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Sunset Encounter
12 x 12

*Winner of the Society of Animal Artists 
Award of Excellence 2018

I had the pleasure of seeing a few sidewinders (Crotalus cerastes cercobombus) in the Sonoran desert of Arizona a couple of years ago, a snake I had always wanted to find. The sidewinder is aptly named for its unique method of locomotion across the desert substrate. Twisting it's body into a "J" shape, it propels itself sideways to allow better traction on loose material such as sand. This motion is not unique to the sidewinder - other snakes will use this method on particularly slippery substrate. These snakes are also called "horned rattlesnakes" due to the raised supraocular scales above the eyes.

Baby sidewinders feed primarily on tiny lizards before moving on to their adult diet of desert rodents. They also exhibit a behavior unique to the species. An individual neonate sidewinder occupying a burrow in the desert would quickly succumb to heat stress. To offset this, the neonates will stay together as a group, plugging the entrance to a burrow with their mass of bodies. Moving around, they each take advantage of both the warm exterior of the burrow and the cooler, shaded interior, providing the precise thermal gradient they need to survive.

Most adults are able to find suitable hiding places that provide adequate shade, and like many snakes, will simply expose an area of their body to the sun when they need to warm up. Sidewinders are nocturnal in the hot months, coming out at dusk to feed. I imagine the snake in this piece warming itself up in the evening sun before coming out to explore it's desert surroundings. It was an encounter with a magnificent creature that I will never forget!