Picture Rocks Pride

Volume 6, Number 3 March, 2008

Welcome to the Picture Rocks Digest, a free newsletter about issues and events in the community. The print version of this all-volunteer publication is distributed at area businesses and community sites. If you have calendar events or news items, or if you would like to be added to our email list, please contact us at PictureRocksDigest@comcast.net.

The Picture Rocks Digest is a publication of Citizens for Picture Rocks, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(4) civic organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in the community. Citizens for Picture Rocks meets the third Tuesday of each month at 7:00 pm in the Picture Rocks Community Center, 5615 N. Sanders Road. Meetings are free and open to the public. The next meeting is March 18, 2008. Everyone is welcome to attend. Membership not required, but highly recommended!


Citizens for Picture Rocks has called a special meeting for Saturday, March 15, 2008, at 10 a.m. to seek community input on how best to spend bond money offered to the community. The meeting, open to community residents of all ages, will be held at the Sandario Baptist Church, 6971 N. Sandario Road. A free hot dog lunch will follow the meeting.

Several months ago District 3 Supervisor Sharon Bronson found some leftover money from the 2004 bond issue. She sent word through the Pima County Neighborhood Reinvestment Program that she wanted the money, nearly $300,000, earmarked for a project in Picture Rocks.

Citizens for Picture Rocks identified youth activities as the most pressing need, and attention began to focus on building a BMX/Skate Park as part of Picture Rocks Park. Alternative suggestions are lights for the existing ball fields or sun covers for the basketball court and playground.

To make sure that they are on the right track and represent a consensus of the community, Citizens for Picture Rocks will be conducting a survey at the March 15 meeting to see which of these ideas, or others that might be suggested at the meeting, has the most support and can bring the community together. Those unable to attend on March 15 will have a final opportunity to make their wishes known at the regular monthly Citizens for Picture Rocks meeting on Tuesday, March 18, 7 p.m. at the Picture Rocks Community Center, 5615 N. Sanders Road.

Regular Monthly Meeting
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Picture Rocks Community Center
5615 N. Sanders Road

Guest: Sarah Craighead, Superintendent
Saguaro National Park

Iced tea social time starts at 6:30 p.m.
Meeting starts at 7:00 p.m.
Meetings are free and open to all neighbors.


Citizens for Picture Rocks has "adopted" three sections of local county roads and cleans up litter twice a year. The next cleanup is Saturday, April 5, meeting at Picture Rocks Community Center at 8 a.m. Tools and safety vests are provided, as is lunch afterward. Volunteers over age 14 are welcome - many hands make light work! For further information, contact Co-coordinators Jan Pekelder (682-7122) or Chris Banks (682-7229).


Citizens for Picture Rocks and the Picture Rocks Community Center are sponsoring a community fair on Saturday, May 3, 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the community center. Kids' activities, games, hot dogs, an art exhibit, craft booths, and many community resources will be featured, and it's free. Private parties wishing to set up displays or provide goods or services are asked to donate $10 for a table space. Since the Community Fair is about bringing our community together, volunteers are welcome. If you would like to get involved, call Jamie Kisthardt at 682-0287.


The winter rains have blessed Picture Rocks with a spectacular display of wildflowers this spring. The desert is actually green! The presence of a lot of plant life means more food for rabbits, ground squirrels, and other rodents. Those, in turn, attract snakes.

Snakes have had a bad rap ever since Genesis, but without them we could be overrun with rats and mice. There are 48 non-poisonous and 19 venomous species of snakes in Arizona. Most are small and stay hidden, including the brightly colored, and quite poisonous, Coral Snake (Micruroides euryxanthus) which would rather hide its head than bite. While most snakes avoid humans as best they can, in a rural community like ours sometimes the two get together. Here's what we might expect to see:

Gopher (Bull) Snake (Arizona elegans). This large non-venomous snake, up to 7-1/2 feet long, is grayish tan to creamy yellow with rusty brown markings. It is a constrictor, squeezing its prey so that it stops breathing, and eats mostly rodents along with some birds and lizards. It may hiss and, like many snakes, vibrate its tail in warning; in dry brush it may sound like a rattlesnake. Might hang out in ground squirrel holes on hot days.

Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum). This non-venomous snake grows up to 5-1/2 feet long, and is the only snake that actively hunts during summer daylight. Snakes are cold-blooded, meaning that their body temperature is about what the air or ground temperature is. Being diurnal, a daytime hunter looking for rodents, birds, lizards, and even other snakes, it gets pretty hot and moves very fast. The Coachwhip may be aggressive, especially if cornered or teased. They are pinkish red or tan, sometimes almost all black. They are not constrictors, but will use a loop of their body to hold down an animal while they disengage their jaws to swallow it.

Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula). These fairly gentle constrictors grow to 4-1/2 feet, and are usually black with yellow-white "chains." They eat rodents, birds, lizards, and other snakes, including rattlers. Recently one was known to squeeze into an outdoor finch cage and have a feast, making itself too fat to escape!

Rattlers. There are 18 kinds of rattlesnakes in the state. All hunt at night, looking for rodents, birds or lizards, and all are poisonous. Venom is modified saliva used to kill prey and is an important part of the digestive process for rattlesnakes. While a healthy adult human stands a good chance of surviving a rattlesnake bite, severe tissue damage can result if not treated quickly. Old-fashioned methods like applying a tourniquet, cutting and trying to suck out the venom have been found to do more harm than good, so prompt medical attention is required. A victim should immediately remove rings and other things that might be constricting as swelling increases.

All rattlesnakes have broad, flat heads, thick bodies, and hollow fangs that fold out when the snake strikes. The rattle, sections of cartilage that are added each time the snake sheds its skin, is not an indicator of age, and is used to warn off possible predators, including humans. Statistics show that most snakebites occur with young men who have been drinking, attempting to handle the reptiles with impaired judgment. Rattlers sometimes strike "dry," but there is no way to predict that. Rattlesnakes are pit vipers, with heat-sensing pits between their eye and nostril. All pit vipers can strike from just about any position and sometimes more than the length of their body. They should be avoided wherever possible, and dogs should be kept away from them. Dogs allowed to roam in the evening and at night are at real risk of meeting up with a rattler. Rattlers give birth to live young who are poisonous from the get-go. The rattlesnakes that sometimes show up in Picture Rocks are:

Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox). The state's largest rattler, up to 5-1/2 feet in length is gray to tan with brown diamond-shaped markings. Black and white bands on the tail are about equal in width.

Mohave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus). Reaching over 4 feet in length, these are greenish gray or tan more rectangular diamond markings. Black bands on the tail are narrower than white. Neurotoxins and large amounts of venom in their strikes make these quite dangerous. This Mohave rattler was seen along the Sendero Esperanza Trail in the Tucson Mountains. Mohave rattlesnake

Tiger Rattlesnake (Crotalus tigris). Often found among hillside rocks as well as in washes, this 3 -foot rattler has a smaller head than others do. Its colors range from blue-gray to orange-red, with dark bands across the back. May have the most toxic venom of all the rattlers.

Sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes). A small snake, usually under 2', tan with darker brown blotches. Adapted to moving quickly in soft sand, they have a distinctive J-shaped motion and horn-like scales over their eyes.

If you come across a rattler on your property, don't panic! The desert belongs to them as well as to us and they play an important role in the ecosystem. Keep children and animals away from them, and call 9-1-1. The Fire Department will attempt to catch the snake and release it in the wild. A smaller rattler might be picked up with a trash picker or rake, always respecting the distance that the snake might be able to strike, and dumped in a garbage can with a lid for removal to non-inhabited area.

A new book is available for those interested in learning more: A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona, by Thomas C. Brennan and Andrew T. Holycross, published by Arizona Game and Fish Department. A final note: snakes are not slimy, they don't wait until sundown to die, and male snakes have two penises. Go figure!


Following up on public comment on the Park's proposed General Management Plan, Saguaro National Park has issued a response prior to issuing a final Plan. The Park says that 84 people attended three public meetings, including one at Picture Rocks Intermediate School, and they received 190 comments. Virtually all comments critical of the alternatives presented in the draft Plan were rejected, with the finding that "no changes are needed." Traffic "calming" on Picture Rocks Road is not addressed in the response paper. Comments are still being received on the Park's Comprehensive Trails Plan, available online.


Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation hosted an open house at their offices on February 28 to present their draft Management Plan. Among the issues being considered are installing traffic calming islands and stop signs on Kinney Road, improving trails, constructing a Visitor Center, upgrading and repairing the campground and picnic areas, along with the archery and rifle/pistol range. Improvements would be made for bicycles, and a biological monitoring program would be set up to monitor vegetative changes. A survey of cultural resources (archaeological sites) would be conducted and a site steward program instituted to monitor and protect sites. There are no proposals to charge fees for park usage, except at the campground, rifle/pistol and archery ranges as now in effect. Background information is available online at the Pima County website.

Saturday, March 29, 9:30 a.m.- Noon
Marana High School
Refreshments, workshops, prizes


The Picture Rocks Digest is written by Albert Lannon (email: bluemoon@dakotacom.net; phone: 622-3561). Additional materials and design by Karen J. Zopf.