Rattlers and scorpions hibernate in winter in Arizona.
So says a naturalist at Tanque Verde Dude Ranch standing amidst live rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, giant tarantulas, bark scorpions and black widow spiders in glass display cases. I’d just returned from a short desert hike with a group of intrepid writers heading to a shady stand of cottonwood trees. Dudes of all ages dismounted from their caramel and brown-coloured horses to join us for a Tucson-style barbecue lunch.
Canadians have a hard time getting the concept that mid-seventies temperatures and clear blue skies represent winter to local critters. For ten days I’d left behind a husband in minus-twenty degree C weather that seemed to legitimize snakes and spiders hibernating under a blanket of snow. I had a lot to learn about Arizona.
My next few posts will introduce you to the Tucson area I visited. Our retreat workshops and accommodations in Sabino Springs gated community and home to the Arizona National Golf Club, tucks itself close to the rugged magnificence of the Catalina Mountains. Eight women writers benefited from the teachings of instructor Allyson Latta, and coordinator Gail Rudyk. The women organized a top-tier travel experience and memoir writing opportunity for women writers from three countries: Canada, USA and Chile.
Coyote: I heard about coyote sightings from locals, as they are common predators for small mammals in Arizona. People keep their pets under control because coyotes often frequent the easier prey of towns where they find small pets and birds around bird feeders. I neither saw nor heard them, but I certainly watched for them on my early morning walks into the base of the mountains. The only excitement (other than the scenery) on those walks was spying an owl sitting atop a Saguaros cactus.
Bobcat: At late dusk a strolling bobcat kept pace with four writers as they walked the short distance from their Casitas to the 5-course wine-tasting dinner at the Wildcat Grill at the golf club. The bobcat strolled off to overlook its foraging prospects at a golf tee. Earlier, I photographed a “bunch of bunnies” nibbling by a tee box before dusk. I hope they made it back to their bolt-holes before the bobcat and coyotes foraged at dawn and dusk.
Javelina: Again I missed the only javelina sighting by the writers from the deck of the Wildcat Grill overlooking the golf course in the early morning. In appearance they resemble pigs but are actually members of the peccary family, a group of hoofed mammals originating from South America. Javelina form herds of two to more than 20 animals. They are most active at night, but may be active during the day when it is cold. There was a wash behind my accommodations, a place javelina like to hang out, but they must be shy (or quick) because I didn’t see any for 10 days.
Lizards: (my photo) I found this tiny lizard on my last morning in Tucson. It posed long enough for me to photograph it coming out of its hiding place. The moment was more exciting than photographing the lonely domestic cat at the Tanque Verde Dude Ranch! There are so many varieties of lizards in Arizona but in the ten days of my visit, they were well disguised, or hibernating between sunbaths in the high temperatures.