Friday, August 08, 2008

Dude, I Am Soooo Buzzed.

While returning from the big city yesterday I decided to take a detour into a favorite wild place. It seemed to me that Pure Florida was suffering from a deficit of real wildlife adventures ... a little too much remodeling, dogs, and bugs ... easy stuff.

So it was with high hopes that I turned into Devils Hammock Wildlife Management Area for a slow photo creep along the dirt roads that snake through the preserve.
Right away, a hawk obliged with a few pics before flying off. Things were looking good as I walked down a familiar path to the gator hole. Everything had grown up with the almost daily rains and the gators heard me coming before I could see them.

I could hear them splashing into the water and when I finally reached a place where I could look down into the pool, there were 6 gator heads looking back. Neat.

It was about then that the sky went overcast and instead of golden late day light, I had muddy washed out light. Blechhh.
I continued on in the JEEP hoping for a change in conditions, but the dullness only increased as the sun dropped in the hazy west.
I did see a covey of quail, a sight so rare around here, that I had to stop and watch them bustle off into the palmettos. I think the fire ants are doing a job on these pretty little ground nesters.

At some point, aware of the gas I seemed to be wasting, I turned around instead of driving all the way through the park as is my custom.

This trip looked like a wash after all. First time out in awhile too dang it.
I jostled the stirrups a bit and the JEEP took off at "lets just get out of here" speed.

So, I was barely looking for wildlife when I came across this 5 foot diamondback rattlesnake crossing the dirt road about 100 meters from the park exit.
Thirty seconds later and I would have missed it all together as only the arse end of the animal was still sliding off the road when I noticed it.


I stopped dead in the middle of the dirt road, hopped out and began shooting, thinking that this snake was going to zip off into the underbrush.
But, it didn't.
It slid parallel to the road at a slow pace as if it owned the place. I moved closer into the brush that stood between us and shot some more. The snake just continued to slide. No rattling, no real notice of me.

Then, I heard a vehicle approaching and ... dang it, I had left the JEEP blocking the road. So I crawled back out of the thorns and jogged back to the JEEP ... to find the FWC state wildlife officer's patrol truck blocked by my vehicle.
Oops.
I told him what I found and to my surprise he jumped out and wanted to go see it, so the two of us left our vehicles in the road and bushwhacked back to where the rattler was.

Now, with two of us triangulated on her, she went defensive and put on a display that was as impressive as any I've ever seen. I have a few seconds of video showing her before she went all cobraesque on us.
The game warden and I were about as close as you'd want to be ... maybe 7 feet away from her. At one point, I was so in to taking pics that I failed to see the brush covered fire ant mound and stepped right on to it. Being sneaky fire ants, they all swarmed my legs before one of them gave the command to sting.

This distracted my attention from the snake, the game warden's too as he helped swat a few ants off one of my sneakers. Neither one of us was looking at the snake at that point and we both laughed at the thought of dying from a rattlesnake because some ants were biting you.

I'm just saying, it would be pretty embarrassing to explain that to St. Peter ... or Cerberus.

The snake never struck, she only loaded her coils for the strike and continued warning us with that amazing rattle.

The sun was setting and I had the out of the ordinary pics I needed, so I bid the warden adieu and rattled on out of the park.

I could still hear her buzzing as I drove off.

I had a bit of a buzz myself from the encounter.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

FC-
I remember a much younger Dude landing in a fire any hill at FCHQ! He still remembers it too! LOL!
Lightnin

Flatland Mountaineer said...

FC, I'm glad to hear that there are covies of wild quail somewhere. My Dad and I used to find covies just outside of the perimeter highway in Atlanta not so many years ago...

caroline said...

As striking (no pun intended) as her markings are, she is amazingly well camouflaged in that habitat. Ma Nature does create some unconventionally beautiful beings.
You just never know what you might stumble upon when you least expect it.
Caroline in South Dakota

Mark said...

Neat. I jumped a rattler about that size one day while running on a trail at a state park near where I work in Alabama. We were both surprised.

I hate fire ants. I remember back in the early 60s when they were making their way up through south Georgia. Apparently the gov't tried aerial insecticide spraying, which obviously didn't work. They are now all the way into north Georgia. I find them all over the mountain where we live.

thingfish23 said...

And how are our leg pustules today, Fc? Fire ants force my pesticide hand on our property. Once or twice a year, I have to put granules down. I make sure to use stuff that ONLY targets the ants, not a kill-em-all granule. Ya do what ya can.

I am so jealous that you see rattlesnakes as often as you do. They are so beautiful.

threecollie said...

What a different world. Up here we have green frogs and garter snakes. Down there it's gators and rattlers. Listening to that snake rattle on the video had my skin tightening and my heart jumping. Dang!
Glad the ants were the only thing that bit you.

Sandcastle Momma said...

