Snakes Alive!

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

April 27, 2005

Snakes Alive!

Following record winter rainfalls in the Southwestern U.S., anglers who frequent Arizona’s largest reservoir were expecting a banner year for Roosevelt Lake. Rising water and record lake levels have produced an unanticipated byproduct, however, as usually-reclusive rattlesnakes by the hundreds have been driven from their dens, making hiking, camping, and even boating a hair-raising adventure. In addition, we also have a report on snake-avoidance training for your best friend, a review of a new book about the legendary bowyer and hunter Fred Bear, and much more!

J.R. Absher

Arizona Anglers Rattled

Thanks to heavy, winter rains, and a dam extension built a decade ago, Arizona’s Roosevelt Lake is well on its way to reaching record levels and 100 percent capacity — prompting excitement among those in the fishing community by the “new” lake’s fishing prospects.

Since the dam was raised significantly in 1995, Arizona and much of the West has experienced severe drought conditions. But with heavy moisture across the Southwest this year, Roosevelt was 91 percent full by early April, and continuing to rise.

Biologists are predicting great fishing for the next few years, along with a tremendous 2005 spawn, with hundreds of acres of new cover and additional nutrients in the ecosystem. At full capacity, the lake will reach about 20,000 surface acres.

Sounds great, right? Well, it is, except that several thousand acres of previously bone-dry snake and lizard habitat is now under water for the first time in history, displacing rattlers and generally freaking out anglers and campers.

So, if you’ve never seen towering saguaro cacti that look like water plants or experienced the sight of swimming rattlesnakes, be sure you visit Roosevelt Lake this summer.

“You see snakes going from here to there across the water trying to find something they recognize because their homes are under water,” says Randy Babb with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Shocked Into Snake Avoidance

Last week, we reported about the newly approved venom vaccine for dogs that live and run in rattlesnake country. Well, not too far from Arizona’s Roosevelt Lake, a new dog-training program is designed to teach your pooch not to be bitten in the first place.

At least one animal shelter in Tucson offers a class in Rattlesnake Avoidance Training for dogs every Saturday evening for a cost of $65.

The two-hour session usually is all it takes to teach a dog that rattlesnakes are something to avoid, according to class director, Jill Wohlfeil.

“The dogs learn to recognize the snakes by sight, scent and sound,” she said.

Trainers utilize electronic training collars and a live, venomless rattlesnake. When a dog approaches the snake, a shock is applied using a remote control.

“One training session and one free follow-up are included in the fee,” Wohlfeil told The Tucson Citizen. “The training is very effective, and it usually sticks the first time.”

New Fred Bear Book

“I Remember Papa Bear,” an all-new published account about the life of archery legend Fred Bear is a must read for hunting and bow-and-arrow fans who would like to gain a firsthand insight to the man generally credited with making bowhunting the popular sport it is today.

This expansive volume, written by Dick Lattimer, is a true labor of love that chronicles the period of time during the 1970s and 80s when the author served as the head of public relations and advertising for Bear Archery Company. The book offers a perspective of Fred Bear — the hunter, bowyer and businessman — shared by no other person, especially regarding intimate anecdotes and personal details.

Lattimer has amassed an incredible amount of information about his years at Bear Archery, particularly as it relates to the human side of the archery icon himself. The book includes many one-of-a-kind photographs, copies of letters, old magazine articles and advertisements.

Longtime adman Lattimer, true to his profession, retained catalogs, notes, snapshots and many mementos during his many years working with Mr. Bear. As a result, fans and aficionados of Fred Bear will be treated to some priceless memories and material, thanks to Dick’s near-pathological packrat tendencies.

“I Remember Papa Bear” is available from IHUNT Communications, P.O. Box 1148, Chanhassen, MN 55317. Toll free order line is 1-866-837-3135. Cost is $24.95.

Hunters Targeted By Tax Legislation

Hunters who donate game mounts to wildlife museums and natural history displays have been targeted by reforms aimed at eliminating the tax benefits usually associated with such contributions.

According to the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, Congressman Jim Moran, D-Virginia, a longtime opponent of hunting, accuses safari and big game hunters of involvement in a tax scam.

Rep. Moran is urging the IRS and the House Ways and Means Committee to investigate trophy donations by big game hunters to wildlife museums. He claims that big game hunting outfits are “exploiting a section of the tax code” and calls for reforms to charitable giving. The Humane Society of the United States (H.S.U.S.), the nation’s leading anti-hunting organization, is supporting Rep. Moran’s efforts.

“The donation of wild animal mounts to a wildlife exhibit for educational purposes is just like a donation of artwork to a museum,” said U.S.S.A. President Bud Pidgeon. “The contributions are considered charitable under tax code and it should stay that way.”

No Barney Fife

Raymond, Miss., Police Chief Frank Prince is a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact kind of guy. At least that’s our impression after reading about the incident that occurred at the Raymond Hardware Store last week. A big, whitetail deer came crashing through the front window of the store, scattering customers and generally raising havoc. The chief soon arrived at the scene, armed with a .22 caliber rifle.

Here’s the “money” quote from the (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion Ledger:

“I cornered her in a back room, and made sure everybody was out of the store. I looked at her. She looked at me. She charged. I shot her straight between the eyes and she went down.”

Case closed.

Quote Of The Week

“A dog does not live as long as a man and this natural law is the fount of many tears. If boy and puppy might grow to manhood and doghood together, and together grow old, and so in due course die, full many a heartache might be avoided. But the world is not so ordered, and dogs will die and men will weep for them so long as there are dogs and men.”

-Ben Ames Williams

“Old Tantrybogus,” 1920

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. Visit his Web sites, The Outdoor Pressroom ( and The Outdoor Weblog ) to find the latest outdoor news of interest. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for You may contact him at

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