Day 41 from Ft. Davis.
We woke up at 9 to a refreshing morning, shaded from the sun by our van.
We packed camp quickly and drove one last time to the Chiricahua Desert Museum to see if anyone had found samples that we could use. Unfortunately, no one had brought any snakes to the museum, so we said our goodbyes and headed for Texas.
Just outside of town, we stopped to take photos of the Deming Plains, the region that separates many populations in the western and central US (a focal site for Hollis’s research).
After driving for a little while, we stopped in Columbus, New Mexico, to eat lunch at the Patio Cafe, which had some really tasty burgers.
We stopped briefly to take photos of the border fence with Mexico before we reached Texas, which caught the attention of the border patrol, who quickly surrounded us and pulled us over. Fortunately, they were very nice, politely checking our vehicle before letting us continue into Texas.
Our destination was the Desert Inn in Van Horn where we got a room for the night. Texas has far fewer campsites and much less BLM land in this area compared to New Mexico and Arizona, so it’s tough to find places to sleep sometimes. We settled in to our room and showered before heading out to road cruise.
On our way to road cruise, we stopped for gas and dinner (Rhett and Hollis got subway, Jason and I had Wendy’s). It had been raining heavily and was continuing to rain around Van Horn, which is usually bad for finding rattlesnakes, so we left town for the night to find drier roads.
Once we found a dry road, we started cruising. Our goal was to find Prairie Rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis) which are rare to find in this area. Early in the night we spotted a DOR porcupine.
Shortly after we found our first snake of the night, a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox).
Much to our disappointment, we found a DOR Prairie Rattlesnake next, which we expected to be our only sighting of the species in this area.
Morale got a boost afterwards when we found a Longnosed Snake (Rinochelis lecontei), this breaking our Longnosed drought.
After a brief lull in activity, we were shocked to find a second Prairie Rattlesnake on the road, and this one was alive.
Continuing on the roads, we found two more Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, one of which was eating a rodent in the road when we found it.
We got back to the hotel at 1 for a relatively comfy sleep.
At the border with Mexico, and near Van Horn, TX.
We woke up at 8:30 to a sunny, somewhat cool morning (especially in the shade of the van). We ask slept much better without the cow poop, overabundance of flies, and rain that we had last night.
To try to stay cooler while working, we drove to an abandoned gas station for shade where we processed DORs. Amazingly, the western diamondback rattlesnake whose head was run over last night was still alive.
After we finished our data collection, we relaxed and napped while waiting for the afternoon heat to pass. Between naps, Jason and Rhett made chicken pasta for lunch.
Once the pasta was plated, we realized that we didn’t have any more forks, so we devised several creative solutions to eat pasta with spoons.
We napped a little more and then made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner before going road cruising.
Tonight was our third and final night cruising this area, hoping to find Long-nosed Snakes (Rinochelis lecontei) and Glossy Snakes (Arizona elegans). The area we have been searching is known as the Deming Plains, and it is known to be a region of migration between different populations of animals on either side. Hollis is studying if the genetic patterns in the Long-nosed Snakes and Glossy Snakes are consistent with this pattern. Our first find of the night was a DOR Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum).
We came across a DOR Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer), a neonate Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), a neonate Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus), and a DOR Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornatus).
Unfortunately we didn’t find any Longnosed Snakes or Glossy Snakes. We even stopped to speak with 3 cars of herpers who all said they had not seen any Longnosed or Glossy Snakes either. Since it was a slow night and everyone was exhausted, we headed back to camp early (at 11:30) to get some rest.