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Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's day is a much bigger deal than Father's day. Why? Well, there's just something extra special about mom (sorry Dad!). So, today's post is about an under-appreciated group of moms (you guessed it), Arizona black rattlesnakes!

Human moms - you think you have it tough? Rattlesnake maternal duties may only last a couple weeks, but during that time they may have to protect their kids from extreme temperatures, a suite of predators, annoying (and deadly?) squirrels, and clumsy humans with cameras... By the time they give birth, mother rattlesnakes likely haven't eaten in weeks or even months, but they wait another couple weeks to give full attention to their newborns. So here's to you rattlesnake mommies!

We'll start with the most famous of all, Cap Mama, who showed us what a typical day is like for a new rattlesnake family:

For an explanation of the behaviors seen in that video, check out this post.

What a beautiful family she has!

Sigma may have been one of our smaller mothers, but what she lacked in size she made up for in bravery:

Check out the full story of Sigma's squirrel battles here.

We've been lucky enough to see Woody and Alice with two different litters.
Alice's family, 2010

Alice's family, 2012

Woody's family, 2012. You can watch more timelapse videos of Woody's family here and here.

Every mom needs a day off. So the lucky (or smart?) rattlesnakes that nest in groups help each other out with maternal duties. If one is still pregnant, and thus needs to be on the surface basking, she attend to the newborns while the new mother stays in cover for a well-deserved rest. Priscilla was the first rattlesnake we observed exhibiting this baby-sitting behavior.
You can read more about Priscilla and House here.

Male rattlesnakes occasionally help out in this way too. Although we've never observed any active care or protective behavior from males, just the presence of a large rattlesnake may be enough to deter some predators.

Still image of the group:

Green Male (adult male) is the large black rattlesnake at the top of the image and the mother (Devil Tail) is the smaller, brown adult (mostly her tail and rattle are visible).

A handful of newborns follow Roger (adult male) out of the nest entrance to a preferred basking spot.

Sometimes the youngest (smallest) mom gets stuck with the surface duties of caring for the newborns. Eve was the smallest of the pair of snakes that nested at this site; we saw her often on the surface with way too many babies to have all been her own. The older (larger) female was rarely seen on the surface with the newborns.

This is the first Mother's day in years that we haven't spent at dens with our rattlesnake mothers-to-be. But, as of last week, two (Persephone and Luna) of our three Muleshoe rattlesnakes are still near their dens. While this is atypical rattlesnake behavior in general, it is characteristic of pregnant Arizona black rattlesnakes. So maybe we'll have a couple more names to add to this list next year!

Save the Frogs Day 2013!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013



Muleshoe's first Save the Frogs Day was a success! Thirty people (14 adults and 16 kids) participated in this year's event, including a science class from a local middle school. We learned about our local frog (Lowland leopard frog, Lithobates yavapaiensis), built them a new pond, and of course ran into a snake or two.

We'll let the photos (and video) tell the story.

frog walk
Dennis Caldwell (green shirt) of the FROG Conservation Project, discusses threats to frogs while pointing out some Lowland Leopard Frogs in the Twin Lakes.

iphone frog
One of the students gets up close and personal with a Lowland Leopard Frog.

close frog
This frog didn't seem to mind being photographed...

super close frog
And was quite photogenic!

The middle school students helped us install a new frog pond at Headquarters. The following timelapse video was taken as they dug the pond.

While this pond may not look pretty yet, a similar-sized pond that was put in last fall already has successful breeding in it:

Can you spot the newly metamorhposized frog with the large tail?

Saturday was all about frogs, but it's hard NOT to find snakes at Muleshoe! Several made an appearance, including our old friend Porter (male black-tailed rattlesnake), who reappeared at the Visitor Center for the first time this year. Last fall he was one of the last rattlesnakes seen at the Visitor Center and also hunted there last summer.
jeff robert porter
Jeff helps one of the kids find Porter, who is resting under the little wooden boardwalk.

kittles porter
Fun for the entire family!

We captured another black-tailed rattlesnake (Tarzan) that we processed (marked and measured) with the students.

snake process 1
As Tarzan goes to sleep, Jeff explains how we paint their rattles so we can identify Tarzan in the future without handling him again.

snake process 2 over
Tarzan was a pretty large rattlesnake!

snake process 3 close
Everyone pitched in to help monitor his heart rate.

Sunday morning we took a small group out to visit Bane, our male Arizona black rattlesnake.
tracking bane
Guests check out our beautiful boy,

who didn't disappoint.

Thanks to everyone who participated in our first Save the Frogs Day!

Sound like fun? Join us for Snake Count, which is coming up in just a few weeks! Check out our event page for more information.