A cottontail hopped towards shelter up ahead, in no great hurry, white tail bobbing. Plants in the wash have been reborn with the recent rains. Ironwood trees bend graciously offering tender leaves to grazers. Triangleleaf bursage stands sturdy in the face of the rising heat and a turpentine bush has produced a crop of yellow flowers already withered on the stems.
Movement on the hillside caught my eye. An emaciated coyote melted in and out of view as she trotted up the slope and disappeared through the creosote at the lip of the wash. A half grown pup bounded behind her. If he was a domestic puppy he’d be weaning age, still fluffy. A second pup paused, staring back over his shoulder. He held one front foot off the ground and I could see a large cholla cactus bud was stuck on his leg near the foot. After a moment the pup chased the others up the hill, limping.
The cholla is a cruel plant, dropping bristling segments to the ground as a propagation method. The segments root where they drop, where the wind blows them, or hitch a ride on a passing animal. Once imbedded in the flesh the barbed spines are tricky to remove, as whatever is used to grab the painful burr is then also impaled. Coyotes are highly intelligent creatures and these live around chollas. I’m hoping mom has a method for removing cactus spines from puppy feet.
I saw good-sized holes in the sandy banks of the wash, burrow entrances where dried cholla husks were piled like security gates, but no tortoises and no snakes. A small snake did show up in our pool this weekend, perhaps dropped there by a bird. The snake was 14” long with two dark stripes running the length of its pencil thin, cream colored body. Lustrous tan plates armored the top if its head, and large round eyes stared, still open. The Mojave Patch-nosed snake is an agile, diurnal hunter, chasing down lizards, mice, eggs and birds. I’d sure love to see this unusual snake out in the desert in happier circumstances.