The Natural World

By Tina Mitchell

Spring brings longer, warmer evenings that lure me outside after dinner. Once with our dogs on a postprandial stroll, I noticed the rustling of dried oak leaves. Do oaks grow in this area? Nope, no oaks anywhere near. Instead, a Prairie Rattlesnake sat coiled at the switchback we had all just walked by, signaling us with its eponymous rattles. Why it sent this warning after the dogs and I had passed remains a mystery to me. But I keep that memory with me as reminder call to be a tad more vigilant as the weather warms.

As exothermic (cold-blooded) creatures, snakes rely on heat from the sun and the ground to regulate their body temperatures. During the winter, they hibernate – sometimes gathering in large numbers – in rodent dens or rock crevices. But as daytime temperatures climb to 50 degrees and above, the likelihood of encountering a snake rises too.

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Luck Strikes Again

by Hal Walter

The telltale squiggly tracks across the dirt roads begin to show up in mid-May, a sign you need to watch your step until about late October.

One of the hazards of living in this particular ecotone — a place where different ecosystems overlap — is you may go jogging past an aspen grove one minute and step right over a rattlesnake a quarter-mile later.

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