Although I am always rather careful about rattlesnakes while out at night collecting scorpions, I continue to have run-ins with snakes that convince me that I am still not being careful enough. Just this last week I had two such experiences, one where I almost stepped on a very large and angry Mojave Rattlesnake, and another where I almost put my hand right on top of a juvenile Sidewinder. The encounter with the Sidewinder was especially close.
My friend Ryan and I were looking for Giant Hairy Scorpions in a wash just outside of Anza Borrego Desert State Park the other night when I saw a small scorpion crawling into a hole in a shallow depression in the sand. When I reached down with tweezers to grab the scorp, luckily, and for some reason, I noticed that the sand that I was about to brace my hand on was actually a coiled up baby Sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes) laying camouflaged in the sand! My hand was literally 1 inch in front of the snake’s head before I noticed it, and for some reason it decided not to bite me. Although I was ‘rattled’, Ryan and I managed to snap a picture of the snake’s tail just before it disappeared back into its burrow (below).
Now of all the rattlesnakes to get bitten by, a juvenile sidewinder really wouldn’t be that bad, but the experience was an eye-opener. I always wear sturdy boots and snake chaps while out collecting, but I never thought I’d have to worry about a snake bite to the hand. So to my fellow scorpion collectors out there, wear your snake chaps and pay close attention to what is around you when you squat down to grab a scorpion… maybe it is even time for some gloves?