Sam And The Tiger
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Sam Angevine and I decided to spend the morning poking around in the Tucson Mountains to see what we could see. The Tucson Mountains are one of four mountain ranges that bound the valley that is Tucson. The range is located on Tucson’s west side and the mountains top out at a bit more than 4,000 feet. One of the neat things about exploring the individual ranges in the Tucson area is that no two of them are alike. Differences in elevation, exposure, and precipitation can have a pronounced effect on the wildlife that lives in the different ranges. Indeed, plants and animals are somewhat different in each of the ranges.
Sam has lived in Tucson nearly all of his life and he knows the local terrain intimately. He suggested that we follow a trail on which he’d once since a Tiger Rattlesnake. I thought that was a good idea and we headed up the trail. We’d gone a ways when I asked Sam when it was that he’d seen the Tiger. “1992,” he replied. I was in the midst of commenting that 23 years was a long time to assume that something one had seen back then might be here now when Sam suddenly yelled something unprintable and leaped backward. Sam is a big man, so it was a pretty impressive leap. “What is it?” I asked. “Tiger Rattlesnake” said Sam. I told myself that Sam was surely putting me on but when I looked at where Sam was pointing my doubts were erased immediately. It was a particularly beautiful Tiger Rattlesnake sitting adjacent to a large boulder and just at the point where shade gave way to sunlight. Sam had come within a few inches of stepping on the snake.
Of course, it’s not the snake that Sam saw 23 years ago. Rattlesnakes don’t live that long, especially in the wild. But, one can’t rule out the possibility that this rattler is the grandchild or great grandchild of the one that Sam saw back in ’92. The area where we saw this snake is ideal Tiger Rattlesnake habitat, a dry hillside that is strewn with rocks and boulders and there is no doubt that it harbors a resident population of these rattlers.
This snake is much less brightly colored than the burnt orange Tiger that I photographed a couple of months ago at Sabino Canyon. It is a muted shade of pearl gray with orange highlights. But, notice how perfectly the snake blends in with the surrounding rocks. The Tucson Mountain Tigers may have evolved into a somewhat different color range than the Sabino Canyon Tigers because the rocks in the Tucson Mountains are colored a bit differently from those at Sabino Canyon.
Finally, check out this snake’s eyes! They are as beautiful as any animal’s eyes that I’ve seen, a lovely shade of silver.
Photo taken with a Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5 L Macro lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, ISO 100, M setting, f13 @ 1/160.