That left me only one option: The Suizo Mountains. Anything and everything else under my watch was, and mostly still is, hands off.
And so our first mission was one of war on the snakes. On that day, Melissa earned the nickname "Hurricane Melissa," for she found three atrox and a female tiger rattlesnake. I found two tortoises.
The atrox she found were to become males CA54 and CA55--also known as "Doublenicks," and later, "The Road Warrior." Some of you may remember Doublenicks as the snake that eventually became a DOR. The female atrox that Melissa found became CA56. All three snakes were PIT tagged and released. Only CA55 was ever captured again.
I've attached a photo that Melissa took from that day. It is of Doublenicks perched on top of CA56, in a behavior called "Stacking." It remains to this day the best image I've ever seen of the behavior. Stacking is in essence a male's way of "hiding" a female from other male interlopers.
Melissa, her partner Jeff Smith, Young Cage and I all share a secret in the blackest parts of our hearts. Young had an atrox den that was known as "Jason's Den." Melissa and Jeff were starting to turn the corner on their mentality towards processing rattlesnakes. They wanted to study a den in hands off fashion. The four of us met, discussed strategy, and off they went to do their study on Jason's Den.
This den "was" a Cinderella kind of den. It "was" a wide open affair, where as many as 14 atrox could be observed all winter long. In terms of a den that "was" easy to study, this "was" the best to ever cross my path.
The key word is "was." Jason's Den no longer exists. Some murderous swine found the den, and in an act of senseless and wanton slaughter, ripped some bloody geysers through the snakes with their shotguns.
A few were left. They came back and got the rest. It was all carefully documented, but none of us can bear to show the pictures, or write about the heartbreak of it all. I still tear up thinking about it, but like so many things in life, I'm powerless to do anything about it.
Every year, atrocities that make this seem like kissing a pretty girl occur in this not-so-great country of ours. This is because of ignorance, and greed. While we can't do much to combat greed, we can at least educate the public to the fact that snakes do much, much more than just sit around and look at each other. If we can do everything in our power to cast snakes in a better light, perhaps one day the rest of the world will catch on.
Melissa and Jeff are doing this very sort of thing with Arizona black rattlesnakes. I think the time has come to share some of this with you. Please click on the link at the bottom of this email, watch the video, and look at the stills. Do click one more link off to the side, the one under October that is entitled "A Rattlesnake Helper."
In closing, in many ways, some of those who study rattlesnakes are the rattlesnakes' worst enemy. People doing these studies cringe at the thought of presenting snakes as anything more than primitive wind up toys, the key being a physiological chemical reaction to queues around them--a hard-wiring at birth--instinct driven.
The ability to actually think can not happen, it's all instinct. This is the type of thinking that is never going to advance rattlesnakes in the eye of the public. It is also the type of thinking mostly done by those who have never actually taken the time to watch them.
I hope you all enjoy this video as much as I did. It is by far the best observational work I've ever seen.
We can only hope for more of this sort of thing in the future.
Best to all, roger