In Search of the Baja California Rat Snake
Updated: Feb 3
First stop, get familiar with the Hotel Villa del Palmar near Loreto, Baja California, MX. Hiking around the hotel produced far fewer reptiles than what the habitat looked to support, found were Side-blotched Lizards, Granite Spiny Lizards, Desert Iguanas, Baja California Spiny Lizards, Black-tailed Brush Lizards, Zebra-tails, Central Baja California Banded Rock Lizards, and a chorusing group of Couch's Spadefoot.
On the main highway, outrageously long road delays, at times over an hour-long, gave me time to walk around. However, with the family waiting in the hot car and a long line of stuck drivers, I couldn't put in any real effort, so only Orange-throated Whiptails and a Baja subspecies of the Tiger Whiptail were seen roadside.
The first night of road cruising produced only roadkills, also known as DOR (dead on-road).
2 Baja California Rattlers
2 massive Red Diamond Rattlers
1 Baja California Lyre Snake
3 Baja California Rat Snakes (Bogertophis rosaliae), one of which had its rat-meal thrust from the stomach.
A day-drive through a canyon near Loreto stirred the imagination. I dreamed of all the potential species to be found within the canyon. Night-driving the canyon produced Baja California Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris h. curta), Red-spotted Toads, and Couch's Spadefoots in abundance. At times, amphibians appeared in ostensibly dry, barren terrain. Then came the most brilliantly patterned Lyre Snake that I had ever seen.
Tired from road cruising, I started walking roadcuts, and just like "on cue" a Baja California Rattler came slithering down the cliff. A first for me, I had not found one in the wild before. It was very docile and friendly, "Medusa-like" with a peaceful attitude, it nearly lured me into picking it up, as the Crocodile-hunter would do. But then rationalized that I am extremely far from a functioning hospital. So I didn’t and returned to the hotel for some R&R.
Hurricane Odile was about to strike Loreto, and as everyone was fleeing north, including what seemed every diesel truck from Cabo San Lucas, I drove south to see what might be crawling in the windy, pouring rain. Snakes were active right before the storm, but it was no surprise that most were dead due to the sheer number of vehicles fleeing from Cabo and southern Baja.
1-DOR Mexican Rosy Boa
1-AOR (alive on-road) San Lucan Gopher Snake
1 beastly sized, AOR, San Lucan Speckled Rattler. It looked weird by having relatively small eyes.
Hurricane Odile struck Loreto that night and lasted well into the next day, completely wiping out Cabo San Lucas to the south, and crippling Loreto, especially the seaports. Some roads were thoroughly washed out, including that impressive canyon road I drove a couple of nights prior. Worse of all, the herp activity was devastated. Virtually nothing was crawling for three-long nights following the storm. All this time, I still had not found my target species alive, the Baja California Rat Snake. I had the roads to myself for several nights because Hurricane Odile wiped out long-distance truck travel by destroying roads north of Cabo. So, it was a real bummer not to see any snakes, especially since the roads were free of traffic and it would likely be alive. It was not until the fourth night after the storm that the first snake appeared, a Lyre Snake. Moreover, the roads were being repaired by this time, and traffic was again increasing. The Lyre Snake was followed by a Speckled Rattler, another DOR Bogertophis, and the strangest looking snake of them all, the Baja California Night Snake, with its bulbous eyes.
On my final night of road cruising, I still had not found a living Rat Snake. So, at this point in my searching, I am stopping the car for nothing but a Bogertophis. Sadly, DOR Rats Snakes were a reoccurring sight, they were common here, but I have not come across a live one yet. As the night ended, I accepted failure as my destiny. There! On the last kilometer of paved road, before reaching the dirt road back to my hotel, a huge Bogertophis! Boy, are they fast, but you know what is faster, a herper racing from a car to snatch a snake from the road before a speeding truck smashes it. Exciting, to say the least. The snake was detained and released at the capture site the following morning as my family and I made our way back to the Loreto Airport and home.
My target species was the Baja California Rat Snake, and it took the entire vacation to find. But that is okay, because ultimately it was a great trip, Hurricane Odile and all, and now I look forward to a return adventure. But next time, I am heading to Santa Catalina Island, the land of the rattle-less rattlesnake.