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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.