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Old 12-16-2014, 10:19 AM
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We're planning a move to the southwest and I'd like some honest takes on what it's like to live in a rural desert area. There are some beautiful properties out there that we've driven by or look nice online, but I know there's a flip side to it. In particular, I'm worried about the reptiles and other poisonous creatures and am horrified by the idea of walking out of the house one sunny morning to take my toddler to the doctor or babysitter and finding a rattlesnake sunbathing in front of the car. Or, finding a scorpion in the bathroom, or a black window in the kid's bedroom.

For those of you who have moved out there from the east, how has it worked out? Do you regret it and long for what you left? Or, is it not as bad as I'm thinking, as long as you do things like shut your doors and windows, have a cat or two, keep your yard free of debris, etc. I appreciate any honest feedback. FWIW, I've dealt with the horrors of big east coast city living and understand every place has it's bad points-- I've battled my share of roaches and watched rats run across a subway platform-- but it's being bitten by a snake 30 minutes from the nearest hospital that I can't get out of my head.
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Old 12-16-2014, 10:55 AM
Location: Keosauqua, Iowa
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What part of the southwest exactly are you looking at? The presence of the various types of venomous predators can vary greatly within a few miles or within a few hundred feet of elevation.

Scorpion bites, while potential harmful, are generally not lethal except in the very young, infirm, and elderly.

The danger from venomous snake bites is generally over-exaggerated. Here are a few facts I pulled form a random website:

•7000 venomous snake bites are reported annually in the United States.
•15 fatalities result, placing the chance of survival at roughly 499 out of 500.
•Approximately 3000 are classed as "illegitimate," meaning these bites occurred while the victim was handling or molesting the snake.
•85% of the natural bites are below the knee.
•50% are dry. Squeezing the venom glands to inject is a voluntary reflex. In that strikes against humans are generally defensive actions, it is estimated that no venom is purposely injected about half the time.
I'll add to that that of the 15 annual fatalities, approximately 5.5 are the result of rattlesnake bites, and most of those happen to males between 17 and 27 years of age in a situation where alcohol is involved. Picture some young, macho dudes on a camping trip who get drunk and decide to harass a snake. A park ranger once told me that infection from decaying flesh on the snake's fangs is a greater risk than venom poisoning.

Venomous spiders would be my greatest concern, as they tend to hide in places like bedding and piles of clothes and their bites may not be noticed until the venom starts to spread through the bloodstream. A proactive pest control program should help alleviate some of this risk.

I know this isn't the kind of specific information you were looking for, but maybe it will help you identify the biggest risks.
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Old 12-16-2014, 11:25 AM
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Thanks for your response. We're looking at northern New Mexico or Arizona.

I've visited friends in the SW and have stayed in various homes without any thought as to what's lurking and of course walked away alive and just fine. Now that we're possibly moving out there with small children, this sort of stuff is becoming a bigger concern.

I'm hoping that the "if you don't roll out the welcome mat it most likely won't come" approach will work, i.e. keeping our property neat and clear or wood piles and garbage.
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Old 12-16-2014, 01:49 PM
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I've answered this in the Phoenix & Tucson forums as well. Belong to a hiking club in Arizona that caters to people who like to do back country and off trail hiking. Since people have been recording their hikes on the website on a daily basis going back to the late 90's, not one person has been bit. The only fatality was one person lost their dog to a snake bite. Personally I run or hike almost 100 miles a month on trails all over Arizona. In the past year I have seen three snakes and only one of them started rattling to let me know I was getting too close.

Like it was mentioned earlier, the demographic for snake bites in Arizona is young men who have been drinking. If a snake hears you walking up they will try to warn you off. I have heard that if you stick a hand in a woodpile or in a rock ledge while climbing around there is a chance you will get bit. The snake can't tell if your hand is a hand or a mouse or some other small critter.

I have black widows in my garage, so just make sure that I turn the light on before I stick my hand up to a shelf to pull something down. With scorpions, the friends of mine that have them just make sure to walk around with slippers on the months that they are active. Only thing I get nervous about in Arizona is killer bees, but they are more in the Phoenix area and points south. It's too cold in most places in New Mexico or northern Arizona for them. I've been attacked by them once and it was nerve rattling to say the least.

But I would rather take my chances that there is a slim possibility I will run into a snake in Arizona than to live in the midwest and get eaten alive by mosquitoes, horse flies and deal with wasps on a regular basis.
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Old 12-16-2014, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by ja12 View Post
Thanks for your response. We're looking at northern New Mexico or Arizona.
I wasn't going to comment since we only have a small very rural farm on the Texas South Plains which is typically dry but not desert. As well, we also have a city home at Albuquerque which is just north of the Chihuahuan Desert. However, when you mentioned you were planning to move to northern New Mexico, true desert is found only in a few areas there. I decided to comment as I assumed you were mostly just talking about arid southwestern climates.

In short, living in the dry southwest and enjoying it has much to do with your attitude prior to moving there. I grew up in an extremely wet area of eastern Texas but the southwest was always a draw to me from the many old television westerns and an uncle who told me interesting stories of riding his Harleys throughout much of the southwest in the 1950s. When the military service happened to send me to New Mexico in the 1960s, I loved it. I still do love it although I much prefer the drier areas of the southern New Mexico.

