Diamondbacks and Tigers and Garters, Oh my!

I had an opportunity recently to show one of my favorite local herping spots to an old/new friend. He had been into reptiles several years ago, and is now recently getting back into reptiles with his sons. We have begun to have some monsoon activity in our area recently and I thought that my nice little local spot might be productive when he texted me asking if we wanted to go herping that evening. It had rained fairly well near my spot and the daytime temperatures were cooler today– perfect for desert night hiking.

We made our way over to the spot and with our lights ready and our hopes up we began our night hike. We were greeted within the very first portion of the trail with a nice little western diamondback rattlesnake patiently waiting for prey to come by. I often see rattlesnakes in this waiting position when finding them on night hikes. During the day or while road herping I will most often see them stretched out while on the move.

The first western diamondback rattlesnake
The first western diamondback rattlesnake

About ten minutes later, while hiking through a more secluded and shaded spot, I walked right past this tiger rattlesnake. Tiger rattlesnakes are really quite interesting. They are less often seen as their activity is often very seasonal–it is in my experience tied closely to precipitation. I have found them in the spring following rains, and in the summer following rains, but haven’t really found them at any time of the year when it is dry.

tiger rattlesnake
Tiger Rattlesnake

Hiking a ways further, we didn’t find any other reptiles for about twenty minutes or so. Then, retracing our steps as we turned around on our hiking trail in order to make our return journey, we found another western diamondback along the edge of a dry wash. We took a few photos and continued our hike.

Second western diamondback rattlesnake
Second western diamondback rattlesnake

Our next snake was found slithering along the trail headed in the same direction we were hiking. It was another tiger rattlesnake! This one was a little larger and had more body weight than the first. We were now up to our fourth rattlesnake of the hike! We took some more photos of this tiger rattlesnake and continued our hike.

second tiger rattlesnake
Second Tiger Rattlesnake

The remainder of the trail was uneventful. We decided to try another spot near a water source. The area was not as nice as my local spot, but we did manage to turn up this small checkered garter snake. I don’t recall ever finding a baby checkered before, and I first assumed that it was a young black necked garter snake. After coming home and seeing the photos, though, I think it was a checkered and not a black necked garter snake.

checkered garter snake
Checkered garter snake

The monsoon season is still young and I hope to head out at least another two or three times. I am in the middle of a move to a new area am looking ahead to being very busy over the next few years so I hope I will continue to find time to herp.

Summer upland desert night drive

I had the opportunity this past weekend to hit a somewhat local spot that I have been meaning to hunt for many years. It is in a mountainous area that is out of the lower desert where temperatures are a bit cooler (for Arizona). We had a good heavy rainstorm on Friday and so me and my trusted herping companion decided to give it a go. I recently had my AC repaired in my truck so I felt exciting to go herping in the nice cool AC.

Almost immediately upon arrival at our chosen location, we found this gorgeous little ring neck snake. It had been about 16 or 17 years since I had found my last one, which was a very large one in Madeira Canyon in the Santa Rita mountains. This one, however, was much smaller, probably about 12 inches in length. It was stretched out along the side of the road at dusk. Here are a few shots of it:

arizona ring neck snake

arizona ring neck snake top

We climbed higher in elevation and the air started to cool a bit. We passed a few tarantulas, and then found a beautiful black tailed rattlesnake, which I was unable to photograph as it escaped to a very steep rocky slope while I was getting my camera!

We climed a bit higher in elevation and eventually found this gorgeous Arizona Black Rattlesnake. We actually did not see the animal on the road, it was off the shoulder in the brush but we heard it rattle as we passed it, which is also how I found another a few years ago. This one was nice and dark and healthy looking.

arizona black rattlesnake


We left this majestic animal in peace and continued our search. About 45 minutes later, we were again greeted by this same animal. It had traveled only a short distance from where we had located it the first time.

We found other interesting beetles and centipedes (which I did not photograph) on the search, but no other snakes. We didn’t expect to be out too late that evening, but we did do a little exploring on the way home, finding a potentially good place to find Arizona Mountain Kings that deserves exploring at some future date. I am looking forward to one or two more short outings this monsoon season!

Early June rainstorm night hike

We have been exceptionally blessed this year with excellent herping weather. I just wish that I had more time available that I could put towards field herping. Life is continually busier and filled with additional responsibilities (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). This spring was very mild, with low temperatures throughout the spring and into the month of June. In fact, I was camping in snow in Arizona in the middle of May!

Following some rainstorms (the next day or two after the storm), I went out with a group of regular herping friends to a local spot. We didn’t find large numbers of herps, but did find two species that up until that point I had never encountered at our chosen location.

The first snake of the evening was this blind snake, also commonly called thread snakes.


I don’t see these snakes all too often, unless you count all of the blind snakes that I find in my local neighborhood due to the irrigation systems that we have in my old 1960’s neighborhood. They are quite small, and are most easily detected by their shiny scales. Light reflects very well off of their scales, making them somewhat easier to see than they otherwise might be.

Not too long afterwards, we also found this pretty little banded sand snake. These snakes are likely very common in the habitats that they inhabit. For me, though, it had been over 20 years since the last time that I found this species in the wild. Only recently, though, have I again begun to spend significant amounts of time herping in the areas in which these snakes might be found.

banded sand snake

Thats pretty much it! A short little local trip is always successful when you night hike a few snakes!

Sonoran Desert Reptile Hike March 2015

sonoran desertI had the chance along with my best bud to get out on a hike to enjoy nature and to look for reptiles. As were driving to our hiking spot, we each made guesses as to what we would find on our hike. We made a first and a second guess. I chose a patchnose snake as my first guess. I have routinely found them on spring hikes in the sonoran desert, so I thought this would be a good choice. For my second guess, I got a little braver and chose a speckled rattlesnake. My friend chose a ground snake and a black headed snake.

