Desert Dining

On a humid Sonoran Desert evening we met up with Roger Repp and Gordon Schuett at their study site along with some old friends from near and far. Wandering the washes, we find a juvenile desert rodent stumbling out of a hackberry bush into the dry stream channel. It turns at our approach and manages a couple of hops away before spiraling onto one side. While at first we attribute its ungainly locomotion to its youth or perhaps being blinded by a flashlight, it soon becomes clear: its situation is dire.

Six minutes after encountering the rodent, we spot a tiger rattlesnake (Crotalus tigris) emerge from the bushes about 10 meters downstream. It’s a beautiful male with a long, intact rattle, and he’s intent on finding his meal. This next video clip shows him scent trailing his prey.

Tiger rattlesnake venom is extremely potent, and this one knows his prey couldn’t get far. His search is slow but methodical; he may turn away momentarily, but he is quick to correct course and close in on his meal. In the following video, the tiger passes very close to the rodent, visible above the stick to the left. Portions of the film are sped up 3 times.

Observations like this are infrequently witnessed. By searching on foot, keeping our minds open to what may come, and being willing to sit and watch what unfolds were we able to observe this feeding event. That, and quite a lot of luck….

In the interest of full disclosure, this snake was captured after feeding. He is now being radio-tracked by Roger and Gordon, and further updates on this snake’s life will be available on Roger’s Suizo Report, posted regularly to John Murphy’s blog: