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WILDLIFE WEDNESDAY: GO, SPEED RACER, GO!
Why lurk in the shadows when you can race in the sun?
It’s gotten cooler, and most snakes are snoozing in their burrows until the weather warms. I miss them, but I know they’ll be back.
Unlike the famous fat bears of Katmai National Park, and some people I know (raises hand), snakes don’t pack on the pounds for winter. We certainly have seen some chonky snakes around, but that’s because our reptiles had a good year eating yummy rodents, which had filled up on seedy snacks from the spring and late summer flower blooms.
Rather than bulk up, snakes like the red racer store glycogen (that’s a form of sugar) so they can slither into action when it warms.
The red racer, also known as a coachwhip, is pretty common in the Morongo Basin—and we see them often because they are so big and so red and don’t blend in with sand and gravel, like some of the rattlers and other snakes who hide and wait for prey to skitter past. (Having stepped right over speckled rattlesnakes and sidewinders, I speak from experience.)
Red racers rely on their speed to catch their prey. We saw this beauty hanging out at our water dish, waiting for a covey of quail to turn up. It didn’t have to wait long.
Fly, you fools! A covey of adult and teenage quail wisely hesitate before approaching a water dish where a racer hangs out. This is unusual because quail often blunder into bad situations.
Red racers eat anything that can’t run away from them and, because they are fast, that’s most small critters. The California Herps website has a stunning series of photos of a racer trying to eat a horned lizard, which ended in a hungry snake cursing in parseltongue and a live lizard covered in snake spit. Take a look. (Also a great place to see this snake’s color variations.)
Thank you as always for sharing your wildlife photos and videos; we’ll include them in a feature soon. Always looking for more Twentynine Palms wildlife! Email your files to email@example.com
Desert Trumpet writer Kat Talley-Jones is a member of the Public Arts Advisory Committee, which is a part of the City of Twentynine Palms.
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