Greetings From: Mesa, AZ

Rattlenakes mating in Mesa, AZ

Stories from eight years of living on the road in America

by Michael Boyink / mike@douglascountyherald.com

Birds do it, bees do it

Even educated fleas do it

Let’s do it, let’s fall in love

Cole Porter, 1928

You know the song. 

Covered by many singers, but the best known versions are from Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

In addition to the birds and bees, the song mentions sponges, oysters, clams, jellyfish, electric eels, goldfish, and monkeys that either “fall in love” or enjoy other activities that you might imagine.

No mention of rattlesnakes.

But rattlesnakes do, in fact, do it.

And when they do, at least at Usery Mountain Regional Park in Mesa, Arizona, they are not only left alone by the park staff, but given a roped-off campsite to enjoy.

Park employees cordon off a campsite to protect the mating snakes.

But not much in the way of privacy.

Word spread through the campground. Rangers came by. Camp hosts came by. Other campers came by.

We watched. 

We talked.

We took photos.

Some people saw it as a great opportunity to learn more about a native desert creature.

Others saw it as a great opportunity to kill two snakes with one bullet.

We were in the former camp. We loved the desert and wanted to spend more time in it. 

We were scared of rattlesnakes, but wanted to fight that fear with knowledge.

We attended a presentation by a local rattlesnake expert. He taught us about the 19 different species of rattlesnakes in the Arizona desert.

And he taught us how to avoid getting bitten by one while hiking.

The first rule was to not step quietly. Snakes can pick up your vibrations and will actively try to avoid you. 

The second rule was to watch where you were stepping.

And if you did step on one?

This rattlesnake expert had created a fake leg with a boot on the end of it. Every time he came across a rattlesnake in wild, he’d step on it using the fake leg. 

Only one snake in 100’s ever struck back.

He figured that one was just having a bad day. 

And if you do get bit?

Don’t try to suck the venom out like in the movies. The venom will have been absorbed by the time you try. 

Also no tourniquets, ice, alcohol, or electricity.

And don’t try to catch or kill the snake for identification.

Just lightly wrap the wound with gauze and get yourself to a medical facility as soon as you can. 

But don’t let the chance of a snake bite keep you from enjoying the Sonoran Desert.

Deaths from rattlesnake bites are rare in Arizona – in the single digits each year.

According to the expert we talked with, most rattlesnake injuries were among men aged 25 and under, and the incident followed the phrase “hold my beer.”

These snakes were mating while the desert flowers were in full bloom.

As for us? Arizona became one of our favorite states. We spent months there at different times in our travels.

We hiked and mountain-biked different trails.

And never saw another rattlesake in the wild.

A female rattlesnake reproduces every two to three years. She carries eggs but gives birth to 8-10 live young, who get no attention from their mother. Learn more at desertusa.com/reptiles/rattlesnakes.html