“I saw three snakes on my hike!” a visitor to White Tank Mountain Regional Park told us. “Gave me the willies!”
About every other Sunday, Chuck and I take our snakes and skull collection to the Park to interact with visitors and introduce them to some of the wildlife that lives in the Park. We set up our display at the trailhead of the most popular hike so we can engage as many people as possible.
Too often, hikers return from their hike with stories of snake sightings and tales of their fears and revulsion about these animals. Very few look forward to snake encounters, and very few know how to react if they encounter a snake.
On the other hand, we actively seek out snakes to observe their behavior and identify their species. And yet, we rarely locate one. It seems that those who least wish to come across these reptiles have no trouble in that respect.
Until this past weekend!
After we set up our display, I usually walk up the trail to meet returning hikers and tell them of our demonstration. Along the way, I peruse the edges of the trail, the culverts, and rock crevices in search of basking reptiles, usually with no luck other than an occasional whiptail or spiny lizard and many side-blotched lizards.
Last Sunday, however, I finally spotted a snake a few feet off the trail slithering across a rock outcropping. The snake saw me about the same time, coiled a bit, and shook its rattle to warn me from approaching. One of the most common rattlers at this park is the speckled rattlesnake, and the pictures I took confirmed this sighting. Its turquoise markings make it one of the most beautiful rattlesnakes I’d seen.
Hoping this sighting would signal a change in our luck locating snakes in the wild, we headed to the Park a few days later to walk up that same trail together. Lizards skittered among the bushes or perched on boulders, but once again we encountered no snakes. But since visitors continue to reveal their sightings, often with disgust, we know there are plenty of snakes to be seen.
We’ll keep looking!