On 17 September of 2011, a well-advertised “we need more rattlesnake subjects” roundup shook a total of seven herpers out of the bushes. These heros shall not go unsung, although mention of their names here will not necessarily earn them any merit elsewhere. (Quite the contrary!) In no particular order, the superb seven were Blake Thomason, Hans-Werner Herrmann, John Slone, Brian Park, Paul and Steven Condon, and typing boy here.
The mission was clear: The Schuett/Repp Suizo Mountain Study had one transmitter left to burn. As the invite indicated, we were mainly after a tiger rattlesnake or a black-tailed rattlesnake to utilize the $400 electronic wonder at our disposal. But as it was late in the season, we would take whatever was deemed the best catch of the night, stuff in the afore mentioned high-priced piece of wired fruit, and throw any would-be recipient into the game.
As darkness descended upon the plot, the edict was issued: “Go ye therefore upon the hills and washes, and collecteth thou every buzzworm that crosses thy path. Gettest thou thy sorry selves not bitten in the process. Let it be said, let it be done, amen.”
Soon, Iron Mine Hill and the washes surrounding were ablaze with glimmering headlamps and flashlights. Everybody scattered nicely, nobody was tripping over anybody else. By 2300, everybody reassembled at camp. Steven had found a nice male tiger rattlesnake (success!). Brian brought in a hatchling lyresnake. All things considered, this was probably the best find of the night. John Slone found not one, but two blacktails for us! (We have not seen a blacktail on our plot in two years!)
As one of John’s blacktails was a female, it became a question of where would our investment go? The lady, or the tiger?
A quick phone call to Holohil transpired the following Monday. They promised the impossibledelivery of a transmitter that week! The lady or the tiger? How about BOTH!
A huge thank you is in order to all of those who participated that night. We can’t do this thing alone, and your good help has assured that this very tough year has drawn to a successful close. We now have nine transmittered reptiles to take us into the next year and beyond. The framework of the “fine nine” contains five species of venomous herps. I don’t know if this kind of variety has ever been radio-tracked anywhere else.
As the remainder of this year and the next will contain reports of the coming and going of these nine very cool animals, an introduction is in order. We will get biblical with said introduction. “The last shall be the first.” Hence, in reverse order, we chronologically describe our most recent additions, and work through the years to some old friends.
Image 1, by Paul T. Condon: Male CRTI #11, “Steven.” (Posed image taken the night of capture.) This is the tiger found by Steven Condon on the night of 17 September. He appears to be moving up the eastern slope of Iron Mine Hill, and seems poised to wrap around the north side. Other tigers that we have followed through the years favor the north side of the hill for hibernation. He will likely do the same. Time will tell.
Image 2: Female CRMO #10, “Susan.” (Another posed image taken on the night of capture.) This is one of two blacktails that John Slone found on the evening of 17 September. She has thus far shifted westward along a contour of Iron Mine Hill, and then dropped down to the bajada. She is in serious need of a plot biscuit. I expect that one way or another, she’ll get one soon. Note the full string of rattles that indicate her to be a younger snake.
Image 3: Male CRSC #1, “Blake.” This world-traveling scut was found by Blake Thomason on the evening of 27 August 2011. He has moved an astounding 4,350 meters northwest of his capture spot since then. I’m pleased to report that he seems to have settled in to a more reasonable home range. Image taken 28 September, 2011.
Image 4: Male CRTI#10, “Jeff.” Found by Jeff Smith in Suizo Wash on the evening of 23 July 2011. He was observed choking down a pocket mouse that night. During the course of the summer, he made a major move to the west, and then shifted back to the wash. He is currently slugging his way up the west slope of Iron Mine Hill. He was last seen on 16 October with a major food bolus distending his flanks. It is presumed that this meal will enable him to enter his hibernaculum soon. Image taken 1 October 2011.
