Friday, September 13, 2013

Suzio Report, Summer Fun

Howdy Herpers,                                                         9/12/13

Well friends, it has been too long since Typing Boy here has addressed you. I trust that the lack of reports lately has not caused too much angst in your lives?

So much has happened since Marty found that little tortoise in the black widow spider web that I hardly know where to begin. I do know that this had better be good, and my face now retains the red marks of a severe bitch-slapping from my own hand. There are 2600 reasons to shine now. Wake up and address these people, Roger! And make it count. Dammit!

As some of you know, the Herp Accountant here has been keeping close tabs on every turtle, snake, and lizard that he encounters. In some cases, the counts go back to 1989. But the common lizard numbers did not begin in earnest until the year 2000. It is that 12 plus year time period, along with the common lizards, that are going to be discussed next.

While every herp found is enshrined in my hallowed herp journal, there are really only six species of lizard that I consider indicators of how good or bad a herp year is. Experience has taught me that these wiggly little suckers, to varying degrees, are the herps that clearly demonstrate how good or bad a year can be.  Without further adieu, these six species are Zebra-tailed Lizards, Side-blotched Lizards, Whiptails, Desert Spiny Lizards, Regal Horned Lizards, and, of course, Gila Monsters. There is another number that plays as a wild card in my judgment of a herp year. That is the total number of lizards encountered.

The same system is used on snakes and turtles. We are not going to talk all that much on these except for one thing: 2013 is heading toward the worst herp year that I’ve ever had for snakes. At the end of August, 160 snakes were logged. My worst snake year ever was 221, and that was in 2002. Unless things pick up mightily, the lamenting in the year-end report for the Tucson Herpetological Society Journal is going to be impressive in both content and duration. (And if you want to see that report, you will have to become a member of the THS. Cough up your 20 bucks, pikers!).

Now that we have discussed what is bad in 2013, can we move on to the good? Great! Let’s mow these lizards down in order. For the Zebra-tailed Lizards, my best year of the century was 1,519. That was in 2008. With two months of possible encounters remaining, (they shut down by early November), the number for 2013 is 1,398. Already, 2013 is the second best year of the century. Will we beat 2008? Time will tell! With the Side-blotched Lizards, unless hordes of them suddenly rain down upon us, we will wind up with only slightly above average numbers. No big deal. Their best use is conversion to Lyresnake mass. Hopefully, that’s where they all went this year. We’re done with the likes of them. With the Whiptails, (several species), we have already broken the record set last year. That number was 453. We are now at 575! In 2008, I encountered 137 Desert Spiny Lizards. The count for these chunky fat heads is currently 108, which is 35 above average over the time period under discussion. Again in 2008, 20 Regal Horned Lizards were found which I crowed mightily about at the time. In 2013, the number now stands at 23, with more incoming expected. This is a record-breaker for one of the lizards that I love most! Last year, a record number of 32 Gila Monsters were encountered. At this point in 2013, we are at 25. We are already at the third best year of the century with these numbers, and again, more incoming is expected. Last, but not least, the wild card. Again, in 2008, the all species of lizard count was 2,978. This year, we are at 3,043! If we did not see one more stinking lizard for the remainder of the year, we are still walking in tall cotton.

We will stop with this type of herpetological bean-counter talk here, and move on to the hard-wired snakes under watch in paradise. Before my emailed leg-hump of late, we had 14 different rattlesnakes under watch, and were facing the prospect of cutting some of those out of the game. Thanks to what I am now calling the 2600 club, our N is now 17. And we expect to bump that to 20 by the end of this month. Yes sirs and madams, 20 transmitters will soon be merrily blipping across a swath of remote Sonoran Desert Thornscrub 2 kilometers long by 1 kilometer wide. When we fire up those receivers, we will not know whether to defecate, or go blind. This is called “fun.”  The thrill of mowing down 20 rattlesnakes whilst hoofing through a sticker-infested wonderland is mother’s milk to the few, the proud, the geeks! Thanks guys! And come on out to play with us sometime………

As much as Typing Boy would like to show you each and every snake that we have out there now, that is not possible. Truth be told, some of the newer snakes have yet to reveal themselves for good, in situ images. A case in point is our newest snake, CA134, a young male atrox. We released him on the evening of 31 August. I did not track him for the first time until 7 September. His signal was coming from the center of a flat, heart-shaped slab of gneiss. When I looked into the soil entrance, I saw two large adults looking back out at me. CA134 was behind these two­ no doubt stuck until they decide to leave. Right off the bat, he leads us to a mini aggregation. Sensational!  

Until now, I have made no mention of a little sweetheart of a female molossus that is under watch. She is CM18, as yet un-named. She is just shy of 2 feet long, and her rattle count is basal, 4 segments, and a button. Marty found her hanging out with our pregnant molossus CM17. Mother, daughter? Time will tell, I just hope that the DNA gets processed in my lifetime so that we will know for sure. The first image in this report is of her. We released her on 10 August, and with the first tracking on 14 August, she has scored a meal. Bully for her!

Speaking of scoring meals, Mr. Feldner was blessed to observe, and subsequently photograph, our female tiger CT13 track down and consume a pocket mouse. See image number 2. Following her feast, she moved from the flats to the top of Iron Mine Hill. A fattened female will draw in males quicker than flies on feces. Like a jack rabbit on a hot date, our male tiger, CT11, made a major move of over 300 meters to join her. And on the evening of 7 September, lucky Marty and John Slone found the pair in full coitus. See image 3. While we were blessed to see five pairings last year, this is the first mating event with tigers that we have ever witnessed. We’re moving on up!

I’ve tossed a hodge-podge of images into this report. They’re all labeled, so that you will know who is who and when. Look for a full screen view of a cluster of three barrel cacti. Where’s Waldo? The next image reveals him. Look for two images of a tortoise. The first shows the surreal backdrop of a Sonoran Desert, and the second pulls the rear of the tortoise into view. Look carefully at the rear vertebral scute. That is what is left of a license plate that was affixed to his shell in 2005. It took that rascal eight years to finally wear off. Nice job, Josh! Check out the nice string of rattles on CT14. This snake in particular is still in the game for another year, thanks to the 2600 club. He was on the bubble prior to your generosity. He is probably less grateful than we are about the prospect, but there is no allowance for poop socks on our turf. 

The second to the last image is a teaser for you. You won’t have to look too hard to see that there is more than one snake in that image. By June, despite assurances from Dr. DeNardo that CM10, “Susan,” had six neonates in her ovaries, we had determined that Susan was not pregnant. The night that this photo was taken, I was still under the notion that she was not pregnant. I was correct! It was not until 10 days after this image was taken that the two neonates were discovered.

Everybody ought to carry a camera. They come in handy sometimes! Our next report will center on matters of fecundity in paradise. For now:

This here is Roger Repp, signing off from Southern Arizona, where the turtles are strong, the snakes are handsome, and the lizards are ALL above average. It is a place where every meal is a banquet, every sunrise is an event, and every sunset brings the promise of good things lying ahead. 

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