Over the past several days we've had several close encounters with rattlesnakes here at the Flying M, including a return visit by the big fat one who must be eating jackrabbits whole. That one was hanging around the corral yesterday while our dogs were inside it, barking through the fence. The dogs couldn't get to the snake, but if it had wanted to the snake could certainly have gone through after the dogs. Fortunately Stormy, the big black lab, doesn't look like a meal. G'Nort, the little dachshund/shepherd mix, is not much bigger than some rabbits, and might not come across as terribly threatening to a rattler. But they're almost always out together if they're out at all.
Still, this is the second time the same snake has been seen by the corral, which we retrofitted into a big doggie play yard. We don't want the dogs in any danger there.
At the same time, rattlesnakes aren't so easy to dissuade. You can't move them any great distance from their territory--if you put them somewhere that's good snake country, there'll already be snakes there, and too much competition in unfamiliar turf means the snake will starve. If you put them someplace with no place to eat, it'll also starve.
So you can kill it quickly--often illegal--or you can kill it slowly and unpleasantly.
Or you can do what we're trying to do, which is to make the corral area less interesting to the snake. That started today. I'm clearing all the brush, piles of lumber, etc., out from around the corral. When it's just bare earth around the perimeter, bunnies won't be drawn to it and we hope snakes won't either.
And it's practice for fall, when I'll be back outside re-clearing the fire break around the house that I spent most of the spring on, but which has grown back thicker than ever from the heavy monsoon rains.
It is unnerving, though, to be working on the ground, sticking my hand in to grab weeds, etc., in a place where I saw a great big buzzworm yesterday afternoon. I made plenty of noise, kept music playing, etc., to make sure it knew I was around. But I don't know where its hole is, and didn't want it to get so pissed off at my presence that it came out to bite me.
While I worked, a helicopter started buzzing the ground--literally, no more than 20 feet up in spots, less than a mile from our property line. There's nothing out there but BLM land. At first I thought it was Border Patrol, but when it came closer and closer I looked through binoculars and decided it wasn't. I took a picture, below, to confirm my suspicion. The paint job is all wrong for BP. It's Army or maybe National Guard--it is, apparently, a Bell OH-58 Kiowa, used by the military since Vietnam.
Here's the one on the other side of my fence:
And here, for comparison, is a photo from the web of a Bell OH-58 Kiowa:
Looks like the same bird to me.
Which raises the question: what the hell is it doing at the Flying M?
The Arizona National Guard has deployed troops to the border, in what have been described as "administrative and support roles." I didn't think those functions included flying surveillance patrols, but maybe they do. Or maybe it was a drug interdiction attempt. I don't know.
I just know that it was a little disconcerting to see what looks like a gunship combing the neighborhood while I was trying to fight snakes...