Howdy Herpers, 11/28/12
The last Suizo rattlesnake roundup to occur in 2011 was a dandy. The effort, which happened in September, brought three very cool snakes into the fold. The first was male Crotalus tigris #11, (CT11) "Steven." The second was female Crotalus molossus #10, (CM10) "Susan," and male CM11 "Gus." (Although at that point in time, Gus got the PIT tag and ye old unceremonious release. And he was nameless at that point in time. Yes, we were "Gus-less," and had no idea what we were missing. He was recaptured in summer 2012, and did not get off as lightly).
While images of Susan and Gus are contained in this report, today's REAL pre-image soliloquy centers around Steven, and his girlfriend CT12, "Ellie." (Ellie is not her real name--yet. But for the sake of this report, we shall call her that.)
Well--shoot! now I gotta explain how Ellie comes into the story.
These pre-image soliloquies are SO exhausting!
Back in the day before Marty Feldner was performing the actual tracking, he would dog my tracking path and be the PERFECT guest. A perfect guest actually tries to find new herps while others track the known ones. I believe that it was around midnight on a Mid-June night that Marty found Ellie while I was doing a write up on Patti the Gila Monster. Ellie was captured fairly close to Steven's capture spot, but we had not yet figured out how close the bond may be between these two.
But as soon as Ellie was in the game, her first move was to slip into a spot that Steven had occupied about two months previous. That's when I began to sense something cool was going to happen between the two of them. By July, both snakes has shotgunned well out into the bajada south of Iron Mine Hill (IMH). They began to occupy the same sites--but never were both together at the same time. Sometimes, it seemed she was dogging him. At other times, he seemed to be following her. They were seldom more than 20 meters apart. Keeping in mind that we only actually spend about 15 minutes a week on each snake, it is possible-to-likely that they had been together more than once last summer, but we didn't see it.
And then, on the evening of 20 October, by far the coolest tracking incident of the year (where I was the one holding the magic wand) occurred. As I blundered my way up the east slope of IMH, it became clear that the two were once again quite close to each other. But Ellie was the closer of the two. When I tracked her down, it was noted that she was in the EXACT same crevice that Steven had occupied EXACTLY one year before. Cool stuff!
I completed the write up on her, and switched to Steven. The signal indicated that I was now VERY close to him. I had not yet even packed my gear to move when I saw him barrel across the crevice that contained Ellie, and dove in to join her! It is most fortunate that my camera was out for the occasion. For once, I was blessed with the luck of Marty Feldner. To see this pairing as it happened is one thing, to get some hasty images of it happening is the other, and the fact that the pair has remained together since is downright serendipity!
Image 1: Steven jets past me. Bad image, but lucky to have it.
Image 2: Steven sets up shop. Ellie is behind him, and will be impossible to photo without a special burrow camera.
Image 3: A double-tiger crevice, taken November 10. If you look carefully, you will see Steven's flank in crevice center.(This would make a great "Where's Waldo," but I simply don't have the time to play anymore!)
Images 4-6: This is CM10, Susan, found out basking on early in the morning on 10 November. It was a very cold day, but these molossus are showing us great indifference to cold weather. The last image of Susan shows her on the move. By 17 November, she had moved into her hibernaculum of last year.
Image 7: Good old CM11, Gus. Gus is the latest member of the Kilometer Club, having moved off IMH and traveling to the south-center slope of Suizo Mountains proper. As suggested on the file extension, this image was taken on 17 November. He has since relocated to another boulder nearby.
Image 8: Female CM15, site 13. She is also now hanging out on the southwestern slope of the Suizo Mountains. This image was also taken on 17 November.
Image 9: This is the first in situ image (since the transmitter was implanted) to be shared with you all of female CM17, "Ms. Gus." Death from above! She is in a hunt posture, ~200mm above a rodent run. Pity any rat or mouse foolish enough to run beneath THOSE snappers!
While Dale DeNardo did the surgery on Ms. Gus, one of his students, Megan by name, asked where we found her. Without hesitation, I replied "At the end of Gus's wanger." No lies were told, but I did kind of hear about crude language and students a little later.
Note the large head on this wench. It is always great fun to read Marty's write ups on the datasheet. One such entry on Ms. Gus read "Not visible. The only obvious entrance appears too narrow for her to squeeze her fat head in."
As of 25 November, Ms. Gus still had not committed to a hibernating site. She is approaching the Kilometer Club herself, now deep into Tim Canyon, which is the first slot canyon north of the front range of Suizo Mountains.
Image 10: As much as I HATE to end with plants, does anybody know what this vine is? In nearly 12 years of working the Suizos, we have never seen it before. Thanks!
That's not nearly everything, but it will have to do. Duty calls!
Best to all, roger