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Mojave Sidewinder Snake
(Crotalus cerastes)



California's smallest rattlesnake species, this elegant snake rarely reaches 0.75 m in length. Famous for their specialized method of moving efficiently over loose sand by pushing straight down in only two places at a time, they can also be common on firmer substrates. Due to their small size (and, therefore, low venom yield) and comparatively low venom potency, their bites are usually not as serious as bites by other species. Two subspecies occur nearby, the Mohave Desert sidewinder (C. c. cerastes) and the Colorado Desert sidewinder (C. c. laterorepens). 
 

The sidewinder is a type of rattlesnake that gets it's name because of the way it moves. Instead of slithering headfirst, in a rather outstretched manner, the sidewinder, Crotalus cerastes, thrusts it's head forward first then it's body in a sideways fashion. It's body is not held straight but rather in an "S" or serpentine shape. They actually push off the ground from two different places on their body. Their tracks look like a series of the letter "J" repeated over and over across the sand. It sounds like a cumbersome way of moving but it is extremely efficient especially in sandy terrain. Make no mistake about it, these snakes are very fast. And since they are rattlesnakes, they are venomous and potentially deadly to humans and other animals.

 

They are sometimes called horned rattlesnakes because of what resembles small horns above their eyes. These hornlike protrusions are actually elevated scales that most likely protect the snakes eyes from the sand. The coloring of the sidewinder is similar to the sandy areas where they live. The shades can range from buff or cream to brown and even yellow. The bottom of them is usually a shade of white. They have a pattern on their backs made up of small, dark squares. They can grow to a length of 32 inches. The females are larger than the males. Their scales are rough which helps them in the way they move across the desert floor.

Sidewinders can be found in desert regions of western Arizona, southern Nevada, Colorado, southeastern California, and in the southwestern regions from Utah southward down into Mexico. These snakes inhabit hot, dry, flat areas. They can be found in rocky regions below the elevation of 5,000 feet as well as in dry, sandy, washes and riverbeds. They are also found in areas where creosote bushes are in abundance.

This snake, with it's unique way of traveling, feeds on much the same prey as other snakes of it's size. The younger ones tend to eat lizards while the adult snakes eat mice, kangaroo rats, and other rodents. When they bite a lizard they do not release it until the venom has rendered it helpless. Then it is eaten. However, when a rodent is the meal, they bite and release it. The snake then follows the dying animal and eats it after it has become incapacitated. Sidewinders will be out and about during the day and nighttime hours when the weather is cool. However, when the hot weather arrives they only come out to hunt at night.

Although the potential is there for a lethal bite to a human, it is rare. Not because the venom isn't potent but because they usually will not release enough venom to be fatal to humans. The bite is very painful and if bitten one should seek medical attention immediately. Sidewinders usually sound off a warning by rattling their tails. The sound is actually made by the tail segments vibrating against each other. They do not actually have little beads in the tail that make the noise the way a baby's rattle does.

Sidewinders are another reason one should use caution when in the desert. Be careful where you step, place your hands, and sit your butt! You never know what might be lurking in the shade of the next bush you pass.

 

 

 

 


 
 
 Rasor Clean Up

First Rasor Road desert clean up.

 
 
 
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Fallen Friends

Don - Keeper of the Rasor Ranch

 

 

 
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 Historic Points

Rasor Road Mega-phone / the Mojave desert mystery

Desert grave of Delores Holland at Rasor Road, Near the old RR town of Crucero

Mystery jet fighter fuel tank found at Rasor Road

Old wells at Rasor Road

Soda Dry Lake off of Zzyzx Road at Rasor Road California Desert. The Mojave Road crosses though it.