I think May is my favorite month in eastern Oregon. This year has been particularly wet, which makes things particularly green, and colorful. My walks are very slow this time of year because I must. photograph. all. the. wildflowers.
I’m still learning the names. There are so many varieties out now it makes my head spin.
Henry is particularly fond of the balsamroot (top left in ‘Yellows’, top right in ‘Smorgasbord’) and buckwheat (not pictured). He likes lupine once it gets all dry and seed pod-dy. Lupine is supposedly toxic to livestock but whatever, he lived 7 years in the wild and didn’t kill himself so I’m not going to micromanage his plant intake.
We stayed home over Memorial Day weekend to work on projects and avoid the crowds. It was our last full weekend with the current foster dog, Jimmy Dean, and he spent some time as foreman on the garden fencing operations.
One highlight of the weekend including an episode of snake rustling. I am a biologist by trade and love snakes, so if you don’t feel similar or at least have a tolerance you might stop reading here. (i.e. TRIGGER WARNING.)
We live in rattlesnake country. We have one species, the Northern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus oreganus), a subspecies of the Western rattlesnake. It is, lucky for us, much less likely to do any big-time damage than some other species (mortality rates for untreated bites are 10-20%, and who the heck is going to not get treated?), but is still venomous and no one likes getting bitten by wildlife – not people, not horses, not dogs. Still, they belong here and play a vital role of the ecology of the shrub-steppe, so killing them is not an option for us. (Plenty of our neighbors do enough of that, and I find it to be loathsome, repulsive, ignorant, cowardly behavior. I will not judge a person for being afraid of snakes, but I will for being hateful toward them. But I digress.)
Anyway there was a snake in my covered arena, likely dining on ground squirrels making a living in a pile of old fencing we’ve yet to remove. RCowboy’s first response was “get the dogs! teaching moment!” to which I was like, ugh, really? because I’m pretty sure the dogs already want nothing to do with snakes. We leashed them and brought them over anyway, and they both said “NO THANK YOU PLEASE” just as suspected.
We discussed what was next and both agreed the arena was not rattlesnake habitat. We decided to move it to where I’d seen a snake last year, up on the northwestern corner of the property which has a very snake- and rodent-friendly rock pile and is easily avoidable by humans, dogs, and horses during snake season. RCowboy began poking at it with a broom and a long pipe, eventually picking it up and carrying it between the two objects quite precipitously. I said, “is that really the best we can do? Should I go get a sled?” We have a couple black plastic sleds around for moving brush and wood and other objects, and I thought with it in there we could pull it the quarter-mile or so up to the rock pile. He mostly ignored me and kept on snake charming and I went to get the sled.
By the time I got to where the sled was he was already approaching the rock pile with his snake chopsticks. I left the sled and went back up there with my camera in tow. The snake very thankfully backed him- or herself into the rock pile and I got some nice shots (with a long lens).
[Please note: everything about the snake’s behavior during this encounter was defensive. It never moved toward us. It threat-struck maybe once or twice, and considering all the manhandling it received, that was really quite justified. These animals want nothing to do with large mammals of any sort. If anyone tells you they are aggressive, those people are big, fat liars or completely ignorant.]
RCowboy walked around the back side of the pile while I was snapping away and immediately found a second snake. We agreed that this landmark shall heretofore be known as “Rattlesnake Point.”
And I’m not going up there again until October. Have fun, kids. Eat all the rodents you like. Stay out of my arena.
May was a good month around here with decent weather, my and Henry’s first endurance ride campout/volunteer/trail ride experience, some very good riding lessons, and a fun, if not high maintenance foster dog. Looking forward to what June brings.