Snake !!!!!

And other nastier nasties

If you enjoy a morning walk and bit of adventure, why not try the closest arroyo for your next route. Grab your water bottle and hiking friend and head up the road less travelled. Don’t freak out if, all of a sudden, you spot a 5 ft long ssssnake! Stop, look and listen. What is your reptilian friend up to? If it’s a rattler, you’ll hear it warn you to stay away. However, if it’s brightly coloured and longer than 4 ft, odds are it’s just a San Lucan Gopher snake warming up in the morning sun, as pictured above. With BCS night-time lows averaging 65F over the next 4 months, snakes are on the move to dens - into seasonal hibernation.


This year a weather anomaly occurred with higher than average rainfall starting in August. Have you noticed how green the desert is? Collectively we’ve received over 17” of rain to date, in sharp contrast to the 10 year drought average (2005-2015) of 3” per year.

Rain does amazing things in a desert, including flushing out snake dens. All life in the desert, accustomed to routine heat and drought, responds abruptly to rain. In 15 years of coming here I’ve never seen so many different flowering cacti and, so many snakes. Along with the abundance of flowering plants, there are more insects and spiders. Lizards and bats are at the ready to take on the increased food supply, and with more seeds so are mice and chipmunks. Of course, more lizards and rodents mean– you guessed it – more snakes. Over the past 2 weeks we have come across a Lyre snake, 2 Red Diamond Rattlesnakes, a Black Diamond Rattlesnake and the Gopher snake. It’s all a wonderful example of the circle of life.

Fortunately, humans are not on any Cabo snakes’ menu, but correctly identifying them is critical to your good health and well being. The rattling sound made by the buttons on a rattlesnake tail is a dead giveaway, but you’re already getting too close if you hear it. Rattlesnakes are far better camouflaged than most non-poisonous snakes and can sense you before you see them. In a dramatic display a rattler may also puff up and hiss by exhaling rapidly. Stop moving and look for the snake. Then start to back away from it and look where you’re stepping in case there’s more than one. If it’s obvious it’s not a rattler, the shape of the snake’s head is a good indicator of whether it is poisonous. Non poisonous snakes have a narrower head, more streamlined to the body. Poisonous snakes have a wider, more exaggerated triangle shaped head. Better yet, be a boy-scout: go on-line before you go hiking in the arroyo or desert. Look up Red Diamond, Black Diamond, Speckled and Baja California rattler – the most common types around the southern tip of the peninsula. Strangely, rattlers also have dispositions and Red Diamond is said to be much more tolerant than a Black Diamond - go figure, a kinder gentler rattle snake. Each of these snakes will be between 3-4’ long when fully grown and have the ability to lunge about the same distance. If you’re hiking in snake habitats, the best walking stick is one at least 4’ long with a “Y” shape on one end so you can pin a snake down if necessary.

Getting bitten by a snake is never good, but nor does it mean your demise if it was a poisonous snake. Poisonous snakes may bite but not inject venom. Try to stay calm, get a picture if you can, or focus on the colour and pattern of the snake before heading straight to the hospital.

You’ll want to follow this same protocol with identifying other smaller but equally nasty biters currently in abundance – the testy trio of scorpions, spiders and centipedes. Ironically, scorpions are likely the least concerning while spiders rank at the top of the list. If you get stung or bit, ice and elevate as soon as possible. Be vigilant for any allergic reaction (trouble breathing, throat swelling) and take an antihistamine as a precaution. Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders are common here, and now reportedly Violin spiders too. Poisonous spider venom liquifies the tissue it penetrates so acting quickly can literally save a limb. If in doubt about the type of spider, try to catch it and take it -either dead or alive - to the hospital to confirm.

On the other hand, centipede bites hurt, but aren’t fatal to humans. The night of the same day the Gopher snake was seen, my wife jumped out of the bed ripping the covers off me, saying was something was nibbling on her foot. I turned on the light and we saw a 5” centipede crawling under on the sheet. I scooped up the sheet, took it outside, shook it and watched the centipede scurry off in the bright moonlight.

So, don’t let any of this stop you from exploring and enjoying an authentic Baja experience. Just be aware of your surroundings, be able to identify potential hazards and know what to do when the unplanned happens and try to live and let live.