Dr Mark Magdanz
Many of our human neighbors are new to the desert. Many of us also are aging so many things and people we see may also seem new on a daily basis (off-color joke). And no, this is not an article on brain repair. What I want this to be is a brief reminder that: EVERYTHING native to the desert has protections against its enemies and the harsh climate.
Just three feet over my wall I have a beautiful new neighbor. About 5’5”, golden brown, gray/green eyes, shapely as can be. She loves to bask in the sun and/or rest in the shade. Never wears clothes. Her waist is about eight inches. I call her a she with no knowledge as to fact, you might say handsome. Western Diamondback rattlesnake, to be precise about her species.
Cacti are the most obvious dangers to us. Penetrating encounters await. These lovely plants have some of the most gorgeous blooms you may ever see. But peak bloom beauty can often last just a day. So check daily for new bud openings. Remember, some cacti like the “teddy bear and jumping cholla” spread by hitching a ride on animals and sometimes people. They, as I learned from a personal encounter, are very hard to remove. My backyard neighbor exhibits that even snakes can have tough days with cacti.
Note: Pack rats will pile these around their burrows to build a defensive barrier to predators. So if you see a pile anywhere near your property it’s a great idea to carefully (without even gloved hands) remove the pile. A hemostat, available at your cactus nursery, is an essential tool for SaddleBrooke gardening/weeding around cacti.
Thorns, spikes, fangs, jaws, needles and foot speed are just some of the many things we can encounter if our awareness of the surroundings wanders. And camouflage is a key defense for many of our shy but potentially dangerous friends.
Pretty much every animal, spider and scorpion in our surroundings wants nothing to do with us. They run, slither, freeze in place or fly to escape our presence. Humans, by being slow afoot, are kept safe from many of the things you encounter. Those creatures slower than us bite only when surprised or threatened. It is up to us to stay alert to snakes and slower lizard species. Some snakes warn with the rattle, lizards with a hiss. Surprise or crowd them and it is your fault for being hurt. Less than one percent of rattlesnake bites are fatal, and those mostly occur far from medical assistance. Any snakebite should be evaluated medically. Stay calm and seek medical help. The emergency rules of care have changed, so check the internet for current snakebite procedures if you are going to be in an area remote from medial help. Please never kill a snake or lizard; they are one of our best defenses against pests such as pack rats. If you are feeling threatened in your yard call the fire department for relocation.
So if you are new to the desert, enjoy yourself and the wonders of harsh nature around you. If it’s an animal or large insect, share the space.
Author is not a professional biologist, botanist or naturalist. Eyes, yard, interest and a computer search engine are all the required tools for your enjoyment of nature in SaddleBrooke and SB Ranch.