A Puzzle

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Crazins
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A Puzzle

Post by Crazins »

Let's start this out by saying that I don't know the answer to this. I've shown it to a bunch of other herpers, none of whom can provide a satisfactory explanation.


I was working in San Diego on a dirt road when I came upon this snake track. I was the only one working on the road at the time, and the road is closed to the general public. I had seen snakes and tracks on the road before, but this is the only one that, for obvious reasons, I could not explain. Because of the rectilinear movement, I think it was made by a helleri, ruber, or spec; my money is on a larger helleri. The print was 2.5-3inches wide.

Here are the pictures:
Image


Image



Alright herpers, what happened in that break in the track? If there were two snakes, did they meet and then decide to go back exactly the way they came, moving straight backwards? Did one snake somehow jump to start the second track? Both sound highly unlikely. There were no footprints or tire prints on the road but my own, and no tire prints over the slide at all.

Thoughts?

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Josh Holbrook
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by Josh Holbrook »

Picked up and immediately dropped by a hawk?

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Crazins
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by Crazins »

I thought about that, but I think the slide would show a bit more flailing and the the dropping would be more in a clump cause the snake would be in a defensive mode. Also, that seems to be a vey large snake- I'm guessing 4ish feet- probably too big for the red tails out there.

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AndyO'Connor
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by AndyO'Connor »

I thought that for a second Josh, but I think there'd be signs of a struggle, and I doubt after being picked up by a bird if a snake would just continue with its slow rectilinear motion instead of a rapid serpentine motion after being dropped. It looks like there are other fainter markings in the picture where the two tracks come close together, like tail drags? and also, the track in the foreground, where is the rest of it ? it seems to end in the middle of the road... I dunno...

edit: When trying to make a post AND do your normal job, you sometimes take longer than you should and someone else swoops and and says what you were thinking...

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Crazins
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by Crazins »

The perks of not having a real job, Andy :D

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muskiemagnet
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by muskiemagnet »

huh???? sort of like trying to see how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop.

good luck on this one. the lack of signs of any struggle make it very interesting indeed.

-ben

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AndyO'Connor
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by AndyO'Connor »

Marisa, I have so many things, and yet, nothing to say to that...

Ben, according to Mr. Owl, and that old tortoise, the answer is 3.

I know that tumbleweed and similar would most likely have left a mark, but is a "temporary" roadblock/obstacle that the snake climbed over possible, and then the wind blew it away? i'd think a snake of that size would have pressed something down to leave a mark anyways, but I dunno.

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Fundad
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by Fundad »

The top trail looks bigger then the other trail.

Maybe a big Male Ruber intercepting a smaller female trail?

I dunno.
Fundad

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AndyO'Connor
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by AndyO'Connor »

Brian, I thought that too, my first post mentioned some weird little marks in between the trails, looks like a tail or two kind of fanned out... the top trail also looks like it has some inconsistencies, maybe the gap is where a snake lifted its head to "piggy back" another snake or even wraps tails and crawl next to? It's weird...

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klawnskale
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by klawnskale »

Okay; I'll bite and play the CSI game. I think both tracks were made by the same snake, It most likely dropped down from the top of the berm stage left on your photo. Stopped in the middle of the road and perhaps having picked up on some molecules in its Jacobson'r organs, made an adjustment shift in direction and headed off the trail leaving the scene stage left to right and leaving the dirt road.

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muskiemagnet
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by muskiemagnet »

andy. that's the best one yet. i don't buy the two snake theory. don't think a snake will crawl back in it's exact tracks unless it had some navy seal training or the like.

marissa. i think that owl failed the "wise" test. and the tortoise, well, he was just old. i'll stick with the "the world may never know" theory. i think it would be a good topic for the folks at myth busters to work on.

-ben

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BillMcGighan
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by BillMcGighan »

Respectfully, I have to support the 2 snake theory, only because the top track is thick and seems to have "push marks" in both directions. I have seem EDBs double back on themselves and their tracks when threatened.

The smaller foreground track ends on the right with vehicle tracks so the smaller was a little earlier in the day than the large.

The pic was taken at 5:32 PM and it looks like there has been some traffic.

Here's the pic with some enhancement, like cropping the sun glare a little and playing with brightness and contrast.


Image


PS Ben, glad to have met you on snake road. I just wish I knew it was you! :lol: :lol:

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reptilist
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by reptilist »

I agree with klawnscale.

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PNWHerper
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by PNWHerper »

How the heck did I miss this one?! :shock: Should've jumped on this a long time ago. Anyway, here goes...

