Gila Monster, Heloderma suspectum: Catalina State Park; Tucson, ArizonaI was at the entrance of Catalina State Park photographing birds when I stopped and talked with an on duty volunteer about the birds. I mentioned that a Ladder backed woodpecker was feeding of Saguaro Cactus fruit and then began to point out other birds right there around the office.
After talking for a few minutes, the volunteer said, “there is someone here who would love to talk with you.” She stepped back inside the office made a phone call. A few minutes later Jim Cloer, the parks volunteer naturalist, and better known as the “snake man,” drove-up.
Jim introduced himself and we immediately began talking about the birds and other wildlife in the park. Jim invited me up to his office where the educational examples of all the reptiles in the park are kept. Before entering Jim told me that he had a couple of snakes that roamed free in his office to take care of any mice problem. I told him, "no problem." I’m just glad there were no frogs roaming free. I just don’t care for frogs!
For me the high light of the meeting was the Gila Monster. I had never seen one in the wild, or photographed one, so I was ecstatic when Jim offered to let me take a few photos.
Jim, a pro reptile handler, with ease picked-up the Gila Monster and set it on the ground so I could take photos. I got right down on the ground with the reptile and used a wide angle lens to capture the Gila Monster and its desert environment.
My visit with Jim was one of my best trips to Catalina State Park, I really enjoyed the behind the scenes tour, Thanks Jim!