Thursday, June 29, 2006

Tuscan Flat Snake

10/03/2002 @ 3:38:59 PM CEST
I'm very lucky to have successful family members who love me. That's how I got to spend two weeks in Cortona, Tuscany, Italy. It turns out Tuscany has quite a few snakes, minus this western whip snake (Coluber viridiflavus) which I found on the road just after it had been run over.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Skinky Frijoles

09/28/2005 @ 08:20:47 PM MDT
This many-lined skink (Eumeces multivirgatus) was found in Frijoles Canyon in Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos. This is an example of the stripeless morph, seen more in drier habitats.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

An African Monster in NM

09/28/2005 @ 08:20:47 PM MDT
This is Vader. Or was Vader. He passed away of old age a few weeks ago. Kept by C.J. Carman and Johnathan Ferris of the Wildlife Center snake rescue crew, Vader was an African puff adder (Bitis arietans) rescued from a private collection. When Vader passed away, he was a snake that weighed in excess of 70 pounds.

Vader was named such because when you walked into the room he was kept in, the hissing sounds he made sounded just like Darth Vader's breathing noises from the Star Wars movies. His bite could deliver so much venom (through 2 inch-long fangs) that your only chance for survival would require you to amputate whichever part of your body that took the strike. Either that or you had better be somewhere near Phoenix, Arizona, because that's the only place where you can obtain the anti-venin for this monster.

I was more impressed with Vader than any other snake I've ever encountered, and more impressed with C.J., Johnathan and Tom Wyant than any other snake people I've ever met. I'm thrilled each time I get to go herping with them. It's like being a Lakers fan and getting to play with Kobe.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Fishing Garter Snakes

06/04/2006 @ 03:44:36 PM MDT
I have a favorite canyon I visit on the east slope of the southern end of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. There's a creek that runs through this canyon that has a few nice trout-filled pools. You'll see fish of all sizes, from fry to 14" whoppers, all stuck in these pools with little more than a trickle for a water flow.

You'll also find some fishing terrestrial garter snakes (Thamnophis elegans). They have developed a special behavior that lets them get away with it. As they move underwater through these pools in their attempt to ambush a fish, they sway to and fro and move somewhat jerkily, as if they were fallen branches buffeted by the current, one that just happens to not really exist in the pools they fish in. Obviously, the snakes are smarter than the fish in this instance.

06/04/2006 @ 01:14:15 PM MDT

07/02/2005 @ 01:14:15 PM MDT

Caha Meanie

06/05/2004 @ 06:13:26 PM MDT
I found this prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) while 4-wheeling in the Caha del Rio section of the Santa Fe National Forest on the east side of the Rio Grande. It was very determined to not be picked up, struggling so much that I decided then and there that rattlesnakes don't need to be handled unless absolutely necessary.

Micro Snake

11/23/2005 @ 03:05:37 PM MDT
You can't really tell from this photo, but this baby sharptailed snake (Contia tenuis) was less than 3 inches long when photographed. It was found in a backyard in San Anselmo, California, a few days before Thanksgiving.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

My Culpability in the Stupid Snake Movie

09/15/2005 @ 09:13:07 PM MDT
We captured two Sonoran mountain kingsnakes (Lampropeltis pyromelana) on the Labor Day 2005 Gila trip. I gave one to Tom Wyant, head of the Wildlife Center snake rescue program. The other I kept, this small yet very spirited female. Before she escaped (never to be seen again,) I took this picture along with another and submitted them to as artwork for their coverage of the movie Snakes on a Plane. As you may already know or have imagined, it's a horror film where someone releases many snakes on a plane in flight. Mayhem ensues.

As it turns out, New Line Cinema used this very photograph as the basis of their title artwork. Not that it was any great stretch of the imagination for anyone involved:
''The inspiration initially came from the Internet after [fans] did their own art,'' says director David R. Ellis of online designs like's. ''New Line took that and ran with it.''
By the way, New Line; here's my bill (scroll down to the last comment.)

Gila River Blacktails

05/28/2005 @ 04:04:43 PM MDT
An early September trip to the west fork of the Gila River last year turned up 5 blacktail rattlesnakes (Crotalus molossus). I almost stepped on this one while brushing my teeth. It looks like it's just had a real nice meal.

05/28/2005 @ 04:04:43 PM MDT
Another blacktail rattlesnake along the trail.

05/28/2005 @ 04:04:43 PM MDT
This little guy was caught by a boy scout counselor.

05/28/2005 @ 04:04:43 PM MDT
This snake would not stay still for a photo. I don't think it ever rattled or tried to strike. It just wanted to get out of the way.

05/28/2005 @ 04:04:43 PM MDT
My dog Cisco ran right over this snake without even noticing it.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mills Canyon/Canadian River

05/28/2005 @ 4:00:49 PM MDT
Last year around Memorial Day we went to Mills Canyon on the Canadian river in the Kiowa National Grasslands, where there were plenty of critters to keep us busy. On the way to our campsite I peered over a 10 foot bank and spied this monster coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum) creeping in the grass next to the river.

05/28/2005 @ 04:04:43 PM MDT
Handsome snake.

05/28/2005 @ 04:10:11 AM MDT
Boss of the grass.

05/29/2005 @ 11:10:45 AM MDT
The next day we found this diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) in the same colors as the local red rock. It tried to hide in the bush until we pulled it out for a portrait.

05/29/2005 @ 11:13:49 AM MDT

05/29/2005 @ 3:08:06 PM MDT
Hiking up a side canyon, we found this ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus).

05/30/2005 @ 10:09:10 AM MDT
We had an hours-long precip event on Sunday night, making the toads quite comfortable. On the left is a red-spotted toad, (Bufo punctatus) with a southwestern toad (Bufo microscaphus) on the right.

05/30/2005 @ 12:54:33 PM MDT
Another diamondback (Crotalus atrox) found quite close to camp.

05/30/2005 @ 3:09:21 PM MDT
On the way out a mountain patchnose (Salvadora grahamiae) graced us with an appearance. Beautiful, gentle and mild.

Short-horned Lizard

06/04/2005 @ 10:20:51 AM MDT
At the beginning of the same west slope excursion, I found this short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma douglasii) on the road leading to the trail head.

Last Year's Green Snake

06/04/2005 @ 4:23:53 PM MDT
I found this smooth green snake (Liochlorophis vernalis) near a small river on the west slope of the Sangres north of Santa Fe. It was apparently eating some kind of small black beetle which was abundant in the bush over the snake. It bluffed a strike by holding its mouth open, which was dark purple inside.

Eldorado "Rattlesnake" Rescue

06/09/2006 @ 7:45:11 PM MDT
This young gopher snake (Pituophis melanoleucus) was mistaken for a rattlesnake by the resident. It jammed itself into this crevice after being hassled by a cat. I worked it back out and let it go in the front yard of the residence.

06/09/2006 @ 7:51:00 PM MDT