Creepy Desert Creatures
Not having spent much time in the desert prior to coming to West Texas, I found myself dealing with a significant amount of fear as to what might bite, sting or otherwise inflict pain and suffering upon me or my loved ones. I was surprised to find that some of the things I feared the most (tarantulas) are completely innocuous, while some things I gave the least amount of consideration (ants) could cause excruciating pain!
Knowing that many of those coming to West Texas for work hail from very different climates, I decided now would be a good time to put together a little primer on some of the creepy things of the desert and how we can live peaceably with them…or not.
Tarantulas – Big, slow, hairy, HARMLESS creatures. I’m sure they can move if they’re chasing a meal, but when they’re looking for a girlfriend, not so much. Last summer we had quite a lot of them wandering around, both day and night. (They seemed to like the grass, just FYI.) But once you get over the ICK factor, they’re really just kind of an oddity. I don’t want to touch them or anything, but they’re on my live-and-let-live list.
Prevention is the key when dealing with snakes. I’ve been told they will usually give you a warning “rattle” before striking, but not always. So, wear boots and heavy pants if you have to walk in tall grass or underbrush and do not reach into rocky crevices, under logs or rocks. (And watch where your pets walk, too!) Always, always, ALWAYS carry a light when walking around after dark – they love to soak up heat from roads and driveways after dark. They are especially active on warm nights and first thing in the morning, as they come out to warm up in the sun. If you see what appears to be a dead snake, do not touch it. A snake can strike one hour or more after death – even after the head has been severed. Freaky, I know!!
- More info and a really gross video: http://geekologie.com/2013/04/zombie-snakes-rattlesnakes-can-still-bit.php
Scorpions – I have not personally been stung, although Kevin has been several times while working around the park. We’ve seen the most scorpion activity around, and in, the trees, so please watch children and pets closely if they are playing around the trees. The scorpions here in West Texas have comparatively mild venom and should produce only moderate reactions in most people because the poison has little effect on the nervous system. Anyone stung by a scorpion should be watched closely for adverse reactions, as allergic reactions are possible.
If you do have pets, protecting them from ticks is paramount to their health. Flea and tick preventatives can be purchased locally or online, but I haven’t found any better prices than at www.petbucket.com. (We use Nexgard, an oral medication that tastes like a treat and works GREAT for killing and preventing fleas and ticks.)
- More info: http://www.ticktexas.org/diseases/index_diseases.htm
Flies – Ugh, right? They’re gone for like a month (January), and then they’re back with a vengeance! And, yes, they BITE, especially the little ones. The good news, however, is that after you’ve been in West Texas for a year or so, you apparently start to smell/taste like a West Texan, and the flies, mosquitoes, etc. aren’t really that into you anymore. So there is an upside to staying here ! (In the meantime, I recommend something with DEET. A lot of it.)
Ants – I am from western Washington State where an ant is just an ant. They don't even warrant a moment’s consideration. Well, not in West Texas! You had better be paying very close attention to those ants at all times. The tiny ones bite just to bite, but the pain disappears in just a second (which is fine as long as you’re not covered in them), and like the flies, they lose interest in a year or so. The others, however, are the…
FIRE ANTS, and I am convinced they have that name partly because they have crawled up out of the Fiery Pits of Hell.
- More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solifugae
And, again, ALWAYS have a light if you’re out after dark. Actually, the Creepy Desert Creatures do quite a fine job of enforcing our “Quiet Time” rule here in the park, since no one really wants to be outside in the dark with these things...even WITH a light!