by Loren and Melissa Shelton, Critter-Photography Team
One of our favorite locations to explore in Pinal County is the Picacho Mountains; they are so close. Specifically, check out the Newman Peak side.
Did you know that if you hike to the top there are grasslands and juniper trees? Lots of desert denizens live out there along with the old mines and even an old stage stop. The buildings and corrals still exist.
There are deer, mountain lion, javelina, fox (gray and kit), ringtail, bobcat, and many other animals. One of our favorite finds was a Crested Caracara, a type of carrion-eating falcon that is very cool looking. We have learned this is its northern most range.
There are old abandoned mining claims, and even more interesting are the many petroglyph sites. One hillside in particular is covered in some pretty cool markings.
Melissa and I were out there one night black-lighting for scorpions and doing our usual looking for snakes to photograph. Well, it’s hard to see much but scorpions when you’re only using the black light so we missed the sidewinder rattlesnake between her feet.
Fortunately, they are small snakes, and other than a few laughs, everything turned out fine. Well, I was laughing, can’t say exactly what noises she was making.
Arizona has over 60 species and subspecies of snakes. Pinal County is home to 28. Eight of these local species are venomous and considered dangerous. Seven of the eight are rattlesnake species, the other is a coral snake.
Last year we came across nearly 300 snakes and at least 150 of them were sidewinders. They are very cool snakes, complete with horns and attitude and a mode of locomotion interesting to observe.
True to their name, they move in an undulating sideways motion when they are in a hurry to get away or just moving slowly across the road. They can “crawl” like other snakes, but they move faster with their unique sideways method. They are pretty when observed up close with varying patterns and shades of color; in many instances matching the color of their terrain.
Many people are afraid of snakes and kill them on sight. That’s a shame, not only for the snake but for the entire ecosystem relying on biodiversity to sustain it. Everything has its place including the beautiful and interesting venomous snakes like the sidewinder.