Rattlesnakes and toads during the monsoon season


This summer’s monsoon has been active across Arizona, bringing high winds, torrential rains and flash flooding.

Also, rattlesnakes and toads.

The Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary keeps records of the rattlesnake calls they receive throughout the year. August is a particularly busy month, said Venom manager Cale Morris.

“We get about 300 calls from rattlesnakes a year to move them out of the Phoenix area,” Morris said. “But then the biggest spike is in August… that’s when we get the most rattlesnake calls.

“Also, we get a lot of calls about toads.”

Toads and rattlesnakes are active now because the monsoons determine when they breed. The rattlesnakes all give birth in August, Morris said, and the rains tell the toads to emerge to breed after months underground.

Morris, who is responsible for managing poisonous animals at the sanctuary, started working there 18 years ago, moving rattlesnakes. Now he cares for more than 200 poisonous snakes from around the world at the North Scottsdale Sanctuary.

“I really like poisonous things. They’re very misunderstood animals,” he said. “People are very scared of them, you know, for good reason. But the more you learn about something like this, the safer you’ll be.

In Arizona, there are 13 species of rattlesnake; the western diamond is most commonly spotted in the valley.

The western finch bears an average of 12 live snakes per year. Contrary to popular belief, immature rattlers are no more venomous than adults, he said.

“Baby babies act like adults because they have smaller heads and smaller venom yields,” Morris said. “They are not as dangerous. The big ones can cause the most serious bites.

Monsoon rains also wake up toads, including the greater Sonoran Desert toad, from “their long hibernation,” Morris said. They come out of the ground to mate and lay their eggs in puddles formed by runoff.

“They actually hear and feel the rain hitting the ground,” he said. “So they will be buried and when it hits really, really hard. This is why we only see them during these first very big ones (thunderstorms).

“I go out a lot in the desert and you will see them everywhere on the roads. People see them popping out of their garden. I will find them in swimming pools.

Morris said the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary was getting calls from people wondering what to do with the toads. Toads “have no boundaries because they will burrow underground all year round,” he noted.

Increased humidity, heavy rains, and thunderstorms frequently develop during Arizona’s monsoon season, which begins in June and ends in September.

“Across the state of Arizona, the 2022 monsoon was very good. … But like every monsoon, there are always a few little places that kind of missed out on some of the best rainfall,” Mark O’ said. Malley of the National Weather Service’s Phoenix office.It helped increase soil moisture in Arizona, he said, but “a wet monsoon does very little for the long-term drought.”

If Arizona continues to warm and dry out — as experts expect — there are concerns about the ability of toads and frogs to reproduce successfully in the long term, said Tom Jones of the Arizona Game. & Fish Department. Twenty-four species of toads and frogs are found in Arizona.

With climate change, the average night temperature has increased. In Phoenix, for example, the average summer nighttime temperature has risen 5.8 degrees since 1970, according to Climate Central, which is an independent group of scientists and communicators who share research on climate change.

“Breeding season isn’t the only thing to worry about,” Jones said, “because they spend most of their lives underground. If the ground dries out too much, they won’t survive as long. that they will be underground.

After breeding, the toads feed before burrowing into moist soil.

“The ground is still a little wet, giving them a chance to get out and feed before going back underground for the next nine to 10 months,” Jones said.

Some toad species in Arizona go from egg to tadpole to adult toad in just two weeks, Jones said — much faster than toad species found in other parts of the country.

“Whether you’re looking at these animals or looking at flowers that are blooming or birds that are more abundant, whatever it is, enjoy the monsoon,” he said. “It’s a unique part of the American Southwest that we see that virtually the rest of the world doesn’t know about. It’s time to go out and enjoy.


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