A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

The Snake in My Cactus

I was on the phone with Verizon, asking them to turn off the “tether” feature for my Treo, when I glanced out my window. I was just in time to see a snake slither up the side of the 20-foot saguaro 10 feet away — the same cactus in this site’s WebCam.

Snake in a CactusI finished up my business, grabbed my new camera with its zoom lens, threw on the first pair of shoes I found (which happened to be Mike’s), and dashed outside. The 103°F heat hit me like a hammer but didn’t slow me down. A moment later, I was taking the photos you see here.

The snake had climbed the cactus to investigate the two nests on the southwest side. Woodpeckers and other birds sometimes dig holes in the sides of saguaro cacti and build nests there. This morning, I’d seen a Gila woodpecker sitting at the opening to the topmost nest. This afternoon, a snake was climbing out of it. He’d obviously been looking for a meal, but if he found one, it couldn’t have been too large; there was no sign of a hastily swallowed egg or chick along his long, skinny body. Arizona snakes commonly eat bird eggs; Martha Maxon sent a great series of photos of a Gopher Snake swallowing Dove Eggs for publication here.

Snake in a CactusI don’t know what kind of snake it is, but I know it isn’t a rattler. No rattles. It was about 4 feet long with a head so tiny that it was hard to make out. (Thank heaven for 10 megapixel cameras and autofocus zoom lenses.) It was definitely an intelligent creature that didn’t mind the heat; its perch on the cactus was in the full sun, bringing the temperature up to at least 120°F. It also seemed immune to the hard, sharp spines of the cactus it climbed on.

Snake in a CactusHe apparently saw me on the ground nearby because he didn’t seem interested in coming down. I took the opportunity to run back inside for a longer lens — my 70-210mm zoom. When I got back outside, he was on his way down, his body doubled along the cactus’s ribs. He stopped for a moment to watch me, sniffing the air with his tongue.

I got sidetracked by by Jack the Dog proudly delivering a dead dove to the driveway. (He likes to catch them as they try to escape from the chicken coop, where they’ve gone to steal the chicken scratch.)

When I returned to the cactus, the snake was slithering back into the nest hole. It must have been pretty large because the entire snake fit in there. I waited a while for it to come back out, but it stayed there.

I wonder if it lives there now.

Oh, yeah. And that really is the color of the sky here. Sometimes I still can’t believe how blue it gets. Not a single cloud in sight today, either.

Last 5 posts by Maria Langer

3 comments to The Snake in My Cactus

  • linda ball

    Oh my goodness…a big snake. I am a Canadian, living in Toronto, and I picked Wickenburg off a map of Arizona as a possible place where my man and I might like to spend winters. We are looking for something low-key, not touristy.

    But I am PETRIFIED of snakes. However, I can look at pictures and I did enjoy the story and the photography. Now if I can only get myself to be as calm about them as you are…

    Wickenburg will be on our Places of Interest when we travel south this fall, looking for a winter home.

    I’ve bookmarked the site – so keep the info coming.

    Linda (and Audun) – two seniors who are tired of cold

  • Daryl

    Not a big snake, not a BAD snake. Don’t worry, Linda, the snakes don’t come out much in winter, and they only bother humans AFTER the humans bother them!

  • Shane

    A “Red Coachwhip.” They get very big(long)- up to 5ft. plus. Notice the tail end is very long and slender tapering very slightly thus creating the appearance of a braided whip(reason for its common name). They are found in a variety of habitats and are more tolerant than most snakes of dry, warm environments, so they are active by day even in the hot desert. They do eat birds and their eggs and like to seek refuge in rodent burrows, hollowed bird nests in cacti, etc. They are very fast and may even approach aggressively if agitated and will hiss in its defense. Are known to strike or attempt to strike when cornered or captured. Harmless but large ones like this may break the skin. I encountered one myself this summer. I also have taken pictures of a kingsnake up in a saguaro at my place. One of the pics actually caught a Gila woodpecker, who’s nest was being ambushed, in flight attempting to ward off the snake. Awesome to witness!