When good transmitters go bad

Jeff and I set out early 4 July to track Bane and Luna (male and female Arizona black rattlesnakes), who had both been sticking fairly close to the Nature Trail. Bane shed a few days before, and the rains had started, so we expected him to start mate-searching behavior soon.

Bane (male Arizona black rattlesnake), a few hours after he shed his skin.

We tuned in Bane’s frequency on our radio telemetry receiver first, and instead of being greeted with his familiar beep or the dreaded static (indicating he moved out of range), we heard an unfamiliar monotone. Picking up a strange sound on your snake’s frequency is never good and usually indicates interference with other equipment. But we’ve heard that sound before (see Barney) and this was different.

We continued along the Nature Trail, hoping to pick up the familiar beep over the monotone or perhaps just run into Bane in one of his usual spots. Instead, we encountered this guy, walking through the leaves just off the Secret Springs Loop of the trail.

Gila monsters spend most of their lives underground, so it’s always exciting to see one.

A Gila monster comes face to face with Jeff.

We were happy for a minute, until we turned the receiver back on and again heard that awful sound. 🙁

At this point we were in Luna’s neighborhood, so we tuned in her frequency and were greeted with a beep (so our equipment was working, which meant Bane’s transmitter has malfunctioned). We tracked Luna to a new spot a few yards from where we last found her. She still looked very pregnant.

You can’t see Luna’s face here, but you can see how fat this little momma is!

We turned around and headed back home, checking for Bane along the way and hearing nothing but that monotone, which eventually faded to static. It occurred to Jeff as we neared the house that the monotone was loudest in Bane’s neighborhood, so might it be possible to track this sound and find Bane?

Jeff headed back out to see…