That sound has always sent a shiver down my spine! We run into them often on Eglin Reservation and they really are scary. They can strike from SO far away. My kids have learned to listen for that sound while we're out poking around in the woods. We have a lot of Pygmy rattlers around here and they don't usually rattle until after they strike. Not good.
Hope those fire ants didn't get you too bad. I'm still recovering from my encounter with some last week. Nasty critters they are!

Susan said...

I used to have fire ant hills on my two acres, but they disappeared when the Northern Flickers moved in. NFs are part of the woodpecker family, and they eat lots of ants.

Thanks for the audio reminder of what a rattler sounds like. I'll try to remember that.

swamp4me said...

Ooooo, pretty, pretty, pretty! Sorry about the nasty fire ants, though. They bite--literally and figuratively speaking ;)

Wren said...

It's a good thing I don't live in Florida. I wouldn't have known what that sound was. I'm torn between "that's really cool, i'm jealous" and "if it were me, i'd probably be dead now"

Anonymous said...

Our little quail disappeared here, too. Not from fire ants either. I had a snake experience this morning myself. Was trying to get some pics of the humming birds, had sandals on, when a 2ft snake went right across my toes. Luckily just a garter snake. It was in a hurry to get back into the big building. Your's was much neater!
Bro J

Aunty Belle said...

Oh baby...I'se glad that was YORE encounter and not mine. I is a'skeert of snakes fer shure. I'll gig a frog fer dinner, but makes I a big space fer snakes.

But leastways, FC, iffin' that snake strikes, I ain't worriet none that that slobbery dawg will be waitin' at the Styx fer ya'.

BY any chance does ya know a Chunky Pond? Uncle used to duck hunt thar. We growed up Hog Town Creek, so the Devil's Millhopper were our back yard territory so ter speak.

Aunty Belle said...

oops...meant to ask, how is them fire ant bites? What'd ya put on them?

SophieMae said...

RADICOOL!!! Definitely worth the surpisingly not eternal load time! I would NOT have been so bold as to follow her into the brush!

I've read that alcohol. followed by Prep H is great for fire ant bites. Thankfully, I have not had occasion to test it.

We used to see quail in our yard relatively often, but they've been muchly scarce this year. 8-{

Just the Right Size said...

Pretty snake, but not one I'd want to find in my back yard!

Got into a patch of fire ants last night when I was pulling weeds (had flip-flops on no less). It happens to me almost every time. I hate those things!

Glad you're safe and only bitten by the ants!

kathy a. said...

good thing you ran into law enforcement of the critter-lovin' variety.

hope the ant bites are healing OK. i have scars from my southern skeeter-bites back when, so i'm really really glad that i never ran across those stinging ants. i don't think skin-so-soft works on those suckers, either.

Floridacracker said...

Lightnin,
I forgot about that, but getting fire ant bit here is such a regular thing, that individual moments are lost.

Flat Mt,
I think their habitat requirements and groundnesting make modern life more challenging for them.

Caroline,
Very true. two of those shots are flash illuminated so she was even more cryptic in reality.

Mark,
Yup, the south did try aerial poisoning for a while, but the fire ants marched on.

Thing,
Just popped one.


3C,
ME too!

SCMomma,
My encounter wasn't has funny as yours!
Be careful geocacheing.


Susan,
Pretty unique sound. Seems a lot louder at the time.

Swampy,
I thought you'd see the beauty.

Wren,
I like the second choice.
:)

Bro J,
A two foot garter snake sent me to the Doc when I was a little guy. I let it bite my hand too long and it broke a blood vessel, hand turned purple, Mom worried I had misid'd it.

Aunty,
I know Chunky Pond. Was there at a boat ramp last winter. No water as far as the eye could see. You kinda local?
I don't put anythang on em, they don't bother me much except at the moment of the bite.

Sophie,
Never?
Glad the movie wasn't too slow. I tried to keep it short. Got another one but the warden and I are talking in that one.

Just Right,
I hate it when you pull up a weed to find them swarming over up the weed and onto your hands.
Actually, I just hate them all the time.

Kathy A,
I think SSS only is a little useful on sandgnats and nothing else. It's rep is bigger than it's reality.

SwampAngel65 said...

Awesome video! It's amazing just how loud their rattle really is. i am still hoping to see one of those in the wild one day. In the meantime, I can watch your video over and over again (well, at least a couple more times!)

Damn fire ants...

Floridacracker said...

Swampangel,
Glad you liked the vid.
Ditto damn.

robin andrea said...

Love that video, fc. What a great sound that rattle makes. Such a beautiful snake, and definitely not one you want to forget about while swatting fire ants.

Doug Taron said...

Nice encounter. I was dissappointed that the only sight of a rattlesnake that I got in Arizona this year was a brief glimpse of one sliding off the side of the road at night. I've always wanted to see one of the Florida diamondbacks. Hasn't happened yet.

Floridacracker said...

Robin,
Pretty unique noise. Sticks with ya'.

Doug,
Hope you see him first when it does happen.