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Night Time in the Sonoran Desert (graphic?)

Discussion in 'Field Herping' started by SpidaFly, Jul 30, 2012.

  1. SpidaFly

    SpidaFly Elite Member

    One of my favorite evening pastimes is to head out into the desert at night to see what I can find and do a little geocaching ;) It is monsoon season so there's all kinds of interesting things happening. The other night I had a particularly eventful evening.

    I came across plenty of Western Banded Geckos (Coleonyx variegatus), a gecko native to the southwest USA and north Mexico. I was able to observe the "scorpion mimic" behavior on several occasions - it really doesn't look like they're trying to be a scorp, more like they stick their tail straight up and send waves through it while they slowly creep away - very cute :) One particularly interesting find was a hatchling, perhaps barely over 1.5", retreating down a hole. Note the arachnid in the upper right. There was also a small cricket nearby... I wonder who got lunch?
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    The particular area I was exploring has two seasonal creek beds separated by a couple miles of very sparse desert. I found several Spadefoots in these areas. I believe these to be "Couch's Spadefoots", and most of those I was able to find appeared to be male.
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    Hadrurus sp. Not rare to see in more remote parts of the desert, but where I was isn't too far from the city. Anyway, still very cool, I love arachnids - they're beneficial, I'm not sure why everyone is so scared of them. Especially ones like this with light venom and would rather run away from you. I love finding them, and I'd like to keep several as pets eventually - the Hadrurus has many very interesting characteristics for a scorp. This one was not very large, and I don't have a blacklight so it takes some effort to find them. Initially I thought Hadrurus arizonensis, but the very dark carapace suggests H. spadix. It isn't as dark as some pictures of H. spadix I've seen though... certainly a Hadrurus though, and a beautiful scorp.
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    Western Diamondback, I believe. Precise colors hard to discern because it is so dark and I'm working with only my maglite and headlamp. In fact I came close to stepping on it. I think I jumped back about ten feet :) It was nonplussed, stayed coiled, didn't rattle. I took in the sight for quite a while... it didn't seem to care, just flicked its tongue whenever I moved, and later I quietly backed away. I feel lucky to have seen catch a rattlesnake in such a calm "mood". Very pretty, quite cute...
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    I have a video of some of this event. I will post it if desired. I don't know how bothersome these images would be to some people - it was certainly jarring, but that's nature... I had no business interfering in what would have happened whether I was there or not. I think, honestly, this serves as a good demonstration on why we should not feed live rodents to our snakes and large carnivores.
    California Kingsnake. What an absolutely beautiful snake. Took me entirely by surprise, I spotted it and it took me several moments to realize just what it was. It didn't seem to care that I was standing by with light in hand... it went about the bush, often coming very close to me. I would have let it climb on me if it tried, but it would extend a bit toward me and then turn around and head back into the bush.
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    If you are bothered by live predation, don't read beyond this point.








    The aforementioned kingsnake was in the lower branches of a small bush, perhaps ~4' tall. In the upper branches there was another brown colubrid which I have been unable to identify (any help?). This brown snake was slightly bigger than the kingsnake. The kingsnake eventually found the other snake and attacked. There was a violent struggle down to the ground as the brown snake attempted to escape and the kingsnake attempted to constrict. They ended up on the ground with the kingsnake constricting the the rear half of the brown snake, and the brown snake biting the kingsnake. I took a dozen or so pictures over the course of this struggle, but I will only post a few. Eventually the kingsnake moved its constriction toward the brown snake's head, and started trying to pry the brown snake's head off its own body.

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    I have several videos of this struggle, but I won't post it here unless requested. I don't want to cause offense by posting this material - but as a student of nature I felt that I had no right to disturb what would have happened whether I was watching or not - regardless of my sympathies for both predator and prey.

