Puerco Mountains Report #13


Roger Repp's Puerco Mountains Blog

Submitted 14 July 2008

Howdy Herpers,

As anybody in Southern Arizona will tell you, MAN are the monsoons getting jacked up. For good reason, I have not paid any attention to when the National Weather Service designated the start of the monsoon season "official." The old rule used to be "3 days of 55% dew point." If we stick with that, the monsoons started around 5 July--which is right on track with where it all should be. It has rained every damn day since, with the grand Fooba of storms occurring on Friday, 11 July. The airport received 1.68 inches of rain that day, with much more falling close to our beloved plot.

As I approached the Puercos from the west at about 0430 on Saturday morning, the main road in was closed. Of course, it was but a minor inconvenience to drive around the sign that stated the road was closed.

Of course, in so doing I set myself up as the potential next recipient of a Darwin Award, not mention a pink slip from any wayward cop wanting to flaunt the new Arizona "stupid motorist law." This law states that if anybody drives around a "road closed" sign, and gets stuck, they bill you for the expense of getting towed out. As bored cops and fire department people aggregate like flies on road kill whenever somebody gets stuck, it's hard to imagine the ticket being any less than a million bucks--and that barely covers the doughnuts.

As it turned out, the road was closed for very good reason. But the mighty TOT Coma was able to navigate the three-foot tall mounds of sandy debris and hapless tree parts in the center of each wash crossing with but minimal underwear stainage to the driver. The ride to the plot was a clear demonstration of my own philosophy toward standard operating procedure:

"What's the sense in being stoopid if you can't prove it?"

Toad EggsToad EggsWhenever the first major blasts of the monsoon occur, the first plot duty is always to drive around and check the puddles for tadpoles. There are 3 major puddles on the plot. They are "Main Street," "Polish Rain Gage," and "Li'l Hill." Polish Rain Gage Puddle and Li'l Hill Puddle both had mosquito-larvae-sized spadefoot tads swimming around in them. Main Street had two larger tadpoles swimming around, and jillions of eggs on the bottom. These are from red-spotted toads. It is interesting that the red-spotted toads and spadefoots are not sharing the same puddles here.

Putting aside the slimy, single-celled organisms, it became time to track the REAL herps.

First on the list was female Gila Monster HS13, "The Cyclops." (So-named because she is missing her right eye.) Cyclops was buried in a pack rat midden, amongst prickly pear. As I circled the midden to do the write up, a smallish (~75 gram) pack rat came scurrying out of one of the many soil entrances to the midden. I expect that the filthy rat knew the monster was in its lair, and thus was hanging close to an entrance. It must suck being a rat in the desert.

CA55, aka "DoubleNickels"CA55, aka "DoubleNickels"I next tried the signal of the erstwhile male atrox CA55. It is always a great joy to thrust the antenna skyward and hear nothing but static from the receiver. This means that one gets to spend the next hour or so driving around and checking for a signal from various locations. Upon driving to the top of Li'l Hill, I detected a very faint blipping coming from WAY SOUTH.

I drove across Park Link, directly through 10,000 bee hives that have been strategically placed there to scare the bee-Jesus out of me, and parked close to where I was guessing the signal came from. I then continued to walk to the end of the earth in a southerly direction, until I came upon the snake coiled under a creosote bush.

Dr. Denardo, if you start seeing pink flagging by your favored turf, you'll know that CA55 and Roger have come calling.

By the time this ordeal was behind me, it was already approaching "too hot o'clock."My "Hobby Tortoise"My "Hobby Tortoise"

I shot back across the big road, and parked in the midst of Tiger Land. Once there, the first thing I did was check on a tortoise friend I've been watching lately. I call him my "Hobby Tortoise," as I've been just watching him for fun. He's a prime of life male, roughly 200mm MCL, who has been observed in and around a rocky-pallet burrow since January of this year. Hobby headed into his rock homeHobby headed into his rock homeAs I might have guessed, old Hobby Tortoise was nowhere to be seen.

As is normal, he was waiting for the first major rain before clearing out. It is likely that I will see him next fall, when he returns to his winter den. On impulse, I've attached the first and last photos I took of him this year. His burrow is visible in each photo.

The almighty signal dictated that female tiger rattlesnake "Gracie" would be next on the Gracie the tiger rattlesnakeGracie the tiger rattlesnakehit list. She was found within her normal, teeny tiny home range close to Hobby Tortoise on the SW lower edge of Iron Mine Hill. I took her picture and a picture is worth how many words?

I then dialed in male tiger "Gordo." Gordo is on our hot list for a transmitter change. The next time he was up, I was going to catch him for the process.

Well, the previous sentence was indeed a form of foreshadowing. He was found basking in the midst of a prickly pear, and I caught him. After tangling with atrox and big Black-tails, these little tigers are easy by comparison. Little though he may be, after one year of tracking, our little Gordie has put on close to 100 grams of mass, and has shed twice. He's looking good, and I look forward to tracking him for another year.

The last animal to be tracked was Tiger # 1, good old Tony the Tiger. Tony has spent the last three weeks buried in an inactive badger burrow, very close to Gracie and Hobby Tortoise. The last time I saw Tony, he had a belly full of some form of filthy rodent, so I'm not at all worried about his not being up of late. I expect he is entering a shed cycle, and I'll see him soon enough.

Well, the big road was not enough of an adventure for me. It was correctly ascertained that it would be much more terrifying to cruise home via 13 miles of sandy back roads. I had to have my hands surgically removed from the steering wheel, such was my death grip when this was behind me. There has been a LOT of flooding out in paradise.

That's all that's fit to spit. Best to all, roger