**Snakes, Birds and Critters**
A great aspect of Big Bend, besides the beautiful wide open spaces, mountains and people, is the birds, animals, snakes and all kinds of critters.
It is literally a live reference book of discovery. You see a bird, you identify it, and add it to your knowledge. You learn their calls, and you can identify them without seeing them. In 1989 and 90 I would buy a reference book every time I visited Panther Junction. Finding whatever I was trying to identify in a book formed a bonding experience with the park and the critters.
Now there is an app for everything, and that sense of discovery seems diminished.
I have not had many encounters with bears, mountain lions or bobcats, only to see them crossing the road. I am always envious when someone tells me this is their first time to the park and they saw a mountain lion and or a mama bear with cubs, but then that is how big bend is, full of surprises.
If you watch the roads closely, which you should at all times, you can find snakes, turtles, tarantulas, horned lizards, and other critters crossing or warming themselves on the roads. We always stop, identify them, and safely remove them from the road. You learn quickly what snakes will, might, or won’t bite. For venomous snakes I use a snake stick to gently nudge or pick up the beautiful, misunderstood and feared creature, disrupting its basking in the sun moment for the possibility of another day of life.
I warn them about the dangers of the highway, but I do not think they listen.
One time I was driving through a storm on 385, and I saw a snake which I identified as a milk snake. When I picked it up it bit me, and I’m thinking Ok, is black and yellow kill a fellow, white on black venom lack? How does that go?
So I drive straight to Rob Dean and he confirms that it is a milk snake. The only one I have ever seen.
We made great photographs of and with him, and I returned him to the exact location I found him a couple of days later.
Marci has no fear of any kind of critter, and she is very helpful with keeping snakes on the white backdrop.
Can you imagine the story he had to tell his wife? How he had been abducted by aliens and was forced on a white examining table and a constantly bright flash of light would pop every few seconds.
Yeah right. You’re such a snake sometimes.