Tubing with a Diamondback

Snake Hunting in Southern Arizona

THE ROAD TRIP: We started out in Southern California after working the Swing Shift. Jack had the Landcruiser loaded up along with Max and myself we began the pilgrimage to the great Snake Hunting Grounds of Southern Arizona. It was monsoon season and we knew the collecting would be picking up. Through Yuma to Gila Bend and south to Ajo just outside the Papago Indian Reservation. Why....because Tracy (go there and you will understand this). We cruised the roads at night and found all kinds of reptilian beings on these trips. Cruising at 50 and having a trained snake hunting eye, I could spot a snake the size of a pencil (Phylloryncus) and know what species and sex it was before the car stopped. Now that is one important skill to have.
Sometimes we would bag them for pictures in the morning, other times just grab them, log them in the book and toss them off the road and hope they have enough sense not to come back on the road and play chicken with the cars. Occasionally you find the losers of this game (DOH-dead on highway) on the road in a variety of conditions: Wasted (still moving), Pasted (fresh but dead), Roasted (been there long enough to bloat) or Toasted (crispy like a potato chip).

After making it through the reservation it was on to Tucson to spend the day and try to stay cool. Jack had some friends with a place on the edge of town and we hung out until dusk and then headed out on the road for the herps.

THE TUBE: Eastbound on the freeway and then south to Tombstone. It was a slow night until we popped over a small hill and down into dip. "STOP!!! Two diamondbacks... I'm outa here." I grabbed the snake hook and flashlight and ran back to pick then up. One of them was on the run. The other was Pasted. I tried to stabilize the live one but he was huge, very slippery and pissed off. He took off for the side of the road with a viscous hissing and rattling sound. By now Max came running back with the Maglite but it was too late. The diamondback (Mr. Atrox) was off the road and he's crawled into the drainage tube under the road. "There's no way I am losing this guy. I am going in after him. Give me the big light."

The Tube was about three feet in diameter and full of sand. As I pursued the Atrox, spider webs embraced my face and carcasses of dead insects draped from my eye lashes but I would not take my eye off the snake. He was reared back in striking position with a long "S "curve in his neck. I kept pushing sand at him to move him farther back into the tube. Jack was waiting at the other end with a hook to bag him. The snake came at me with a vengeance. I back pedaled and hit him with more sand. Slowly he began to retreat. As he reached the other end of the tube Jack hooked him and blindly flipped him up toward the road and yelled to Max that the snake was incoming.

As Max waited up on the road looking for oncoming cars he heard Jack's warning and turned around to see. The Atrox hit him right in the chest and bounced onto the pavement. Max stabilized the Atrox and by that time I had crawled out of the tube and I was ready to bag this guy. As it turned out the Pasted snake was a female and the other I chased was a male. Who knows what they were doing when they were disturbed but it unfortunately had a sad ending. As for the Big Atrox, we took photos (see above), bagged him and  and released him in a less populated area with the hope that he might be able to live out his life without the threat of man and his machines.

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