Great tracking mystery. These are definitely Crot' tracks. I would put money on that. Considering the size, I would actually weigh in that this is more likely to be Crotalus ruber. There is also a thick tail drag visible in the upper trail which is common in Crot' trails.

Both of these trails are rectilinear trails, so this snake (or snakes) were moving slow and were likely quite relaxed. There is not sign of any kind of struggle.
The top trail looks bigger then the other trail.

Maybe a big Male Ruber intercepting a smaller female trail?

I dunno.
Fundad
Actually, I think this is a likely situation. More likely, the male was closely following the female.

Do ruber show strong site fidelity? Would they return to the same spot after foraging?
Okay; I'll bite and play the CSI game. I think both tracks were made by the same snake, It most likely dropped down from the top of the berm stage left on your photo. Stopped in the middle of the road and perhaps having picked up on some molecules in its Jacobson'r organs, made an adjustment shift in direction and headed off the trail leaving the scene stage left to right and leaving the dirt road.
Image
I don't see any indication of this animal turning around in the road. This doesn't mean, however, that it did not do so outside of the frame. I think the trail in the foreground (or the lower trail) is older than the upper one. It does also appear narrower. Without seeing more photos and more of the conditions, I would not exclude - with 100% certainty - that this is not the same animal.
Respectfully, I have to support the 2 snake theory, only because the top track is thick and seems to have "push marks" in both directions. I have seem EDBs double back on themselves and their tracks when threatened.
The push marks in both directions are part of what makes studying rectilinear trails very challenging. It does not necessarily indicate it traveled twice along the same trail.

Do we have further images of this trail? I'd love to take it deeper, but we need more evidence. ;)

Good stuff, Crazins!

:thumb:

Coluber Constrictor
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by Coluber Constrictor »

This one really has me stumped. Male chasing a female is the closest thing I can think of.

doccod
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by doccod »

That a really cool picture. I was born and raised in SD, lived there from 1958 till 1998. I had a friend who I herped with, he taught me how look for tracks and showed me how you could sometimes tell what kind of snake it was, and yes those are definitely Croats. The terrain looks very familiar to me, I might have been on it before in the old days when a lot of the back country was still open.

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MontyNajar
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by MontyNajar »

I troubleshoot & investigate stuff for a living, so I am totally tickled by this puzzle. You have a genuine mystery on your hands!

I like the idea that this is a good basking spot...so a female came out onto the road and sat there for a while. A bird came down and took off with it. Then a male picked up her sent and came to investigate hours later. Not finding its female, it started basking in the same hot-spot. But the bird was still around, so then killed the second snake.

HOWEVER - on the other hand, I think that you have to rule out any sort of predation by a bird. A hawk is going to swoop down and grab the thing by the head. Then let the snake struggle as it bites the skull and kills it. I don't think it would be like an Osprey where it swoops down and grabs a fish out of the water all in one motion. So there would certainly have to be some kind of tracks from thrashing and such.

So what does that leave us with? Does anybody know of a snake using rectilinear motion backwards? Why the hell would it do that unless it was in a tube? I've seen a snake retreat 1,000 times, but I don't think it would calmly back up like that.

If I had to bet on it, I'd go with the "piece of paper" theory someone mentioned earlier. There was some debris on the road that the snake went over. Then it blew away.

The fun part is - WE WILL NEVER KNOW!

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Nature Nate
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by Nature Nate »

My two cents:

lower snake trail: As stated earlier it is older and thus partially erased by tire tracks.

upper snake trail: It was made by a smaller crote (who you can still see in the picture off to the right) who smelled the larger and older track and doubled back thus making it look like a large track and creating the bi-directional push marks. You can see how small the crote really is if you look at the close up shot where track is in the sun and the track is at its thinnest.

the tail drag is just a lizard. You can see it goes in a different direction compared to the snake trail.

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Don Becker
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by Don Becker »

I don't think the trails are from the same animal. The top trail has "scoops" on the lower edge of it, that made me think it was from a turtle at first, but the "Y" on the left side of it (which might form a full loop) makes me think a snake was moving slowly leaving the wider flattened trail, and then quickly turned around and slithered back over the same trail pushing thinner "scoops" out of the side of it.

**edit** Didn't even read down far enough to see that others have already said the same thing I did. So give one more vote to the turned around and doubled back theory.

jeffro
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Re: A Puzzle

Post by jeffro »

My guess, just for fun:

2 snakes and a bird(s) of prey:

one snake made it ~halfway across the road before being picked off
another made it ~3/4 the way before being picked off

Jeff

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