We ended up finding a patchnose snake as our first snake, so I won! Woohoo! I tried to take a photo of it, but it slithered away before I could get a good shot. If you look closely, though, you can see it in the photo:
Patch-nose snake

We saw several other lizards, of course. There were at least some variety of whiptail lizards as well as plently of zebra tailed lizards. The only other snake that we found was this diamondback rattlesnake, who was fully active in the middle of the sandy wash:
western diamondback rattlesnake

Here is a short video of the 9.5 mile 5 hour hike:

And finally, here are a few more photos of the area where we hiked and the hike itself:

yellow desert poppies

cactus with flowers

desert canyon

dead saguaro in desert

US Fish and Wildlife abuse of power

This past Friday the Boa Constrictor was at risk of being classified as an “injurious” species and restricted from further interstate commerce. Four large constrictors were added to the list (Reticulated Python, and a few varieties of Anacondas), but luckily the Boa Constrictor was not added to the list. The reason that they were “banned” from further interstate commerce is because some believe that there is a substantial risk of these snakes being “invasive” wildlife in nature.

It has been shown that some of these varieties of snakes are, in fact, surviving and living in the wild in parts of Florida. I agree that these animals should be restricted within Florida and perhaps a few adjacent States. However, the US Fish and Wildlife has chosen to treat this as a national problem, as Federal agencies tend to to, instead of letting individual States, who are closer to the people and who are more properly equipped to make appropriate decisions on how to handle these State specific situations.

I am grateful that Boa Constrictors were spared from this list, but am very perturbed and disgusted that the citizens of this country and of individual States are not able to make these decisions. Instead, non elected Federal officials from the US Fish and Wildlife are making these “rules” and destroying the free industry of reptile keeping. This sort of “rule making” that is being done by these federal agencies instead of being passed by a system or process that is under more direct control and oversight by the people or their elected representatives must stop. This is not how legislation was intended to be made and is a gross abuse of federal power. These kinds of decisions should be up to the States and more closely subject to the will of the people.

What makes matters worse is that extreme animal rights groups, such as HSUS (The Humane Society of the United States) are behind the scenes spending their money (that they raise through misleading advertising about helping starving puppies and kittens) to try and push this sort of extreme agenda driven legislation.

I support organizations such as PIJAC and USARK that are attempting to stop this immoral and dishonest legislation from passing. Please support them financially if you care about your right to own any kind of pet animal.

For more information about the constrictor ban, click here.

Here is some more information about the phony animal rights movement. Keep in mind that taking proper care of animals is most definitely something that is important. I deplore intentional animal abuse and am strongly opposed to it, but what I am describing is something different altogether. Take a look below:




Phoenix Reptile Show Repticon 2015

20150307_112656(1)I went out to the Phoenix Repticon reptile show down at the Arizona Fair Grounds this weekend. The show was much smaller than I thought it would be, not nearly as large as the Tucson Reptile Show or the ARBA reptile breeders shows that they used to have 15-20 years ago here in Phoenix. I took two of my daughters to the show this time.

The show had plenty of Ball Pythons, Leopard Geckoes, and other common pet reptiles. I enjoyed viewing the Arizona Herpetological Associations (AHA) display of native Arizona reptiles. In particular, I enjoyed seeing these two speckled rattlesnakes from a few popular Arizona locales. 20150307_113513(1)

There was a table with some interesting insect art. I didn’t catch the name of the place, but they were selling insects that were encased in some sort of crystal clear resin of some sort. I would really like to have some of these on display in a future nature room when I get too old to travel into the field and I want to share some of my love for natures creations with others.




And here are a few photos of some of the reptiles that I saw at the show. I only took two photos of these interesting geckoes. I am not up on my old world geckos so I don’t know what they are exactly.



Central Arizona February 2015 Hike, Patch Nosed Snake

sonoran desert
I went on a short 3 mile hike with my daughter and neice today. The weather is very nice this time of year, in mid February. Temperatures were in the low 80’s today. At this time of year reptiles are once again active on the warm days like today. We hiked up the trail and found this beautiful patch nosed snake on the side of the trail, the front half of its body was hidden under a rock, but the rest of it was right out in the open and easy to see, and to grab.

Patch nose snake

At the top of this particular mountain there are some areas with some small caves and I noticed this odd shaped thing protruding from one of the small holes in the side of the rocks. At first, I thought it was some sort of mushroom. I thought that maybe there was a small amount of seepage and that it was causing this large fungus to grow in the rock. When we got closer, though, I discovered that it was really a wild bee hive. I believe that bees in the area have all been africanized. I swell up when I get stung by bees, so I try to stay clear of them as much as possible. Here is a quick video of the bee hive:

Feeling the need to warm up, like this Blacktailed Rattlesnake!

Happy New Year! It is very cold over here in Arizona so far in 2015! We had snow in some of the cooler parts of the Phoenix area. We decided to head up in search of snow on New Years Day in the morning. We headed up to the mountains east of town and played in the snow. It has been getting down into the upper 20’s for much of this week and I am definitely not used to the chilly weather! I really would like to get warmer, but the cool weather is great for my brumating reptiles. In thinking about getting warm I am reminded of this Blacktail Rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus) that I found a few years ago sunning itself in partial concealment under a rock. It was on St. Patrick’s Day to boot! Enjoy! Warmer weather is right around the corner and I hope to be able to do more herping this year!