It’s that time of year when you see an increase in people exploring El Paso’s mountain trails. But it is also the time when some hard to spot local wildlife may be out warming themselves on sunny trails and rocks in the foothills.
“I like coming to Mckelligon Canyon because of all the beautiful scenery. It’s a way to step away from reality for a bit and become one with nature,” said El Pasoan Natalie Fernandez.
Just be on the lookout for the venomous kind of nature that ruin your day when you may least expect it. Snakes and scorpions can often blend in to the landscape and catch hikers, runners and mountain bikers off guard.
El Paso Zoo Education Curator Rick LoBello said most desert animals will try to avoid people, but if you do spot a snake in your path you should give it plenty of space.
“The thing you should do is let the snake alone just let the snake go by and don’t try to get close to the snake stay back let the snake move off the trail and don’t try to follow it because they’re like any other animal – any animal, no matter how big it is, if you corner it and if it feels like it’s in danger it’s going to try to defend itself.”
There are six different types of rattlesnakes that can be found in our region, three of which are common to the Franklin Mountains – diamondback, black-tailed and rock rattlesnakes.
“As far as dangers are concerned, snakes are not really that dangerous unless you try to pick up a rattlesnake,” Lo Bello said.
Some advice for trail users when it’s snake season:
- Don’t wear sandals
- Ditch the ear buds so you can hear the tell-tale rattle.
- Don’t try to hurry a sunning snake with a stick or rocks.
LoBello also recommends always hiking, riding or running with a friend on the trail so one person can go for help if the other is bitten. If you are bitten, he said, get away from the snake. Stay calm and call 911.
But, LoBello said you’re more likely to be struck by a meteor than be bitten by a rattlesnake. Enjoying the outdoor life in the desert takes more than just a keen eye for wildlife.
“Hollywood and all the movies on TV do more to hurt the reputation of snakes than anything else. The greatest danger is not snakes, its making sure you have water and that you don’t hike alone and you don’t go climbing and have to be rescued because you fell down. That kind of thing”he said.
And while we don’t want to run into them on a morning run, it is important to note that snakes are vital to our ecosystem.
“We really need all the snakes out there because mice can carry diseases that can be spread to humans and of course they eat our food so they’re very important in maintaining the balance of nature,” LoBello said.
This story was produced during the summer 2016 UTEP Broadcast Journalism Workshop for the TV-style news magazine Borderzine Presents: Hidden El Paso. The program explored an eclectic mix of El Paso’s hidden hazards and unexpected gems.