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    Watch for venomous critters of the Mojave Desert

    Watch for venomous critter of the Mojave Desert

    Photo By Laurie Pearson | Mojave Green Rattlesnakes are known for their olive drab green color mixed with browns...... read more read more



    Story by Laurie Pearson 

    Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

    On the crawl and on the hunt, desert critters are leaving hibernation and seeking food, new habitats, and their spring flings aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California.
    “Animals and insects come out in the spring as the seasons change, in order to take advantage of the resources that are available,” said Benjamin “Cody” Leslie, Natural Resources specialist with the Environmental Division on base. “Additionally, many animals and insects begin migrating into areas that they inhabit during the warmer seasons. Not to mention ‘the birds and the bees!’ Spring is a breeding season for many species! But let’s not leave out our feathered friends. MCLB Barstow is either home to or a stop-over place for over 150 different species of birds! Often observed on base and easily identifiable are the greater roadrunner, red-tailed hawk, turkey vulture, and those annoying gangsters of the skies… the common raven.”
    Though the ravens are a protected species, they are not indigenous to the area and are causing great harm to the endangered desert tortoises. All of the creatures will initially be seeking the same basic things.
    “One of the first things they’ll be doing is looking for meals,” explained Eric Fortin, Pest Control coordinator aboard MCLB Barstow.
    That is a good reason to keep the spaces around homes and offices clean, and clear of any debris or objects which might invite unwitting meals.
    “Keep all of the clutter away from the side of your house, keep weeds knocked down, and get rid of any bushes that might be up against your house,” Fortin said. “Because those spaces, that clutter, gives mice a place to live, and when that happens, the snakes will follow them in. So, if everything is kept clutter free and away from your house or office, and weeds are kept down, and the grass is cut, then you won’t have that problem.
    MCLB Barstow has all the typical desert dwellers ranging from larger mammals, such as the coyote, down to smaller mammals such as black-tailed jack rabbits.
    “We can’t forget to include all of the Herpetological species such as lizards and snakes, all of which are present in the desert, both venomous and non-venomous,” Leslie said. “Common snakes at MCLB include the red racer, a non-venomous snake that is extremely fast, and the desert sidewinder, a venomous rattlesnake that is known for its side-ways pattern of movement.”
    Other creeper crawlers you will find on base and in the Mojave Desert in general include black widow spiders, scorpions, Mojave green snakes, bees, wasps, and other stinging insects.
    “My best advice,” Fortin said, “is to just stay away from them. If you see a wasps nest or beehive, a sidewinder, or Mojave green, or even a coyote, just call 760-577-6220, which is our ‘Trouble Desk’ and they’ll send me out to relocate the snake, or whatever it is.”
    California King Snakes are a unique species and should be considered one of the good guys, as they will actually consume rattlesnakes. Gopher snakes are also good to have around as they’ll curtail the rodent population on base, helping to keep them in check.
    It is important to be able to identify the various types of snakes, and spiders, scorpions and insects, so that base employees and their families have a firm understanding of which are dangerous, but in general, the recommendation is not to handle any wild animal. Also, keep in mind that even if a snake is non-venomous, their bites may still cause an infection or allergic reaction.
    “If you see a coyote, it will most likely run from people unless there’s something wrong with them,” Fortin explained. “If a wild animal seems overly friendly then there is most likely something wrong with it. It might be sick or diseased. They may also be on the hunt for small animals. So, keep an eye on your pets. A pack of coyotes will attack larger animals as well, though, if they’re hungry enough. So, don’t just let pets out without keeping a close eye on them. Coyotes can go over a 6’ wall without much effort to get at whatever they’re hunting so don’t be complacent with your children or pets even in a fenced yard.”
    They also encourage people not to be overly fearful. Just call the Trouble Desk, and leave the animal alone. They also recommend that people refrain from leaving things out which might be inviting.
    “Don’t leave out resources that animals will take advantage of such as pet food, water, and trash, all of which provide subsidies for animals and will attract unwanted guests!” Leslie said.
    Typically, spiders, scorpions and other such critters will sting when touched, but out of defense.
    “If you put on a jacket or pair of shoes, without properly checking them, then you may squeeze a spider or scorpion between your skin and the fabric,” Fortin said. “So, it will sting you to get you in an attempt to save itself. From now until December watch where you put your hands and feet, and what you’re walking by. If there’s a pile of stuff, there could be something in there. If you’re putting on shoes or a jacket that’s been sitting around, check them first. Be vigilant about cleanliness, too.”
    It’s also important to note that rattlesnakes may not always be able to rattle.
    “Rattles are like fingernails and they can break off,” Fortin explained. “So, you can encounter an older snake who has his rattles broken off and can’t make a noise. Babies won’t have rattles yet either. So, although it’s a good idea to keep your ears alert for that noise, don’t depend solely on that. Use all of your senses, and pay attention.”
    “When recreating in the Mojave Desert, it’s best to have on closed toe shoes, especially if not familiar with the desert,” Leslie said. “It is also usually good to wear a mid to high top boot or sneaker as this will help prevent unwanted seeds from catching on your socks and annoying you all day! This also helps reduce the spread of invasive species, such as red brome or cheat grass which are easily attached to your socks. These invasive grass species have been introduced the desert and create a fire fuel load that allows wildfires to carry through the desert increasing chances of large desert wildfires… something not historically typical of desert ecosystems. Most desert ecosystems are not evolved for fire like chaparral vegetation communities of our local southern California mountains which require a naturel fire regime for various ecological functions.”
    The Mojave Desert is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Many you may see, but many you may not.
    “However, they are there and your actions can have lasting effects,” Leslie said. “Tread lightly, stay on established roads and trails. There are so many in the desert that you will never run out, so no need to create your own roads! If you pack it in, pack it out. Ravens thrive on human trash and are a main predator of the threatened desert tortoise. If you are lucky enough to see a tortoise, do not touch it. Enjoy it and leave it alone, it does not need your help, other than respecting its home!”
    They also ask that people refrain from feeding all wildlife.
    “It is illegal to feed all wildlife to include feral dogs and cats,” Leslie reminds readers. “Last month a litter of cats was observed living in a culvert around a warehouse on NEBO. These cats were being provided food and water. Understanding that everybody loves kittens, please do not do this, it is against base policy and creates a bad situation. If animals, wild or domestic are observed living near your facility please put in a work request for resolution. Furthermore, if traps are observed around your area, do not disturb. Trapping these animals is difficult and once disturbed these animals often learn and will not revisit the trap. This creates further potential for harm to both humans and animals.”
    Fortin leaves you with one final bit of advice and it has to do with a cactus that is very prominent in the Mojave Desert, the chollas, pronounced “choy-yah.”
    “Don’t even go near a cholla!” Fortin said with a grin. “They’re called a jumping cactus for a reason!”
    If you see a creepy crawly, flying, slithering, or otherwise moving about critter, call for help, 760-577-6220.



    Date Taken: 05.13.2021
    Date Posted: 05.18.2021 17:57
    Story ID: 396763
    Location: BARSTOW, CA, US 

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