I’ve been down to the South East end of Arizona several times in the past two years in search of what I’ve gathered by reading posts by other herpers on the AHA and Fieldherp forums are some of the more sought-after snakes around town. The last three trips I’ve limited the search specifically to Crotalus lepidus klauberi, the banded rock rattlesnake (or green rock rattlesnake, depending on the date of the book you’re reading, as informed by Jerry Feldner). The last two times were no good, though we did end up scouting out the areas in the process where I’d eventually find them. My girlfriend Kelly and I went to the Huachuca mountains and spent a few days searching, and eventually found three lepidus.
The first animal seen was an unusually dark Crotalus scutulatus (Mojave Rattlesnake).
There were many of these neonate Sonoran Gophersnakes (Pituophis catenifer affinis) around. All but this guy were hit by cars, unfortunately.
Early the next evening we found our first C. lepidus in habitat looking nowhere near what I had expected and searched earlier. I flipped out, hard.
… then we found another.
We found this unfortunate Crotalus willardi willardi (Ridgenosed Rattlesnake) that had just been hit by a car. It was still alive, though I am sure not for long with the many owls and skunks we saw that night. I could have taken some better photos of at least the front end of it, but my girlfriend reminded me that I should probably leave it alone and let it die without some douchebag with a camera right in it’s face. I agreed and we left disappointed to not have come across it minutes before. Crotalus willardi is arguably the most highly prized herp find in our state, if not the country. Field herpers come to monsoon-season SE Arizona from all over the country each year with willardi on their wish-list. I can’t accurately convey how sad it is to see something for the first time that you’ve seen so often in books and posts by respected field herpers in real life for the first time, and watch it die. I am sure I will have plenty of experiences with willardi in the future, but the first is the one you’ll always remember.
Awhile later we found a Chihuahuan Hook-nosed Snake (Gyalopion canum), my second of the year. This snake is one of two (the other being the Sonoran Coral Snake) that defend themselves by means of “cloacal popping” … otherwise known as farting. Here are a few pictures and a video where you can hear these terrifying farts.
That was it for the night. In the morning, on the way home, I wanted to try some hiking in the area where we’d seen the lepidus the night before. They are primarily active in the daytime, so two in a night hints at some high activity in some previously unconsidered habitat, driven by many times on multiple trips.
Here’s some habitat shots Kelly took. One has a fat animal of some sort ruining the shot.
After hiking for awhile through the grassland below the mountain, it took only a few minutes of searching on the first pile of rocks we saw to turn up this extremely green adult lepidus and a few Yarrow’s Spiny Lizards (Sceloporus jarrovi). It was a good end to the trip.