Night of the Baby Mojaves

first Mojave

the end of the big swallow

Spotted Night Snake



August 2000.  The setting sun was an oil painting full of clouds fading from reds and oranges into blue and then dull gray.  We stopped for gas and junk food at the turnoff, and as the light faded we turned the car south onto the long straight slab heading for Sasabe.

Tonight we were road cruising through flat country, with chains of mountains running parallel in the distance - the Coyote and Baboquivari ranges to the west, and the Sierritas to the east.  This was a land of creosote and bunchgrass - the saguaro zone lay to the east of us.  Traffic was blessedly thin as we drove into the dark.

Lizards skittered across the lanes and on occasion we drove by the flattened carcasses of those saurians that didn't make it across in time.  A flat snake - a DOR Night Snake upon inspection.  We drove on at about thirty MPH, eight eyeballs looking for that first live reptile...

Snake!  Chunky Little Snake!  Brakes squealed and the rental car veered off onto the shoulder.  Under the illumination of flashlights we made our identification - little rattler.  Ah, little Mojave Rattler!  Our first Mojave ever.  A neonate, young-of-the-year, this one with a good bulge in the belly from some recent meal.  The road remained quiet and dark as we wrangled and took photos, me hoping I was steady enough for my handheld flash at 1/60 second.

The little 'Scute' was scooted off the roadway and then we piled back into the car.  Some time passed, but not too much, and then we were stopping again and jumping out for another Chunky Little Snake!  Another neonate Mojave, and this one with the front quarter of its small body off the ground, weaving back and forth.  What was it doing?  Ah, swallowing a large meal, and now working to hinge its jaws back together.  Perhaps it had chanced on a DOR lizard or rodent on the road.  In a few moments it managed to get its head put back together, and decided head off into the night.

Some miles down the road, just long enough for the excitement to drop down to a dull roar, we again screeched to a halt for yet another small Mojave.   This one hadn't managed to find a meal yet this evening.  Given their size, and the time of year, these little rattlers were just getting started out in life.  Those first few meals are important.

Further on down the road, closing in on Sasabe. Where were the Big Mojaves?  We were expecting them to show up any moment.  What we got instead was a Spotted Night Snake, Hypsiglena torquata torquata.  This was a new species, so we were suitably pleased.  We turned around and cruised back the way we came, but no further snakes presented themselves that evening.  It would take another night of road cruising in another place to produce an adult scutulatus... 

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