I’ve been researching everything about the flora and fauna of Arizona. This is something I do and have been doing since I was a kid before I go anywhere new. Everyone knows what I’m all about. The critters, the plants, THE MUSHROOMS! Unfortunately I don’t expect to find many fungi in the dry conditions. But holy crap the reptiles… The deserts are reptile heaven. What I have to look forward to in Arizona are desert tortoises, Gila monsters, whiptails, collard lizards, chuckwallas, and dozens more species of lizard, 52 species of snakes including THIRTEEN different rattlesnake species. I love rattlesnakes. Let me help ease the fear of them. They are probably the most compromising dangerous animals in the United States. Think about it. They have good camouflage and will try to stay still, not rattling and go unnoticed if possible. I can attest to this because on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania I walked right past a big fat timber rattler that was not even a yard off the trail and then did a double take because that big stick looked odd. I walked back and got a good look at him. I couldn’t believe it! Just right there by the trail and he didn’t curl up or rattle at all! Turns out Buzz Lightyear walked right past it a few minutes earlier and it didn’t move either! He thought it was just another Rat snake. It wasn’t until I got close taking pictures that this fella coiled up and the started rattling. After camouflage fails or they get nervous that you’re too close they have a freaking rattle that they use to say, “Hey, uh yea your getting kind of close brah and it’s making me nervous. But I’ll keep rattling so you know right where I’m at and you can go around me. Kthxbye.” What other animal warns you of it’s presence for they good of both parties? And guess what… Snakes don’t have ears! They can’t even hear their own rattle! So all if you who carry bear bells in the desert to alert the rattlesnakes you’re coming, bad news. They can’t hear them.
Rattlers aren’t looking for a fight. A rattlesnake is no match for a human at all. Any person that can pick up a rock or stick has a massive advantage over an animal that can’t defend itself by any other means than biting. And then you hear the stories of rattlesnakes chasing after people. I just laugh at this. If you’ve ever met a rattlesnake, you know that they’re a fat short snake compared to most. And although they can strike amazingly fast, they really aren’t quick to move across the ground compared to other snake species. No contest at all for any person who can run more than a few miles an hour. The fastest snake on earth is the black mamba and they clock in at a top speed of 12 miles an hour which is hardly a sprint for the average person. Don’t even get me started on all the Mojave green rattlesnake crap we heard from locals on the PCT. One guy we were hitching with gave us some weird papers talking about how sinister they are and that a boy just sitting on his porch had a Mojave latch on to his leg and he couldn’t get it off until his brother pried it’s jaws off and then venom was spraying all over. I’m not even kidding about this. Anyways… I digress.
Here are some of the AWESOME reptiles and amphibians I came across on the Pacific Crest Trail!
While postholing in the high Sierra, I saw something in the bottom of a previous posthole. It’s was a freaking living frog! In this world of ice and rock this little guy was alive and well! Not too sure what he is other than cute.
A California mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis zonata!!!) I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to find one and she was so precious and gentle. Never tried to bite or struggle or musk, just calmly chilled with me until I put her down and she went on her way looking for snakes, rodents other tasty things.
I went nuts when I found this widdle baby rubber boa (Charina bottae) in Oregon! Another snake I really wanted to see on the trail and it’s a precious baby! I bet you didn’t know there were boas in the US! In fact there are two! The rubber boa can be found all the way into Canada even. The other is the rosy boa and it’s found in Southern California and western Arizona.
Caught this big Alligator Lizard (elgaria coerulea principis) in Ashland, Oregon with Mitra and Guthrie next to some “fairy ponds.” Though the common name sounds menacing, he was pretty chill as you can see!
And then there was this guy… Big northern pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) I found him right on the trail about 3 miles north of Ashland and it was still pretty early in the morning so he was slow and chilly. I pinned his head (gently) with one of my trekking poles and picked up his head right behind those big venom glands. I held him just firmly enough so he couldn’t wiggle is head around and get me. I held him for a bit in one hand and was taking pictures on my phone with the other hand because I was alone at the time. He was very calm and never even rattled his tail. I set him a little ways up the hill from the trail so he won’t be stepped on and put him down and he just slowly crawled towards some rocks! No aggression at all. One of the biggest adrenaline rushes of my life. To get up close and personal with wildlife, especially the ones less loved. Just like my hero Steve Irwin. Disclaimer… Don’t do this. Haha. I’ve been catching snakes my whole life and caught my first venomous one at 13 years old. I love them. I’m crazy about them. Don’t fear the snakes!
I wish there was a snake in my boot!