Saturday, May 31, 2014

Rattler for Ruth

Ruth does not like snakes.  I have been running and hiking in the desert for my entire life, and I have seen more rattlesnakes than I can remember.  A friend of mine and I just returned from an 8 mile desert run in Franklin Mountains State Park here in El Paso.  He wanted me to bring a camera so he could show his wife the kind of rough terrain we run on.  As luck would have it I saw a couple of critters along the route.  I immediately thought of Ruth and fired off a couple of shots:

Here is a horned lizard that I almost missed.  Or as Yosemite Sam would call them, a Great Horny Toad!  It does look a bit like a toad, but it is really a lizard.  My friend ran right past this pudgy little fellow, and I would have missed him had he not tried to scurry out of my way on the path, and his movement gave him away.  Their natural camouflage is remarkable!  They blend in with the surrounding rocks, sand and early morning shadows.  Do not worry Ruth, they are harmless.

When I run in the desert I never, and I mean never, take my eyes off the trail ahead.  I have to watch out for hazards like rocks and other things to trip over - but I also have to watch out for critters like the one above.  Do you see him?  I did.  My friend was running behind me.  I stopped to give the rattler a wide berth and held my hand up to stop my friend who is not accustomed to look out for these guys.  They hide with their camouflage almost as well as that horned lizard!

I took a couple more photos.  He was alert.  His eyes were meeting mine, and his tongue was flicking in and out to taste my scent in the air.  I think if you zoom in on the photo, you can see his angry looking face.  I never threatened him, so he never coiled.  These rattlesnakes are extremely dangerous, and if I am ever bit out here in the desert ... well I don't want to think about that too much!  But the good thing is that they are non-aggressive.  So do not be afraid Ruth!  We can watch them from a distance and they will never threaten or chase or attack us.  Just keep out of striking distance, don't bother them, and they will leave you alone and even pose for a photo or two!

I do think these snakes, and all desert wildlife, are beautiful animals.  Most are harmless, and snakes do not scare me.  But the poisonous ones must be respected.  I have killed rattlesnakes when they decide they want to live in or near my house.  Yes, I have seen rattlesnakes in the house before.  That is scary!  When I was a boy our house was made of adobe mud-brick.  Rodents would borrow into the walls, and rattlers would eventually use those burrows to find their way into the house.  Yes, kill these dangerous animals when they are in our home!  But there is no reason to fear them in the desert.  We just have to respect them when we venture into their home.

I hope you enjoyed these photos from my desert run!


Ruth said...


But, that I could handle really. I'd definitely be giving him plenty-o-room though. They are quite beautiful. Rosemary is right. You should always carry your cell phone, but if one of these bad boys bit you I'm not sure how much good it would be. Yeah, don't think about it too much.

Zoe said...

Ooooooookay. Walk, run, trot, gallop, stroll in the desert . . . no way! I think these creatures would smell my fear. Shiver.

So, here's what I want to know. You see them, they see you. You stay at a distance but you are out for a run. How do you get by them? Do you stop your run with each encounter and wait for it to slither away? Just wondering.

Now, where did I put my smelling salts?