Twin-spotted Rattlesnake (Photos by Narca)
Then today's hike with Alan, Carol Comeau, and John Roser on the Ash Springs loop brought a close encounter with one of the most beautiful of snakes, the Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana). John spotted it: he tends to look down for snakes; I am usually looking up!
This mimic of the Western Coral Snake is usually diurnal and, when it emerges from under rocks, is on the move, for it actively searches for food instead of waiting in ambush for prey to pass by. Sonoran Mountain Kingsnakes feed mainly on rodents and small lizards. We see only a few each year, so this one was a treat!
Sonoran Mountain Kingsnake
We had been worried that the extreme deep freeze experienced by the region this winter may have killed many reptiles. A few species, like Clark's Spiny Lizards, may have been especially vulnerable because of their hibernation habits, and we have yet to see any of those emerge. But at least the state-protected Twin-spots and the fabulous Sonoran Mountain Kingsnakes seem to have survived the extreme cold snap.