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A Sidewinder on the Patio
Dangerous Animals in the Backyard
While wildlife in older central cities is usually limited to birds and occasional squirrels with pigeons being the greatest nuisance, the situation is different in suburban areas. Especially in newer suburban areas surrounded by open land. Here humans and animals often co-exist in close proximity.
In some places it is not surprising to encounter strange visitors in one's backyard - a bear, a wolf, a mountain lion, a crocodile or a rattlesnake, to name a few.
So when I first moved to Arizona twenty some years ago co-workers warned me to watch out for scorpions and rattlesnakes as they were not uncommon especially in newly developed areas.
Twenty Plus Years in Arizona and No Real Encounters with Scorpions or Rattlesnakes
So far, with one and a half minor exceptions in the case of rattlesnakes, the only scorpions and rattlesnakes I seen has been during visits to Tucson's famous Arizona Sonora Desert Museum where I have viewed scorpions and rattlesnakes through the glass of their cages.
The one and a half exceptions in the case of rattlesnakes involved seeing, through the windshield of my car, a rattlesnake slither across the road as my car slowly climbed up the steep hill at Gate's Pass on our way to visit Old Tucson Studios.
My second, or half, encounter with a rattlesnake occurred a number of years ago during a dinner visit with my two, then young, sons to the Desert House of Prayer in the desert area by northwest Tucson.
While walking around outside with my boys and Father John after dinner we heard one of the kitchen staff call to us when she spied a rattlesnake curled up on the back stoop while taking the garbage out. Father John quickly strolled over to the stoop, picking up a nearby shovel on the way, and promptly killed the snake then tossed the body into a nearby patch of cactus. Keeping my sons with me, we watched from a safe distance. My boys were disappointed that Father John had not brought the dead snake over to us so they could see the rattles on its tail.
My Wife Meets Her First Rattlesnake
For me, looking out for scorpions and rattlesnakes has always been to remain aware when in areas where they might reside but not to be overly concerned about either of them.
However, that all changed this past week when I received a call at work from my wife telling me that she had just seen a sidewinder rattlesnake on our back patio.
She was about to let our new little dog, Chica, out for some air. However, when she went to open the sliding glass door to the patio, she noticed a large snake on the patio. Keeping Chica in the house, she got her camera and took pictures of the snake through the glass door from the safety of the house.
After taking the pictures, my wife went on the Internet and, after, comparing the pictures she took with pictures of snakes on the Internet, concluded that it was a Sidewinder.
A Snake and a Missile
I first learned about sidewinders, which get their names from the way that they slither across the desert sand in a sideways motion that allows them to keep all but two small sections of their underside off the hot sand, from a magazine article while in high school.
However, the sidewinder I first read about in Popular Mechanics Magazine was an air-to-air missile that employed a heat detection device to lock onto the hot exhaust of an enemy aircraft and follow it, twisting and turning as the aircraft tried to evade it, until it made contact and destroyed its prey. The article stated that the 9 foot, 155 pound missile was named after the reptile which, like the missile, moves in a sideways motion and detects its prey using its heat seeking abilities.
My wife and I saw our first sidewinder together last November at the Missile Museum on the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. That, of course, was the missile variety. Now my wife has also had the opportunity to see the reptile after which the missile was named.
We are Now a Little More Cautious
While I have yet to come as close to a rattlesnake in the wild as my wife has, both of us now keep a closer eye on our surroundings when in our yard.