November was a month of lost snakes, found snakes, and Jaydin’s (our male black-tailed rattlesnake) wild ride.
Henry (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) disappeared for the first couple weeks of November. How do you lose a giant rattlesnake? Easy: when you first have trouble locating him, climb the steepest hills nearby assuming that he has taken off like Jaydin. How do you find a giant rattlesnake? Go back to the last place you located him and start your search there. After beating myself up and not finding Henry doing the former, I tried the latter and located him within minutes. Henry had settled into a nice den on the south-facing side of a wash. The location is great, but the neighbors are not; Henry shares his den with a hive of bees, which makes for some unsettling tracking.
Stuart (male western diamond-backed rattlesnake) had now been in the yucca patch on the hillside east and above the bee den (where Henry is) for a couple weeks. We were beginning to think this unlikely spot may actually be his den. One morning at the end of November, I left Henry to check on Stuart, a ~30 minute walk/climb. I got to the familiar yucca patch, but no Stuart, instead a faint beep indicating that he had moved very far away and/or there was treacherous terrain between us. And of course it was in the direction I had just come from. So I began the hike back up the wash toward the bee den to find Stuart. As I got closer to the bee den, Stuart’s signal got louder. Hmmm, could it be? Our first social rattlesnake den at Muleshoe Ranch? Yes! Indeed it was! I ended up exactly where I had started, at the bee den where Henry and now Stuart were denning together. Unfortunately, because of the bee hive, we cannot see the rattlesnakes inside their den. I look forward to seeing how these two, and perhaps others, interact when they emerge in spring.
Male western diamond-backed rattlesnakes in combat as they emerge from their den in the spring (video not taken at Muleshoe).
Boyett (male Arizona black rattlesnake) moved from the scrubby hillside into a beautiful den above. Nice pink rocks, large crevice, and some loose rocks below with lots of protective vegetation for springtime basking. One cold, rainy afternoon I got lucky enough to catch him coming out to snag a drink:
I didn’t actually see him drinking, but I can’t imagine why else he would have left the den because it was cold that day! He was back in his crevice a week later.
Jaydin (male black-tailed rattlesnake) was still on the move. After his brief rest at the top of the hill, Jaydin headed downhill into a rock pile at the base of a large juniper. Given how late in the year it was and the appearance of this site, I assumed he had (finally) arrived at his den. Not so. A week later he had moved over a couple hills into another rock pile on the north-facing side of a wash. This was the same cold, rainy day when I say Boyett (see above), and Jaydin was also sitting out:
Now was this Jaydin’s den? Of course not. Another week, another couple hundred meters… Will this snake ever stop moving?
Chris (male Arizona black rattlesnake) is still tucked away in his talus slide den. Glendy (male Arizona black rattlesnake) was not to be found this month. At the end of October he was still in Hot Springs Wash; a few days later, there was not a trace of him. Stay tuned…