Here’s an event I never would have guessed we’d witness - rattlesnakes mating.
We noticed some fuss & bother happening at the campsite across the road from us. People were stopping, discussions were going on, and the occupants of the campsite were holding a gals dog for her while she went along side their truck. The campers left the next day and another camper walked into the site to take a picture. I was watching all of this from my “office” in the trailer, getting distracted while trying to be productive with client work. Ultimately I had to see what was going on so grabbed my own camera and walked over.
I had to look for a while at the base of a prickly pear cactus but finally I saw it down underneath in the shadows - a pretty good size rattlesnake. We knew they were in the area - Miranda had seen while riding her bike previously in this park. I grabbed a couple of pictures and brought MsBoyink across the road to see. While talking about it we seemed to recall that the rangers liked to move snakes when they were found so close to a campsite - both for the safety of campers and for the snakes. The snakes like to lay in the roads after dark to soak up the heat from the asphalt and then they get run over by cars. We called the check-in station and they confirmed that the rangers do like to move them. They promised to send the rangers soon, so we went back to watching and chatting with the other campers who were starting to show up. At one point we even got to hear the snake’s rattles - after which I discreetly moved another 4-6 feet away.
But wait, is that just one snake?
Nope - a sharp-eyed viewer noticed there were two snakes in there and at some point someone finally figured out what was really going on. The snakes were mating. Soon the rangers pulled up and came out with their bucket and “tongs”, but once we told them of our suspicions they refrained from picking up the snakes and instead the head ranger was called down.
She decided to tape off the area while the process went on and also removed the campsite from the availability list.
Word soon spread through the campground and the site stayed busy all afternoon with rangers, camp hosts, and campers coming by. I had a great time talking to the other campers (which doesn’t happen much at campgrounds with so much room between the sites) and listening to the variety of opinions about what should be done in this situation. Some people didn’t think the snakes should be moved - mating or not - and others thought it was a great opportunity to kill two live snakes with one bullet (and prevent more from being born).
I did some searching to see what value the rattlesnake serves in the desert, and the main benefit of their presence seems to be in keeping the rodent population down. Each snake is said to eat 21 rodents a year. I’m not entirely sure I’d prefer a rattlesnake to a couple dozen more rodents (who might eat themselves into oblivion anyway), but I’m not greatly bothered by their presence either so long as I know to look for them. It has amused us to see families with Arizona license plates let their kids walk through these areas with nothing more than flip-flops on.
The bummer for us is that our kids were down playing with the campground host family’s kids so missed the entire event.
All in all though it was a really cool thing to have happen so close to us. We got to witness nature in action, meet other campers and rangers, and learn a bit more about a creature on this earth that previously we just kinda hoped we never ran across.