April 21, 2021 259 PM
Steve Wilcox, the retired train engineer who got his photo on Vogue.com as a sartorial standout during Marfa Myths 2018 wearing a pith helmet, tie-dye shirt, big leather gloves and boots with shorts, availed himself in a phone call to update what turns out to be my woefully-behind-the-times rattlesnake information. Like I said, my one and only close encounter with a rattlesnake was when my puppy was bitten over 11 years ago. Turns out Steve saw a show on the Discovery Channel years ago with a snake expert who spoke of a universal anti-venom called CroFab, that works for all rattlesnakes. Great news. With CroFab, there’s no need to get the proper rattlesnake ID, just head to the hospital.
The Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine has CroFab, and has administered it in the past. It comes in right at $3,000 a vial. Often several vials are required –– usually four to six for starters, maybe 10, so the best advice remains: don’t get bitten. According to published reports, CroFab also works for Mojave green bites. The BBRMC emergency-room nurse would not divulge if anyone has been treated for Mojave green bites, only that “under 10” people were treated last season for rattlesnake bites. Local physician Dr. J.P. Schwartz said he has “treated loads of snakebites, and the majority with only corticosteroids. No anti-venom.” He continued on the Mojave green, “Their venom is a nerve paralyzer. You stop breathing. They are VERY aggressive, unlike rattlesnakes.” So make it quickly to the hospital.
Mojave greens are migrating eastward, and according to Steve, are showing up in Marfa proper, and “it’s going to be hard to get rid of them.” Two or three years ago, he found one 20 feet from his back door. This snake, he said, “thinks like a cobra. It’s a smart snake.” He swears it stands-up “straight on the tip of the tail and strikes with the full force of its body.”
His guinea hens surrounded a large Mojave green and killed it in a lot across the street from his house last summer. It took the hens about 45 minutes, however they got the job done. His guineas also pulled a smaller rattlesnake out from under a dumpster located diagonally to his house and killed it. Steve is a big fan of his flock. Well, actually, he has two flocks. The ones with pinioned wings stay in his yard, and the other flock patrols the neighborhood, loudly, however helpfully.
According to Steve, the Mojave’s green tint evolved from hanging out in creosote bushes, where small desert animals seek shelter from the sun, and mutated to camouflage itself amongst the tiny leaves. Properly distinguishing between a Mojave and other rattlesnakes is obvious upon (but not recommended) close observation. The scales between the eyes of a Mojave green are large and square, and few. The scales between the eyes of other rattlesnakes are tiny, tiny and numerous. So there you have it, straight from Steve.
His one most important piece of information is to wear snake boots when hiking or out along the roads. He’d also like to see everyone carry bear spray. “It comes in tiny cans that go on a keychain up to cans as big as hairspray.” He carried bear spray on the railroad, when out on the tracks doing repairs in the dark he often encountered Mexican gray wolves, coyotes, elk, bears and rattlesnakes, sometimes many, many rattlesnakes, and he swears bear spray works on them all.
After getting off the phone with Steve, I immediately pulled boots out of my closet. Yikes, this desert.