A Tale of Two Trash Snakes Part 2

The bike ride was hard, and now I was hungry. I set up the solar oven outside our front entrance to preheat, and flopped onto the couch. Not 10 minutes had gone by when I returned outside with a bowl of pasta to heat in the oven, but now there was a dead whiptail that wasn’t there before. Weird – I thought – in the last few minutes, a lizard has crawled onto the concrete walkway and expired. I turned it over in my fingers, looking for obvious signs of injury, but could find none. After yesterday’s introduction to Daryl, my thoughts turned to him, and how I didn’t know if I would detect puncture marks from rattlesnake fangs if they were there. I replaced the lizard, aimed the oven directly at the early afternoon sun, and went back inside.

We had seen it before: a dying mouse stumbling out of vegetation to die dramatically at our feet, to be followed moments later by a tiger rattlesnake. But that still seemed like incredible luck, and not likely to happen upon our literal doorstep. I went back out to fetch my now piping-hot leftovers, and found the lizard still there, as before.

Carol, rock rattlesnake, slips behind coffee can

Inside, I ate, and then I slept, as one ignorant of the near future events only could. I awoke a short time later when Melissa arrived home. She came in from the garage, and I casually related the recent events. She wasted no time in checking on the lizard, and – WOOHOO! – a rattlesnake had indeed appeared, and was now only a few feet from the lizard.

Melissa had startled the gorgeous rock rattlesnake (Crotalus lepidus), eliciting a short rattle burst. Her gray form, graduated by sharp black bands slinked behind an old coffee can, behind which she bunched slowly, in hopes of disappearing from us.

“The same one?” I mused, referring to Daryl.

“This one’s smaller,” she observed, and I believed her: she had known quite a few one summer in southeastern Arizona, capturing and marking rock rattlesnakes as part of a study.

My brain went haywire, still reckoning with yesterday’s surprising finds. I was not ready for more revelations! ANOTHER rock rattlesnake in the yard?! It was intoxicating.

It had taken at least an hour for her to zero in almost all the way to her prey, but we had disrupted her task. Feeling vulnerable, she made the sensible choice to retreat until the interlopers were gone.

It is quite difficult to snake-watch. Once the Watcher is able to locate the snake, the snake is already aware of her presence, so in most cases she will be witnessing snake defensive behavior (if only a cryptic standstill). It is a challenge/skill/blunder that we would hone/exercise over the coming days.

Carol was put off by us, but thankfully she wouldn’t give up easily. She wound around the yard in the hot sun as we tried to maintain our distance, using binoculars and long lenses to monitor her moves. She disappeared readily into vegetation and rocks, but we would always seem to find her again, once spotting her crossing the driveway quite far from where we’d last seen her.

As she once more approached her prey, we were better prepared. Tripods were set up, and we were better able to situate ourselves so that we could still fidget as humans and not spook her again.

After the self-consciousness I felt from bumbling in her way, I was relieved that Carol finally found her quarry. Typically, a snake would swallow their prey all the way down to the stomach (about 1/3 down her body). But she was not going to wait that long – she was out of there, out and around the garage as she finished muscling the little lizard down.

The west side of the garage had a few hiding spots already, but to enhance her sense of security, I placed a couple of extra pieces of cover along the wall. And maybe it worked; she spent the night tucked up under a small piece of roofing tin, and maybe on the lookout for another lizard to pass by…

Carol ambushing under shelf

We shared the moment Carol found her meal on Facebook in a live video. Check it out and follow us there to see any future live videos. Who knows what we’ll see in our yard this year?