High Desert Memories - A Hometown Journal Commemorating Ridgecrest California
Denizens of the Desert
Page One
   When you first enter the desert to live you are aware mostly by word of mouth of the animals and reptiles which live there.   Some of what you are told is pure fiction about the ferocity of these desert denizens.  Some is true but it is hard to pick the truth from the fiction.  It isn't until you've been there a while and experienced some of these critters face to face that you begin to make some sense of the whole thing and pick the truth from the fairy tale. 

A few of these creatures are poisonous and deadly, others are very meek and mild but all are necessary to the balance of nature in the desert.    Awareness of the habits and lifestyles of these denizens of the desert is your best protection while exploring the various rock outcroppings, mountains, mines, and playplaces which exist. 

If your adventurous, like to explore, and experience nature you will soon run into many of these inhabitants and become familiar with some of the patterns of their existence.  It is at this time that you begin to feel comfortable in their world.  There is less apprehension and more excitement at the discoveries you make.

  Thankfully most of the 'bad' denizens are not aggressive and will warn you if they are approached or surprised at your appearance in their world.  These occurences are rare and should be relished,  for not everyone experiences them. 

  There's a website that describes the way that some animals and reptiles survive on the desert. 
This area is for your personal experiences with the many different animals you have experienced in your time living and exploring the High Desert country we called home.

Our hope is that you will submit your serious, humorous and scary encounters with our furry, slithery, and scrabbling friends.

You know you've had them, those times when your walking along and all of a sudden hear a sound which makes the blood leave your head and the chills run up and down your spine!!  Then your confronted with the internalized shot of adrenalin which says "run or fight"!!!

  That's what we want to put here along with the really funny almost serio-comic encounters which happen all too frequently.
  I am  sending a few pictures of a coyote on the base. He was close to McDonalds and we kind of watched out for him. He was in no hurry and as you can see in one photo he is yawning.  Bored with the whole thing.  Take care.

Tom &  Lee
Here I am strolling by looking for a handout.  Just another day in the life of a busy coyote.
Oh Look!!  A human with a camera!!  I'll just sit here and show my best side for a potrait and give him a thrill!!
That was sure boring (Yaawwwnnnn) and not even a hand out.  Whats this world coming to??!!
The Hunter

A few years ago, during the winter when the sheep were grazing the alfalfa fields, there was the coyote that visited our property.  I only suspected it at first,  because one by one, between sunset and sunrise the next day, one of my cats would disappear and Hondo would wake us up several times a night raising alarms.

The sheep farmers could be heard firing off rifles in the night and early morning hours as well.  And I had seen an inordinate number of hungry coyotes that year.  I knew that rabbit numbers were down and I assumed they were hunting people's domestic animals and being a nuisance to the sheepherders.  That was also the year of the mountain lion plague as well bobcats.  It was a drought year and I think many predators came down from the mountains because the food was scarce.

One morning I was awake very early.  Just before sunrise.  Hondo had been barking earlier and I was on the prowl a bit because my cats had been whiddled down from 22 to only 9.  In addition, David had run off a bobcat trying to tear open the wire on the chicken coop one night, again alerted by Hondo.  Hondo had a very busy winter that year.  So as a result, we had a .22 rifle sitting by the front door and that morning as I went to the door, I grabbed up the rifle.

I opened the door in time to step out on the front porch, rifle in hand, as a coyote crossed the driveway to the right of the house.  He was very close.  I stopped and stood there.  He was walking very calmly and at the sound of me stepping out onto the porch, he too stopped.  I was looking at his profile and then he turned slowly toward me and looked straight at me just as the sun broke over the Coso mountains.  The orange glow of morning and the first rays of the sun illuminated him in that moment.  And he looked straight at me with the most intelligent and soulful look I have ever seen in the eyes of a wild animal.

We stood locked in this moment and I noticed how beautiful and healthy his coat was.  He was a larger version of our usual somewhat scrawny desert coyotes and there was something just so beautiful about him as he stood there in the morning light.  I never raised the gun.  I think I might even have been holding my breath because I sensed the moment was special, and in that moment the two of us were special too.  Then the moment passed and he seemed to almost wink at me as he turned to slowly continue his way toward the front of the property and out the gate.  I knew then I could never have shot him.

For several mornings after that, I would watch for him.  A couple of times I caught a glimpse of him as he was on his way down the road away from the property.  Then one day, he came no more.  And somehow I knew that the night before, the volley of rifle shots we had heard from the sheepherders guns out in the fields, had carried a bullet that forever silenced the gaze of that old hunter who had visited me one morning and shared a moment of quiet joy in the first rays of sunrise.

©Cathy Padgett Schmeer

King Snake Diner
  Special of the day - Live Rattlesnake
  King Snake, a member of a genus of North American snakes that prey on rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasins, to whose poison they are immune. King snakes also eat rats, mice, and other rodents, as well as frogs, toads, and lizards. They kill by constricting (squeezing) their prey.

  The common king snake averages about three feet (90 cm) in length, but some grow to be twice that long. It is usually black, with yellow blotches on the belly and white or yellow bands across the back. The bands fork and join one another, forming a chain along the sides. The milk snake is a member of the king-snake genus. There are numerous other species.
What Makes the Kingsnake King?

  A kingsnake’s diet can include turtle eggs, birds, and small mammals. But what makes the kingsnake a king among North American snakes is that it eats other snakes—even poisonous rattlesnakes and copperheads, How can kingsnakes do this? They are not very affected by snake venom.

  Kingsnakes are not poisonous. So how do they kill their prey? The kingsnake wraps around its prey and squeezes it to death.

  Not all kingsnakes are alike. They may be brown or black. They may be speckled or have colored bands, rings, spots, or other patterns.