Last weekend I took my Grandson Josh out fossil digging along Patterson Pass Road.
Depending upon where you dig, you can find petrified wood, petrified leaf fossils or petrified seashells.
Josh noted the irony that seashell fossils that were once on the ocean floor were found near the top of the mountain. It was a great learning experience for Josh
We discussed tectonic plates and earthquake faults and how mountains were formed. It was also some great bonding time for Josh and I.
One thing we did have to look out for, was to avoid both scorpions and rattlers which are sometimes found in our dig areas. While the scorpions on Patterson Pass are usually quite small, I still wouldn’t want to get stung by one, and rattlers are a definite must to avoid. The rattlers that frequent the coastal hills are Western Rattlesnakes (Crotalus Oreganus) and can grow to over 5 feet in length although the average size is between two and three feet. Truth be told, you don’t want to be bitten by any rattler at all.
As I have mentioned before I make it a hobby to remove rattlers from local ranches. It helps the rancher reduce the chances that he or his ranch hands or grandkids will get snake bit. It also provides me with a very exciting hobby and a source of raw materials for rattlesnake hat bands. I used to catch rattlers with my partner Don McGeein of Tracy. Over a period of several decades he and I probably caught over 2,000 rattlers. Then Old Don went and died on me and my son Donald has become my snake catching partner.
Over the years, I developed an educational rattlesnake program that I present to schools, civic clubs and the like. Most groups find it to be an interesting program and I often hear comments like” Best program we’ve had in years”. Once when I was scheduled to give a presentation to a group in Tracy, I got word that the local herpetological society was going to protest my program. I guess they were upset that I was going to make the species extinct.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has an official classification system tells you how rare or endangered a species is. Dodo birds and dinosaurs for example, are extinct, while other species may be rare, endangered or threatened. At the absolute bottom of the list are “Species of Least Concern” which means in layman’s terms that they are plentiful and in absolutely no danger of becoming extinct. Guess what? The Western Rattlesnake is a Species of Least Concern.
There are numerous different species of rattlesnakes, like Pigmy Rattlers, Timber rattlers, Diamondbacks and Speckled Rattlers. One species, the Mojave Rattlesnake has the most deadly venom of any snake in the world including Cobras, Mambas, and Bushmasters. Snake venom comes in two types hemotoxic and neurotoxic. Hemotoxic venom attacks the blood cells while neurotoxic venom attacks the nervous system. Mojave rattlesnakes have venom that is both hemotoxic and neurotoxic. If you get bit by a Mojave rattler you are in deep trouble.
There are several new developments in the treatment of snake bite, including a rattlesnake vaccine for dogs that will make your dog immune to snake bite.
If you have a group that would be interested in seeing my rattlesnake program feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meanwhile, the grass is green, the sun is shining, and I think I hear a rattlesnake calling my name.
Until next week,