Saturday’s Journal ran a brief (doesn’t appear on the website) attributed to Alamogordo Animal Control advising of a “spike” in rattlesnake sightings. Story blames the recent rapid rise in restless rattler reports (sorry) to the wet monsoon season, but wet or dry, Spring and Fall are snake season in New Mexico, when an encounter is most likely. In winter the reptiles are dormant, in the summer they’re typically active at night but torpid in the shade during the heat of the day. It’s when the days are warm and nights cool that people and their pets run the greatest risk.
The Journal story led me back to J. Frank Dobie’s Rattlesnakes, which I haven’t read in years. Dobie was a good man with a campfire story, and his books are full of tall tales, so I wouldn’t look to him for reliable herpetological information. But the sheer number of anecdotes he’s collected is a useful reminder as to how common buzzworms once were in Texas and New Mexico. One of the many things that fascinate me about Nana was his “Power” over rattlesnakes. Whatever it was it would have made him a handy man to have around in those days.
While less common today, there are still a lot of rattlers in the back country, and since I’m promulgating a hiking and camping guide I would remind readers to watch their steps. A Carlsbad vet has some useful tips on “Your Dog and Rattlesnakes,” and I have my own advice Snake Season on how best to avoid trouble and how to cope with it if the worst happens.