I'm getting good at catching Chuckwallas. Of course it is all catch and release. Chuckwallas will bite but their teeth are small and harmless because they only eat plant matter. They can give you a good pinch, though.
Look at how well I caught it. See how I pinned his front arms down so that he can't scratch. He was shedding his skin so I let him go quickly after taking a couple of photos.
Tarantulas are the largest spiders in the southwest, and one of Zion’s most misunderstood inhabitants. Despite their portrayal in horror movies as deadly, poisonous, and aggressive, tarantulas are actually docile and interesting creatures. Although tarantulas are capable of biting a person if harassed, bites are very rare and their venom is considered non-toxic to humans. And like most wildlife, they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.
Tarantulas are rarely seen in Zion—they are nocturnal and spend most of their time in underground burrows--but sightings are most common on park roads in late summer and fall, when the males are out cruising for females. The females are basically homebodies who don’t travel far from their individual burrows during their lifespan of up to 25 years. Males may live up to 10 years—and are the tarantulas most frequently seen—during their perilous journey in search of a mate. Many are run over on roads, or eaten by predators en route. For those lucky enough to find a receptive female, some are eaten by the female after mating, and if not, will die soon anyway.
Foxes, pallid bats, roadrunners, and other desert omnivores may include a tarantula on their dinner menu. Tarantulas are also hunted in their own homes by a parasitic wasp known as the Tarantula Hawk. The main defense a tarantula has against predators is to use its back legs to fling hairs from its belly at the attacker. The hairs are finely barbed(urticating hairs), and can cause severe irritation to the face of a curious coyote. Tarantulas are nocturnal hunters, and items on the menu are primarily insects—grasshoppers, beetles, or even other spiders. Tarantulas use their fangs to inject venom which subdues and helps to digest their prey. One cricket can tide a tarantula over for a few weeks – a good thing in the desert, where food may be scarce. Also, like many desert animals, spending time underground allows them to survive the heat of a desert summer and the cold of winter.
While in Zion, be sure to follow posted speed limits and drive carefully to avoid hitting tarantulas and other park wildlife. If you do see a tarantula during your park visit, consider yourself lucky!
I came upon this Great Basin Rattler at Toroweap. It was basking on a rock after a downpour. It slowly made its way to the bush it is under and coiled up. It never rattled.
I came across this Sidewinder at Quartermaster Point at Grand Canyon West. It was fast asleep. After taking photos of it and getting close for a good look at it my guests told me that they thought it was dead. I assured them that it wasn't but they wouldn't believe me so I told them to get back and then I threw a small pebble at the snake. It went from a dead snake to a flurry of action. It straighten out as it started to rattle and then crawled right down a hole under the rock.
I caught this Great Basin Rattlesnake about 1/2 mile before the end of the road at Toroweap.
I caught this juvenile sidewinder Rattlesnake at Willow Creek Springs parking lot in Red Rock NCA.
I came across this Great Basin Gopher Snake about 7 miles before the ranger station on the way to Toroweap.
I caught this Desert Glossy on Pierce Ferry Road at about mile 26.
This is a Striped Whipsnake that I photographed about 3/4's of a mile up the trail to Angel's Landing in Zion NP. It is holding it's head up high to scout the area for things to eat like lizards and insects.
Great Basin Gopher Snake
Came upon this guy on the way to Toroweap about 35 to 40 miles out from Colorado City.
This specie of snake has a greater range than any other snake in North America.
Photographed this Red-racer on the road between Moapa Truck stop on I-15 and the Valley of Fire.
Accidently ran over it.
Desert Patch-nosed Snake
Photographed this guy at the Texaco station in White Hills, AZ
Panamint Red (Speckled) Rattle Snake
This snake was run over by a car just moments before we came upon it. It was still alive and rattled as we approached. The location was on the road in Willow Springs Canyon in Red Rock National Conservation Area. I think this is one of the most beautiful of all the Rattle Snakes.
This is the same Panamint Red pictured in the last photo but this photo was taken right after I caught it in Red Rock National Conservation Area. The photo was taken with some bystanders cell phone and he emailed it to me. I forgot my camera that day.
I caught a Desert Whiptail lizard on the top of the peak at Guano Point on Wednesday, July 6, 2011. It was the first time I had ever caught a Whiptail because of how fast they are. I used the old distraction method; wiggle the fingers of one hand in the front of the lizard and then grab it with the other hand from behind. My guests got some nice photos of the little critter. They, as well as other people on the peak enjoyed touching the lizard. It was never aggresive and never tried to bite me.
The lizard was busy eating some kind of fly when I caught it. You can see the flies on my hat. They were buzzing around everywhere. It was really having a feast.
I had to keep my fingers clamped around the lizard so that it wouldn't get away before my guests were able to photograph it.
When I let it go it scampered away as though nothing had happened.
The interesting thing about Whiptails is that there is a species that is related to the Western Whiptail called the Sonoran Spotted Whiptail that reproduces asexually. All the members of that species are female and the eggs simply are clones .
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
site says this:
These species, such as the Sonoran spotted whiptail (C. sonorae), consist entirely of genetically identical females that lay unfertilized eggs, creating a population of clones. Oddly enough, many of the behaviors exhibited by sexually reproducing species are expressed by these parthenogenetic lizards.