The Ridgenose by Ear


Up we go.

DesertGrassland Whiptail (Cnemidophorus uniparens)


Backdrop:  The Huachucas.

I don't know where we are.  We're somewhere on the western side of the Huachuca Mountains, but I don't know where we are in more specific terms. This is Ridgenose Country, Jeff tells us.  I can't make this landscape fit my awful preconceptions, the picture in my mind's eye of where these small rattlers are found.  After all, I have read Kauffeld's The Keeper and the Kept, and I've seen a lot of cowboy movies.  These rolling hills, dotted with mesquite and scrub oak, don't fit the profile.

Nevertheless, we are here, and we are here to have our shot at the dimunutive Arizona Ridgenosed Rattlesnake.  We walk slowly up an old rutted track, eyes looking everywhere and wondering where a willardi would be in this place.

It was a sunny morning, and heating up rapidly.  We scared up Racerunners and Earless Lizards as we went along.  Steve found the first snake - a Mountain Patchnose, Salvadora grahamiae grahamiae. At first we thought it was a deserticola, the Big Bend Patchnose, but the clean, even stripe indicated it was a grahamiae.  With deserticola the bottom edge of the stripe is sawtoothed in appearance, owing to the black color filling each scale.  The snake had a nice tan  ground color, unlike the pale white grahamiae we had found in west Texas. We didn't have a lot of experience with western herps, and we had our work cut out for us to identify everything properly.  Lizards were especially tricky.

Salvadora grahamiae grahamiae

As we continued, the slope gradually steepened, and rock outcrops appeared here and there.  For a while a small stream gurgled off to our right - it looked like a good place for little rattlesnakes to go for a drink.  We hunkered down at every crevice, peering inside and using small pocket mirrors to reflect sunlight into them.  It was slow-going in the heat of mid-morning.  In our t-shirts and ball caps, us Midwest farm boys could have learned a thing or two from Jeff, our host and guide, who was wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a long-sleeved cotton shirt to keep the sun off.

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