PARTICULAR AMERICAN FAUNA

Rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas and the Roadrunner

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This is an extract of the article, with small photos. You will find the complete article with full-sized photos in my e-book View America: West Mountain - Part 3

In the travel series View America, West Mountain - Part 3 covers Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 100 full-sized photos.

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Rattlesnakes

During our expedition, and especially in the desert regions of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, we gathered information about rattlesnakes, scorpions and spiders, and how best to avoid them.

Fortunately we visited the region in early season, and it was still too cold for rattlesnakes to be about. As soon as it warms up though, these nuisances crawl through rocks and shrubs, although they usually keep away from places where there is intense walking.

RattlesnakeRattlesnakes are very territorial and sound their warning rattle when something comes too close. That offers the hiker a small chance to turn back immediately and hopefully avoid an attack. If you come too close to a nest, or even worse, step on a snake, you'll immediately get bitten. Jeans and leather boots offer no protection whatsoever because snake fangs pierce them easily.

According to residents, even then such a bite is not yet a total disaster, provided you can get to a hospital and be administered the antidote immediately. You'll only get "slightly" sick.

Most residents take an insurance against snake bites, because then the treatment is covered. If not, the patient may have to cough up some $ 20,000 for the treatment and the hospital, which undoubtedly will make him even more sick...

Cows, horses and deer graze freely between the bushes, but only relatively few of them are bitten by snakes. Strangely enough their immunity system seems to cope better with venom bites than does the human immunity system. They swell up fiercely and may look terrible, but just as quickly they heal naturally. Usually the vet is not even called in.

Scorpions and Tarantulas

More annoying however are scorpions and tarantulas. These nasty insects crawl around everywhere, and you need to be very careful where you put your feet. Scorpions usually stay in or around bushes, but spiders can simply be found everywhere.

It is a good idea to inspect your shoes before putting them on. Fortunately, jeans and boots offer a certain protection against insect bites. These are usually not fatal and the venom will merely make you sick, except if you are not in a good physical condition.

scorpion tarantula

The Roadrunner

We sighted our first Roadrunner in Indian territory. This gray running bird can hardly fly, and comes in two "models", the small and the large Roadrunner. The latter grows up to some two feet of height, including its one foot tail.

the Roadrunner

The animal is exceedingly spry, and even with its short legs it manages to reach more than 16 miles per hour (26 km/h). Its legs move up to an incredible twelve times per second!

Nevertheless, neither Roadrunner, either small or large, says Beep-Beep while running - only Walt Disney thought so...

The interesting part is that the Roadrunner prefers a diet of insects and rattlesnakes. A fight between a roadrunner and a rattlesnake is simply Homeric, because the bird's only asset is its tremendous speed. It tries to catch the snake behind the head, and then beats it to death against a rock, preferably without being bitten itself...

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