, where they are much more commonly seen and not quite as colorful.

Ringnecked Snake

Feb
12th
2014

Super Sneaky Snakes: Crypsis Variation in Speckled Rattlesnakes

This is my first post with the Reptile and Amphibian Blogging Network (RAmBlN), for Darwin Day! There are a lot more posts coming up – more info at the RAmBlN Facebook Page or Website. The topic for this series is Herps Adapt, showing some of the unique adaptations that have helped Reptiles and Amphibians survive. Also today, take a look at Bree Putman’s post Rattlesnakes’ Superpower: Seeing in the Dark

In Phoenix, we are are fortunate to have 2 of the largest city parks in the world. To visit these parks is not what most think of as visiting a city park – they are extensive native desert landscapes, criss-crossed with trails and visited by hundreds of people every day. The wildlife in these parks is intact, and for many, where iconic desert animals like the coyote and rattlesnake are first met. For those who visit the parks on a regular basis, the occasional rattlesnake sighting is unavoidable.

At education events and discussion with home owners in the area, the first sighting of a sky-blue rattlesnake at our table or unexpectedly appearing in the backyard generates comments such as “I like the albino rattlesnake”, or “Is this real?”. Nearly universally, these individuals are surprised to learn that these pretty blue snakes are one of the more common rattlesnakes that live on the mountain, and that they walk right by them on every hike. Why then, have very few of these hikers and foothills-dwellers ever heard of the speckled rattlesnake?

The reason, upon seeing this snake, is obvious. I photographed this snake within 10 feet of a busy hiking path, while dozens of runners and mountain bikers passsed by:

crotalus-mitchellii-pyrrhus-042613-4

The Southwestern speckled rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus) in this photo (first posted here) is perfectly adapted to look exactly like the rocks where it lives. Even down to the smallest detail of the eye and the flecking frequency within the rock, the disguise is complete. Even with the snake a few feet in front of the observer, in the right conditions it can be difficult to discern the animal’s shape. This makes them both incredibly specialized predators, and notoriously difficult to find. I have personally worn out more than a couple pairs of hiking boots learning how to find speckleds at this locale with regularity.

crotalus-mitchellii-pyrrhus-042613-5

Of all of the rattlesnakes, few would deny that specks are the king of camo, but there is even more to the way these guys do it. On any other mountain range where these snakes are found, they look completely different. Each  population of speckled rattlesnake is adapted not only to look like rocks, but exactly the  color and composition of rocks found only in that location. The granite at South Mountain is a faint sky-blue color, flecked with white or cream quartz; the speckled rattlesnakes here are identical. A short drive to Camelback mountain, another very popular hiking area, changes everything. 

Here is a photograph of Camelback Mountain (phoenix.gov). Take a guess what the speckled rattlesnakes there look like.

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Just as amazingly fine-tuned as at South Mountain, the speckled rattlesnakes are perfectly suited to this red-rock environment:

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This theme continues at each range where the speckled rattlesnake lives. The variation, even within a relatively short distance, can be extreme.

The most amazing example of this is found in the quartz-rich rock of Western Arizona. The speckled rattlesnakes have adapted to be porcelain-white, making them both beautiful and an unfortunate high-value target of poachers. Here is one found in 2013:

crotalus-mitchellii-pyrrhus-051813-1

Crotalus-mitchellii-pyrrhus-051813

 

In stark contrast, speckled rattlesnakes in North Central Arizona have adapted to the pink and orange rock, with beautiful results.

Crotalus-mitchellii-pyrrhus-033013-1

Crotalus-mitchellii-pyrrhus-033013

To show even more variation, I’ve asked friends to contribute photographs of speckled rattlesnakes found throughout their range. This is by no means an complete representation of the variation of this one sub-species of snake, but it does show their amazing gamut of unique instances of specialized camouflage.

Enjoy the flood of speckled rattlesnake photos, and if you ever go hiking in South Mountain park, make sure to double check the rock you’re about to sit on!

Crotalus-mitchelli-pyrrhus-1-0611
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
crotalus-mitchelli-pyrrhus-1-052012
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
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Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
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Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
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Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
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Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
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Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
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Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
specks
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
C-m-phyrrus-2-060210
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
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Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
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Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
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Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
C-m-pyrrhus-1-070211
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
C-m-pyrrus-1-090510
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

Contributions from friends:

Bill BoaRd
Riverside County, CA

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

 

Kevin Butts
S. Nevada

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

 

Richard Legere
Maricopa County, AZ

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

 

Brandon Harmon
Maricopa County, AZ

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

 

Josh Jones
Maricopa County, Arizona

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

 

Kris Haas
Mojave County, AZ

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

 

Kris Haas
Yavapai County, AZ

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

 

Kris Haas
Maricopa County, AZ

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

 

Kris Haas
La Paz County, AZ

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

 

Kris Haas
Yuma County, AZ

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

 

Dave Holland
S. California

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

 

Dave Holland
Maricopa County, AZ

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

 

Bill Love

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus

 

Kat Parks
Maricopa County, AZ

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Thanks for making it to the end. Check out the other posts from the Reptile and Amphibian Blogging Network (RAmBlN), for Darwin Day, and like the page on facebook: RAmBlN Facebook Page


 

 

 

Feb
11th
2014

Neonate Tiger Rattlesnake – Santa Cruz County, Arizona

This little guy was the only rattlesnake seen this particular morning; just a little tiger out moving across the road. Rolling storms had been hammering the area for days, so I was lucky to find him. There was a team from Game and Fish and a big group of ASU students searching the area at well, who saw nothing, so I guess this is all there was to see. He was photographed and let go right where he was found.

Baby Tiger Rattlesnake