    I don't know how long I was there, but eventually I noticed the time (almost 02:00) and as there were a few other spots I wanted to check so I decided to mark my GPS, and left to hit my other waypoints. I returned almost 45 minutes later. The kingsnake had successfully pried its victim's jaws off its body and had begun swallowing it. As I approached the kingsnake was clearly disturbed by my presence and was backing away. It also appeared to attempt to "saw" off the remainder of its prey. I decided to leave with haste after snapping a couple quick photos. As I said, I do not believe that it is my place to interfere.

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    To sate my curiosity, I returned to that spot the next day. I did not find any evidence that a larger predator caught the kingsnake at that location. I also see no evidence that the kingsnake left part of its prey behind. I sincerely hope that the kingsnake survived its injuries, and the exceptional size of its prey didn't leave it vulnerable to coyotes... but such is life in the wild.

    Overall a remarkable evening.
     
  2. schlegelbagel

    schlegelbagel Frog Lover Premium Member

    Loooooove the toad!

    And nature is nature.
     
  3. skelly98

    skelly98 Elite Member

    that is too cool! i wish there were any wild herps where i live, all we get are garters and some salamanders up near walmart..lol
     
  4. mld

    mld Subscribed User Premium Member

    That was a great read and awesome photos, thought I was right there with you, thanks for sharing!
     
  5. Wyldrose

    Wyldrose Elite Member

    Wow thanks for sharing nature is amazing!
     
  6. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Nice little adventure!
    What you were seeing was the snake attempting to back off of the other snake in order to get away from you.
    Its hard to run when you have something like that hanging out of your mouth. ;)
     
  7. SpidaFly

    SpidaFly Elite Member

    Yeah, I figured that was the case, and that's why I left in a hurry to leave it to finish its meal. Because I had left and returned, it was about 03:30, so the sun would start to rise in a few hours. If I had stayed long I imagine it would have been an easy target for all kinds of animals - hence my presence would have been an interference. So yeah, I left. I searched extensively for any evidence of what may have happened the next day, but found nothing. Too bad, I had hoped to find the live snake.
     
  8. lopez82

    lopez82 Elite Member

    About how long would you say the brown snake was?
     
  9. SpidaFly

    SpidaFly Elite Member

    My guesstimate puts both snakes at 2.5'-3' long, with the brown snake appearing a bit larger in all dimensions over the king snake. Depth perception was a bit skewed due to the dark and using a single bright flashlight to look around, but those numbers
    seem about right to me. Do you have some idea of what it was? I've been entirely unable to identify it.
     
  10. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    I beleive that the king's "dinner guest' was a young coachwip.
     
  11. lopez82

    lopez82 Elite Member

    I would have to second that.
     
  12. JoeyG

    JoeyG Subscribed User Premium Member

    Awesome story and great pics! Very fortunate to get to see it all in person
     
  13. Jlassiter

    Jlassiter Elite Member

    I agree with Merlin...coachwhip

    And some wonder about what size meal we should feed our captives......lol

    Great photos
     
  14. DustinQ

    DustinQ Elite Member

    I would like to see the video :)
     
  15. JoshuaJones

    JoshuaJones Banned User

    Merlin is correct. It's a young coachwhip (Coluber flagellum piceus.) Funny, when you consider the fact that the coachwhip is bigger than the king, and they both eat other snakes. The cool thing about kingsnakes is that they'll cruise around with another snake's tail hanging out of their mouth like a cigar, until the prey snake is digested enough to get the rest down. Just because a snake is bigger than a kingsnake doesn't necessarily mean that the king won't eat it.
     
  16. Pharoahound

    Pharoahound Elite Member

    Really cool pictures!
    And thats what I was thinking...how would they digest a snake longer then themselves properly when a snake eats a mouse there's just a little lump. When they eat a snake it's like a snake within a snake! Snakeception!
     
  17. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    I recall seeing an article on this subject. The snake being eaten is literally folded up inside of its captor.
     
  18. Pharoahound

    Pharoahound Elite Member

    Bummer, not as cool as snakeception! :p
     

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