Tuesday, September 29, 2009


There have been equity issues raised regarding the Burrow's coverage. It seems that some readers feel that flora have been receiving an unfair piece of the Burrow's pie, and that fauna have been sorely neglected. Herein, I begin to rectify the situation.

In my own defense, I must say that it is much more convenient to take a photograph of a flower or a cactus than it is of a coyote. If I am outside and have my camera and one walks by, I have a chance. But opening the door sends them running for safety in the open space across the street.

I know the critters are around even when I don't see them, but I'll spare you the scat pictures which would prove me right. Trust me when I tell you that some beasties are carnivores and some are herbivores and that I have the detritus (there's that word again!) to prove it.

I've had two encounters with slitherers. The first was early in our tenure in the desert. I was still on Marin-gardening-time, and had thought nothing of going out to work in the front yard in the middle of a hot and sunny afternoon. Suddenly, I realized that I was running towards the open garage door. I don't remember starting to run. I was just running. As my thinking brain caught up to my limbic system, I heard the snake's rattles. You can believe the experts when they tell you that it is an unmistakable sound. And you can believe me when I tell you that your body will know to flee before your brain can register the danger.

Since then, I've been much more careful, especially since our new next-door-neighbors found a pregnant and very angry Mohave Rattlesnake (crotalus scutulatus -- even the latin name is scary) in their backyard. She's no longer with us in this plane, but the animal control people warned us that her mate is still around. Snakes, it seems, are homebodies, and have a territory of about 200 yards. Relocating them in an effort to save their lives just disorients them as they search for their scent, and they slowly starve to death. My new pool guy keeps his pellet gun behind his recliner and uses that to remove the menace; I'm not quite that Tucsonan yet. I'm sticking to running.

Last week I was planting the Blackthorn Acacia (which, by the way, is not happy in its new home and is showing signs of stress. I'm sad, but I'm not giving up hope. There are smarter people than I who have given me instructions for its care and repair.) As I dragged the hose from the Little Leaf Cordia, in between the ocotillo and then to the acacia, I noticed that the ground was moving. I kept going in the opposite direction and grabbed my camera.

You can see how the camo works for it - the ground really did begin to slither.

For some dumb reason, I wasn't afraid. After I'd repositioned the hose on the acacia I took the camera and looked at the snake again. He was resting.

So I decided to get closer, and then I thought better of it and ran..... that's why this next photo is a little bit blurry..... I didn't see any rattles, but I definitely heard a hiss from that open mouth.

He could be a Pituophis catenifer, a friendly little gophersnake. He might be Crotalus oreganus, the Western Rattlesnake, who is a considerably less friendly guest. Or he might be the mourning father of my neighbor's Crotalus scutulatus, in which case I am seriously freaking out right now. My Nikon Coolpix doesn't have a telephoto lens. I was pretty close to old Crotalus and I'm not too happy thinking about it right now.

These kinds of things did not happen when I was living in ungentrified DePaul in Chicago back in the 1970's. I was once face to spitting face with a squirrel I'd unwittingly cornered in the alley behind the garbage cans. I jumped one way and he jumped the other; we were each invading the other's turf. Somehow, though, with these Squamato Ophidia (Serpentes) I know that I am in their domain and that resistance will be futile.

I now know the precise meaning of giving something its own space.

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