Monday, June 29, 2009

Arizona Ice Snakes

As grandfather of 11 grandkids here in Arizona I feel responsible to document a little known fact about the wild life here in Arizona…for their protection. It is a well known fact that Arizona has a lot of snakes, especially Rattlers. My son David once found five in the bushes in our front yard on the same day, all within a few feet of the lawn! He hasn’t offered to do any weeding around the house since, but he is kind of busy these days….that must be it…busy. I have some people, (ok it’s my daughter Doni) who come to my house who are actually nervous when walking to their cars at night. I assure everyone they will not bite….well there was that one that bit Dusty, but it was not a serious bite, just a leave me alone kind of thing...they just want to be left alone to eat small critters, which is ok with me. Anyway Rattle snakes are not that big a deal here, especially since they always rattle, ok often rattle, actually the ones that have struck at me never do rattle first…but they are supposed to rattle their tails before they strike, at least the polite ones do. Like the one that rattled his warning out by the hay when I almost stepped on him while feeding the horses. I digress to much here and you might get the wrong idea. Rattle snakes are not really a big problem here, but there is one snake here that is really dangerous. Of course the Arizona tourism Association disavows any knowledge of the existence of this creature, but I have put a picture of it above as proof positive of it’s existence. The snake I refer to is the small, but potent ARIZONA ICE SNAKE. These small, but lethal snakes inhabit the high country of Arizona, especially around Humphreys Peak, where the Arizona Snow Bowl ski area is located. The local Indian tribes are currently protesting the proposed use of treated affluent water to make artificial show on the mountain for skiers. The official complaint is that it will desecrate the mountain but that is just the cover story for the tourists. The real reason is that it is the Winter nesting site of the Arizona Ice Snake. Evidently they fear that the treated affluent may harm the breeding cycle of these sacred snakes or cause birth defects in the young. The censored news reports would have you to believe something different, but that is only to keep the skiers from knowing the real story. Skiing is big business and brings in a lot of money so ANY mention of Ice Snakes (not to be confused with the Mt Lemon Snow Snake) has been eliminated from every level of government. If you doubt that, just call any official from the governor’s office to the health department. They will all deny vehemently the existence of these creatures. But they cannot deny the plain cold, hard facts. They are easily spotted if you know what to look for. Most can be seen from the safety of the car. Like spotting any wildlife from a vehicle, never look for the entire critter, watch for an ear, leg or eye, some bit of the animal. Since Ice Snakes blend into the snow background perfectly, you need only look for their tale –tale eyes, and then you will typically only see one eye. Watch for a dark black spot the size of a small pebble beside the road in the snow. Sometimes you will see only one, sometimes there may be hundreds gathered together. Be honest, you do remember seeing them now, don’t you? You may have mistaken their eyes for gravel chipped off the pavement by the road grader. Don’t feel bad, that’s a common rookie mistake. Of course, it could be just flecks of gravel, but there is an easy way to tell. Stick an ungloved hand into the show near a speck. If after a few moments your fingers begin to get numb, you were bitten by and Ice snake. In moderate exposure to the venom the fingers will turn red, severe cases cause the nail bed to turn blue. If that happens get immediate treatment. Every year there are countless cases of Ice snake bites, most of which go unreported. Since they breed in late winter or early spring, the top layer of snow has melted into a hard crust of ice and they leave no trail. Earlier in the winter their tracks are completely covered by the snow cats that supposedly are “grooming” the slopes for skiers. The grooming part of the story may be true, but the real motivation is hiding the ice snakes tracks. Sometimes you can look carefully under trees where the grooming machines don’t go and see their trail in the powdered snow. It looks a little like a miniature snow ball rolling, but it is just nature’s way of hiding the tracks. The bite of an Ice Snake is not normally fatal. Their fangs are extremely sharp and fine so they barely leave a trace. The potency of the venom is quickly reduced with warm compresses or even hot breath. Symptoms of a bite usually include, but are not limited to a burning sensation on the tip of the nose and or ears. A stiffening and numbing of the joints, especially the fingers and toes of the victim is often reported. Prolonged exposure to the venom and lack of treatment very often results in an overall numbness and sluggishness. A mild to violent shaking of the body accompanied by teeth chattering is a sure sign of the need of advanced treatment. Some skeptics argue that these symptoms are just the normal signs of the onset of hypothermia, but that is just what they would have you to believe! Immediate application of warmth, internal and external will show rapid improvement in the victim of an Ice Snake attack. Younger victims respond well to the medicinal properties of Hot Coca while older victims generally prefer something more anticeptic with alcohol, like and Irish Coffee or Hot Toddy. A few use hot caffeine doses.
If a little caution and proper protection is used, Arizona Ice Snakes pose little danger to the public at large. Small children and the elderly need to exercise reasonable caution, but never let it stop your enjoyment of the out of doors.
There is a secondary value to teaching your small children about Arizona Ice Snakes. It is a great test for a condition called infant gullibleitis. If, after giving them the facts, you observe one leg to be longer than the other, they are most definitely a victim of this dreaded disease. If left untreated they may fall victim to any number of silly schemes. Treatment is simple. Just tell them they can be cured by kissing their own elbow.


Doni Brinkman said...

Somehow I get the sense of being mocked in this particular post. :)

Ray and Janell said...

we got here in kansas, too! Kanza Ice Snakes

heidi jo said...

i never heard of them! there must be more of a story to this involving doni - one i MUST know... do tell.