Puerco Mountains Report #12
Roger Repp's Puerco Mountains Report
[originally posted 7 July 2008]
I've taken to pre-crack-of-dawn herping trips to the Puercos. This allows me to track by daylight, and still see some of the herps in action. The real bonus to operating from 0500 to 1000 is the lizards come out in full force by about 0800.
We appear to have lost one of the female atrox that I have followed for years. We speak of CA61, Katie. She was not visible when I tracked her to a gnarly cholla Neotoma mound on 24 May 2008. She has remained in that mound ever since. Her body temp readings from her implanted transmitter have been 36 degrees C and higher each visit, indicating that if she were alive, her brains would be broiled. An atrox going into a midden and not being visible for over a month just doesn't happen.
Katie was an adult snake when we first met her in April of 2004. I believe she was at least six years old at the time. We have tracked her for four years; during that time she has given birth twice. The last visual I had on her was in early May--and she appeared to be in great health. Before I started the telemetry work, I would have said that atrox live a long time. I based that on large male atrox that I was seeing (and still continue to see) at some of the den sites I have monitored for the longest times.
But I'm now rethinking longevity issues with atrox--especially the females. It is my opinion that giving birth is an enormous drain on their systems. All the boys have to do is go around and eat and mate. The girls have it considerably rougher.
On top of that, the boys are bigger. That means that any would-be-predator might think twice before tangling with a male. More and more pictures of atrox being devoured by snakes are crossing my computer these days. I can't help but note that the atrox that are being swallowed have all been female.
So, Katie is dead, and I'm not feeling very good about that. I'd estimate that she was about ten years old, and that is likely an average number to go with when estimating the longevity of a wild female atrox. Any captive observations that extend beyond that would be most welcome news to me.
Leaving things that are wrong behind, we move on to what is right:
First off, our lone radio-tagged Gila monster, female HS13 "Cyclops" has moved into a soft-soil-wash berm that's chock full of badger holes. This is exactly the type of terrain where some of our other Gilas nested. So, we likely have a Gila nest--but we'll likely never know for sure.
Enjoy the pics....
That's all that's fit to spit. Best to all, roger