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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of four. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fred meets some reptiles

I couldn't help bringing Fred's attention to a foothill alligator lizard  last weekend. 

The lizard was wall climbing when I discovered it.

Fred's initial caution gave way to lusty barking, play bows, and total fixation. 

It was the same old routine he directs to sweeping brooms and digging shovels with occasional sideways glances in response to my comments.

"Be careful, Freddy Boy. That thing will grab your snout like a snub-nose pliers."

I felt a little bad for the lizard. It tried to drop to the ground, but changed its mind and just hung there by a few claws looking up at its tormentor with a jaundiced eye.

Finally the lizard dropped to the ground, paused for a long overdue bowel evacuation, and made a slow motion exit behind a downspout.

A half hour of quality dog entertainment ended.

A couple hours later, neighbor Richard called. Could I release a rattlesnake he just caught next to his house? 

I agreed to deliver it to a safe haven down the hill in the chaparral. After dinner -- when the weather had cooled off.

Then I started to wonder:  Was the dog-lizard encounter a bad idea? This is rattlesnake country. Had I unwittingly emboldened the dog to reptiles in general?

If Fred took the same liberties with a coiled rattlesnake that he did with the lizard -- well, Fred would be dead.

But Fred's virtues are that he is not overly bold, and he is very sensitive to discipline.

So the snake release became an object lesson.

Mouse traps on the garden's drip system taught him that "look out!" and "be careful!" means he can get hurt. 

When the rattler started to buzz in the bucket he backed away before I could say those words.

Then I dumped the snake out of the bucket. 

Fred started to approach but heard my bellowing "Noooo!"

He shied away immediately, and watched as I prodded the snake to make its exit.

The next afternoon Richard called again and asked where I had released the rattlesnake. He had just caught another rattlesnake under the hummingbird feeder. It was the same size (about 30") and a dead ringer for yesterday's snake.

I found it hard to believe it was the same snake, and suggested that maybe this snake had followed the first snake's odor trail.

Whatever the case, I would take this one further down the jeep trail.

It was an opportunity to test Fred's rattlesnake training.

Richard and Julia colored this snake's rattle with a felt marker pen.

Down the trail I gave my warnings -- "Look out! Be careful!"

As I dumped the snake out of the bucket Fred watched intently from a distance of several yards.

No play bows, no barking.

When the snake was gone, I rubbed my dog's ears.

"You're a good boy, Fred."


Mr. Smiley said...

Be careful Fed. The last time I looked in that corner there was a rattlesnake there--maybe the same one that Richard found!


Roy said...

Luckily enough there's nothing venomous for my dogs to get into here. They're learning that deer are wrong to chase and turkeys are just plain unpleasant. However, they have become very friendly with other dogs- just as an ~80lb coyote comes into the picture.

reverend dick said...

Um, how did they get the snake to agree to the body art?

John W. Wall said...

Doesn't the second snake have several fewer rattle segments than the first?

Anonymous said...

I'd need a six foot long felt marker pen.


Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks, folks.

Reverend--Richard makes his own snake sticks, and manufactured his own pole noose to hold the head. Julia painted the rattle. She's a "bravey".

John -- I believe so. I really dont think they were the same snake.

Buford Nature said...

so how far down the hill was that safe haven?

reptiles know their environment very well and range a lot further than we might think. florida's gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), for example, will seasonally forage for particular plant species up to a mile or further from their home burrows.

southern toads (Bufo terrestris) will migrate over a mile to reach water when multi-day rains occur.

you are going to have to take the little beast quite a distance away to ensure it does not return. how far? ask your local herpetologist.

good for all of you for not killing this awesome creature!

Jochen said...

The stripes on the snakes' tails differ, they were indeed different snakes.
I'd say.

Bpaul said...

Beautiful snakes. I have a thing for rattlers, and am so glad to read stories where people relocate instead of kill.

Cheered my day.


Owlman said...

The Western Diamond back is a beautiful snake and I'm happy to read this and know that it wasn't killed.
It might be a good idea to carry antivenom just in case.

Carol said...

Guess I have to follow your blog...very interesting..gotta see if the red tail comes back..we're watching for a raccoon with an orange spot on it...same reason..to see if he comes back.