Image 5: Female CRAT #87, “Julie.” This snake was originally found in April of 2005 by Dwight Lawson. At that time, she was deemed to be an up and coming two-year old snake. She was too small for a transmitter. She was recaptured on 7 August 2011, (a team effort involving Repp/Slone/Schuett/Herrmann), and gave birth to 12 young on 15 August. She thus far has exhibited a tiny home range, hanging out between Suizo Wash and the north-center of lower Iron Mine Hill. This image was taken on 24 September, 2011.
Image 6: Female CRAT #133. She was found by John Slone at the far east side of Iron Mine Hill the evening of 6 August, 2011. She gave birth to six young on 26 August. Upon release, she moved across Suizo Wash, and appears to be heading to the Suizo Mountains proper. This image, taken 8 October 2011, is shown as the absolute “Antichrist” of the sprit of the recent deluge of “Where’s Waldo” emails. Typing boy here did everything in his power to actually SHOW YOU a one meter long rattlesnake in a hunting/hiding posture. I’m actually using every (minimal) digital photographic skill I posses to allow the reader see her. Perhaps the right person with the right camera could do it better. But the bottom line is that this is a difficult to produce image of an in situ subject. (And this is the only time I’ve seen her up since we began tracking her.)
Image 7: Female CRAT #121, “Tracy.” Found by Tracy Keppelkolb on 23 May 2009. She was a sweet young thing at her time of capture, but she has grown to adulthood before our very eyes. She gave birth in September of 2010, and again in August of 2011. As with most female atrox on our plot, her home range is tiny, bopping between Iron Mine Hill and the southern channels of Suizo Wash. This image was taken on 16 October 2011. She could use a plot biscuit. The effort to reproduce on an annual basis takes a lot out of our females. We can only hope she scores a meal before she moves to her hibernaculum.
Image 8: Female CRTI #8, “Zona.” Found on 15 August 2009 by young Arizona Sawby, the eight year-old daughter of Ryan Sawby. She gave birth in July of 2011, but all we had to show for it was a fat snake/skinny snake. Tigers sometimes give birth in impossible-to-observe places. At this point in time, she has shifted from her Suizo Wash summer hangout to a crevice midway up the west-center of Iron Mine Hill. This crevice is exactly where she went at this point in 2010. It is expected she will shift uphill to her hibernaculum of last year. Image taken 1 October 2011.
Image 9: Female HESU #13, “Farrah.” Found and captured on 24 May 2008 by Schuett and Repp, Farrah is our one finger left in the Gila Monster pie. We deliberately removed the transmitters from two other HESU this year, thinking we were done with them. But a last second decision by typing boy kept this one in the game. You won’t hear me bragging about her appearance in the image below. Despite some highly respected nay saying from our knowledgeable peers to the south, we are sticking to our best guess that what we are looking at is a HESU who has just laid her eggs. She is currently working her way around the upper east contours of Iron Mine Hill, and I expect her to eventually wind up in one of the communal Gila dens on the upper west side of Iron Mine Hill for the winter. I was lucky enough to see her tail on 16 October. It looked a little better than in the image below, but not much. This year was hard on some of the herps under watch in many places, not just ours. We can only hope for wet winter to save the day for her and others like her. The image below was taken 10 July, 2011.
If I had to depict a herping year with but one image, the one above might serve 2011 perfectly. I am just beginning to gather my off plot data, so until all that is in front of me, I won't know for sure how good or bad this year really was. And there are still things to look for in the days ahead. One good indicator will be the dozen or so atrox dens that we've accumulated on Iron Mine Hill and the areas surrounding. By end of November, they will tell us much. But as it all stands, right now, my opinion is that everything will add up to a very bad year for the herps and other wildlife in our area. I expect mortalities next spring. I don't think we will have a good winter/spring rain. It's just not looking good.
Also in peril is our ability to continue our study. By January of 2012, we will face an expense of $2,000.00 for PIT tags and transmitters. It is at that point where the final decision will transpire. But regardless of that decision, we will at least be out there tracking until the end of September 2012. We look forward to where our new friends will take us, as well as developments with the old.
Thanks to all of you for making what has transpired thus far happen.
Kind regards to all, roger