After spending winter months hiking through the desert, we’ve learned to watch for critters that lurk unseen, ready to strike or sting unwary visitors. With this in mind, even though unnecessary, I found myself constantly on guard while tramping through brush and tall grasses at the National Elk Refuge over the summer.
Climbing Miller Butte each Tuesday to observe swan activity on the Refuge, I couldn’t shake the cautious habit I’d acquired in hostile territory. Even then, however, I was startled when I disturbed a large wandering gartersnake (Western terrestrial gartersnake) that darted from beneath a bush upon my approach.
Distressed as well, the gartersnake froze, tongue flicking, to inspect this intruder into its habitat. When she detected no movement, she slithered cautiously around a nearby rock and disappeared down a hole beneath it. She was taking no chances.
Although we saw few snakes this season in Grand Teton National Park and on the National Elk Refuge, we observed many other animals, some of which are shown below.
Mamas and Babies:
And Merely Signs of Animals: