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Road cruising question...

Posted: June 23rd, 2017, 1:06 pm
by RenoBart
I'll be honest, I kind of hate road cruising. I definitely enjoy hiking and herping more. Road cruising is time consuming, wastes a lot of fuel, is slightly dangerous, and is often heart breaking. But I have been doing more of it this year, just because I want to see more animals and because I discovered a couple spots close to home that have been productive.

So, anyway, with the extreme heat in the West and SW right now, what can you all tell me about snake activity after dark on roads when the daytime highs are 95F+? Normally, snakes bask on warmed roads after dark when daytime temps are more moderate so they can thermoregulate. But when they don't need the road to warm up on, I am guessing road activity will sharply drop off, at least this has been my experience when hitting roads just after sunset lately. Sure, you might still see something, but it is more of a snake just moving across a road rather than basking.

So, what has been the experience for some of you who cruise a lot? Do you find during the dog days of summer you have to cruise way later in the night? Or do you just stop cruising for a while and get some damn sleep?

Thanks - Bart

Re: Road cruising question...

Posted: June 23rd, 2017, 2:39 pm
by Jeff
The Mojave can get very snake-less during the summer, whereas portions of the Sonoran Desert wake up as humidity rises in July and August from adjacent monsoon activity. I analyzed my snake counts during moon phase in the non-monsoon road cruises and found that activity of some species (glossy, longnose, gopher, sidewinder) did not vary between moon phases, but others did (night, leaf-nosed, shovel-nosed, etc). Also, strange weather can be beneficial. My best night in the Mojave was one in late May when temperatures dropped to the point that windows needed to be kept closed. The snakes that were active that night were cold, though mobile. One colleague of mine had a 50-plus snake night in southwestern Arizona when there was a low ceiling of clouds, but non-monsoon related.

Do some experimentation and let us know what you find.


Re: Road cruising question...

Posted: June 23rd, 2017, 5:00 pm
by Jeremy Wright
Hi Bart.
For me personally, most of my best night cruising nights have been when the daytime highs have been 95+ surprisingly. Many areas in the Mojave and Colorado deserts here in California where I live and herp can be almost too cold to night drive if the daytime highs aren't in the range of 90-100+. Last night for example, I was in the Colorado desert and had a really decent night, with 2 speckled rattlesnakes, 3 rosy boas, a lyre snake, and a few of the more common snakes like shovel nosed and leaf nosed. The daytime high in that area was around 115 degrees. Obviously early on in the night we had to go higher, as it was still in the 90s, but we did well regardless. Even at the highest elevations we cruised that night, the daytime highs there were a few degrees over a hundred.
Though as you said, snakes are less likely to be thermoregulating when temps are higher. Most of the snakes I saw the other night were on the move. I think however this is more a deal of nighttime temperatures. In my experience, it's rare to see snakes just sitting on the road motionless when temps are above 80 degrees. Sidewinders are the only exception I can recall. If temps drop to the 75ish region though, that can be really really good.

Like you mentioned, activity right after sunset can be pretty miserable if temperatures aren't below 80 or 85. I tend to see 2 "windows" of activity around this time of year. Usually 10-11pm and 1-2am have a sudden boost of snake activity when it gets really hot. Not sure why this is, but this has been true the times I've been out this year.
Best of luck and I hope to hear about some cool finds!
- Jeremy

Re: Road cruising question...

Posted: June 23rd, 2017, 5:46 pm
by Porter
One thing I notice is never brought up when talking about road cruising (or I've never seen it)... water and food. I think the drought got me thinking about it. But, it was mainly sparked by the fact that I seem to be one of those rule-of-thumb breakers against the grain type herpers. I follow a basic rule of thumb like all of us, but there are times when I've gone out just to have something to do, and ended up surprising myself. So, I try to think specifically on the habitat and locale I'm going to cruise... what kind of species are there? long have they gone without water? long have they been bound underground? ...when was that last great night and how long does a meal take to digest? They won't be coming back up and out for love, but they will be coming back for food :lol: Sometimes those cool nights between sweltering days give a snake a good chance to get from point A to point B and back to point A before dawn. That gives you two chances for each thirsty or hungry snake :mrgreen:

Also like what Jeremy mentioned above about the windows of activity... pay attention to which direction they are heading. :thumb: The ones I've turned around and sent back from the direction they were going, usually end up back out in the road going the same way when I pass by them again. Always leave them on course and send them the way they are going. You might find that at a certain locale, they may all head one way early in the night and head the other way towards the end. When I see a snake return to the same spot in the road, to bask, after I've moved him... (specifically thinking of rattlesnakes right now) I now wonder if theres a mouse trail he's sitting on...

I hate road cruising too for the same I've always been a hiker, chaser, and flipper. But, since my injury and my new limitations, I think I'm gonna get a lot better at it.

Re: Road cruising question...

Posted: June 24th, 2017, 8:50 am
by RenoBart
This is all good info. Thanks very much, guys.