Southern New Mexican Critters I Have Met…

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By Tank Hoover

This past week has me traveling through the high desert of the Southwest to do some visiting and shooting. Flying into Albuquerque, NM, I head south to visit with some good friends. They live 30 miles from the Mexican border in a hacienda surreptitiously hidden in the desert. Flat scrub brush land and high mountains dominate the landscape. There are lots of interesting critters in the vicinity, for sure! And Mother Nature has equipped them to survive. Here’s the tale of a few of them I was fortunate enough to photograph. Mind you, I wasn’t on a photograph safari per se, but just happened to have a camera handy in this creature abundant environment.

New Mexican Speed Goat

While pulling off the hard road onto the dusty dirt lane, the 2 mile long driveway through the game rich desert was enjoyable. Range Rocket Speed Goats, also called the common antelope, were coming out to quench their thirsts at the water tanks scattered around the area. Keen eye sight, fleet of foot, hooked horns with brush guards, keep these goats covered for the fight or flight response. Said to have 10X eyesight, they usually see any predators long before the predators see them. Once danger is identified, they are gone! Swift of hoof, these prairie goats can get distance between themselves and predators like no other.

SW desert sunset

While cooling off at dusk with a margarita for a sundowner on the side veranda, engrossed in a good conversation of guns, the current state of affairs, and other noxious talk, the critters start to move. It is their time of day to make their appearances, as they have been hiding from the hot desert sun all day, in some shady hidey-hole.

Bull Durham the bull snake

Bucko Taos, the ranch’s newest canine, a red bone, coffee drinking, liquor sipping boozehound of a dachshund pup, discovers Bull Durham, Bart’s pet bull snake. He was stretching out on the south side veranda checking the perimeter of the rattler rich environment. Since making his debut, the rattlesnake population has stayed in check, earning Bull the rights to reside in the tool shed next to the house. Bucko needs a drink after finding his snake eating camp companion, and helps himself to my margarita to settle his nerves. This trait earns him the nick name, Johnny 12 stepper…..

He feels obligated to stick his pointy shaped snout into my morning coffee to clear any cobwebs that may have lingered in his canine cranium. This spunky dog, although just a pup, is pretty darn cool!

Horny toad and spent brass

Another common sight at the Skelton Hacienda is horny toads and spent brass. Horny toads have some of nature’s finest camouflage, along with prickly points all over their body. For predators with eyesight sharp enough to actually see a horny toad, and differentiate them from the surrounding environment, the cackle burr coat wouldn’t be too conducive to swallowing such a prickly meal. Besides, they are pretty darn quick!

The spent brass is self-explanatory to the voluminous amounts of shooting that occurs on the premises on a daily basis. In its own right, it is a warning of sorts that tells any roaming trespasser to heed caution and they best be on their best behavior as the occupants of this adobe home are armed and know how to shoot.

It was a great visit with old friends, along with the new critters I was fortunate enough to meet and see. We can all learn something from Mother Nature’s children if we just take the time to look around and ponder, once they are seen. There’s a reason for most things. The fun part is figuring it out over a cold drink, a setting sun, and a good compadre’.

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