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Beware of Rattlers

Joanne Winer

May 25th, 2005

While watering in Celia’s Rainbow Gardens Saturday afternoon, something happened that serves as a reminder that this area of the desert is full of surprises, not all of them a good thing.
Behind the fountain at the entrance to the Gardens there is a beautiful ironwood tree that is surrounded by aloe vera in bloom. This tree was there when the Gardens were started, with the aloe being planted after the trail was put in.
For the past several years, desert kangaroo rats and mice have made this tree their home, as have some other rather frightening residents.
There is now a large, rather scary coontail rattler nesting under this tree. In fact, it was noticed last year that there had been a nest with several baby snakes in amongst the aloe vera, virtually unnoticed unless you get really close.
This past Saturday, when watering, the big coontail, probably the mother, was coiled up just beyond the rocks surrounding the aloes, almost invisible against the foliage.
Luckily it was noticed before it got agitated and started rattling to strike. The Fire Department responded when called to get it relocated and they tried to pick it up but it got away, very angry at being disturbed and rattling all the way back into the heavy growth to its underground nest.
Over the past several years, many venomous snakes have been captured and relocated from the Gardens; after all this is their habitat and we are the encroachers.
They are taken out of town to be released into the desert but it was just pointed out to us that these snakes are very territorial and will come back to where they started unless they are taken at least 10 miles away.
There have been many attempts to remove these dangerous creatures from the Gardens for the protection of the many visitors who walk the trails. Last year alone, there were eight sidewinders, one female and her young, and more have been captured in past years.
This incident last Saturday is a grim reminder that we must all be aware of the dangers that can be found in the desert, and should always watch the ground.
When visiting the Gardens, please stay on the trails and be very careful where you are walking, as this is the time of year when they are out, and can be very hard to see amongst all the high vegetation from all the rain in this area in recent months.
Do not let your guard down anywhere you are walking in the desert, and be sure to keep your pets on a tight leash so they do not get bitten.
Signs will soon be posted warning visitors of this, and any area where there are known habitats will also be posted soon.