As for as poisonous species, I found that most of the plants and animals in the southwestern U.S. have sharp teeth, thorns, spines, stickers or really "stinky" odors or mean dispositions. Again, to many people these unique characteristics can offer a fascination or they can be a real turn-off. Truthfully though, I did have a close friend who was bitten on his hand by a prairie rattler. However, even he still admits it was his fault for trying to collect the animal without the right equipment. All of this just added to my fascination of the southwest. I ended up getting two degrees dealing in southwestern biology.

But more to the point of your thread, I've never seen any area of northern New Mexico that was less than simply beautiful. The most difficult thing I have always felt that would be associated with owning a mountain home (and we have looked at them when we were younger) would be growing older among the rocky steep lawns, the year-round coolness of the mountains and the roads and driveways that many times can be unpaved and built at 45 degree angles.

In short, a rural life anywhere in the southwestern U.S. is going to be a challenge and require adjustments. I am envious that I did not choose a rural lifestyle at a much earlier age. I certainly would have chosen a much less tame rural lifestyle than this rural west Texas farm out on the flat plains.

Good luck.
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Old 12-16-2014, 08:22 PM
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I agree. Often its living with the rattle snake that gives you warning or city rats that are all around in cities sewer system but seldom seen but at night. Of course nany rural area might mean only basic electricity at most in services. Sewer; water and garbage is another matter if outside a city by few miles at times. If you get to the real rural areas of South Texas its a entirely different thing. Some times 25 miles off nearest paved road. But if your lucky might be by the Devil's fork River the most pure in US its said. A friend owned a house there and it certainly meant a difference but beautiful.
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Old 12-16-2014, 09:38 PM
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We live in NV where many of the hazards are comparable to the areas you are looking at. The rule to follow is "never put your hands where your eyes can't see."

Snakes are going to try to avoid you if they know you are coming. So when out in the brush make lots of noice, carry a stick and swipe at the bushes as you walk. Honestly, in 30 years here I have never seen a rattlesnake in the wild. I have seen harmless snakes and lizards but never a rattlesnake.

Bears, mountain lions, owls, hawks, and coyotes are generally going to try to avoid you as well. We have had all of these animals in our yard, and during the daylight when we have been able to see them. We don't leave small pets and children out without being supervised. I have encountered coyotes at dusk while walking my dogs, and we just turn around and walk the other way. We kept a good distance between us and the bear and mountain lion while still taking the time to admire their beauty. We have lost a pet rabbit in an outdoor habitat to a hawk or owl, but those things happen.

Black widows...we have them all over the concrete foundation of the house where it meets the hardboard siding. I don't worry about it in the winter because I'm not out there pulling weeds in those flower beds. But during the summer my husband sprays some generic bug spray once a month or so all over the foundation. They don't come out much during the day and you would only know the spiders are there if you blindly put your hand behind the siding. Even if they have a web out into the plants, they generally stay out of the heat of the day. We have also found black widows in the house, mostly in the garage or dark places like between the two bowls of our kitchen sink down below in the cabinet. Once when I raised the garage door in the morning there was one hanging from the bottom edge of the door. Just squish them or spray with wasp spray which seems to kill them on contact. As for the kids, they shouldn't be playing near woodpiles, or near cool dark places. I've never known anyone in our neighborhood to get bitten. Our least favorite thing is to go in the crawl space in warm weather. There are spiders down there. Once we have had a hard freeze then we don't worry about it because the adult spiders are dormant and you will just see the egg sacs that look like Kix cereal. If we have to go down there in warmer weather my husband has a work jumpsuit, covers it with a hoodie to pull up around his head and neck, wears gloves, and tucks his jeans into his boots. Then he peels it all off and shakes it all out when he's done. Also, do not leave shoes outside or in the garage. That's another invitation to spiders...and mice as we have discovered a few times!

Rodents in the desert can carry bubonic plague (and you will see signs posted at campsites and picnic areas after active plague has been found in the area each year) and mice carry hantavirus. Always clean up mouse droppings by first putting on gloves and a facemask, then spray the droppings with Lysol and water, then clean up with paper towels while still wet. The virus is almost always acquired by breathing the dust, like when people go into vacant cabins and start sweeping things up without wetting it.
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Old 12-16-2014, 10:53 PM
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Of course; the worse is to likely as you get old. My friend sold his when he started having heart problems and that is only a second home.Have another who lived in beautiful mountains of Colorado who moved for same reasons. Your likely to just die before a helicopter can get there from any distance or in snow storms in second case.yu ready enevr wanted to be alone in such places because of just accidents .
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Old 12-18-2014, 01:08 AM
Location: In a state of mind
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If you have a 3' block wall with wrought iron around your yard or property snakes can't get it, nor will most scorpions bother. Use a rolling gate with screen up 3'.

We spray our yard with bug killer, it's a toxic wasteland for bugs. No bugs, no scorpions. We also spray the house when we leave on trips.

I saw more snakes, rattler, coral, cotton mouth, and far more scorpions in FL than in AZ.
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Old 12-18-2014, 08:08 AM
Status: "IGNORE LIST IS YOUR FRIEND" (set 8 days ago)
Location: Idaho
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I lived in Southern Utah for six years saw and heard many rattlesnakes, black widows, coyotes, and bears (usually up in the Lasal Mountains but they do drop down into the desert once in a while), and big cats. Never got bit, never got stung. You just need to watch where you put your hand, where you walk.

And watch where you put your fingers...this is a photo of a tire chock for my trailer I took the last day I lived in Southern UT (I moved to ID). Normally I would place my fingers in the honeycombs and pull the chocks, but I always looked and this shows why...I blew it out with a burst of air from a compressor and that was a female black widow just waiting for someone to poke it in the butt
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