EP10: Dogs, Wrestling Rattlesnakes and Scorpions navigating by the stars: Mysteries of the World Around us in Apache Junction, Arizona

Inter-Species Communication

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • Differences in how people, dogs, and other creatures, such as rattlesnakes, sense and perceive their world
  • How these differences impact our perceptions of behaviors, and thus our reactions to the behaviors of other creatures
  • How modern developments in technology have changed our perceptions of the behaviors and thinking processes of wildlife around us
  • Dogs are the animals with the most unique and close bond to humans, domesticated for thousands of years and capable of the deepest connections with us
  • The world around us is a very deep mystery, illuminated more each day through scientific discoveries

Welcome to another episode of Free Range Dogs Podcast

In this episode, Web talks to Randy Babb, a retired Biologist from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, with 44 years of experience as a wildlife biologist.  He is also the author and co-author of books on wildlife biology and a recognized authority on reptiles, amphibians, and bats of the Southwestern United States.  

As rattlesnakes are a common concern for anyone hiking with a dog throughout the West, much of this discussion centers on rattlesnake biology and behavior.  Contrasting a human’s primary sense of vision with a dog’s sense of scent is the exploration of how rattlesnakes see and perceive the world around them.

Randy explains that rattlesnakes, (along with vipers, pythons, and boas found in other parts of the world) have “heat sensing pits” on their cheeks, found between each eye and nostril, which connect to their optic nerve.  These pits allow them to sense changes in temperature around them as small as a 1-degree difference and allow them to “see” in infrared.  Additionally, their coloration allows them to blend invisibly into their environment and disguises them from their prey.

When encountered on a trail, the best action is to respect the rattlesnake by not making eye contact nor engaging with it in any way, and quietly walking away from it.  There is no benefit to the rattlesnake in engaging with a human or dog, which in their world are both huge predators. Neither of them can be eaten, so using venom in such an encounter is a costly waste.  When a rattlesnake rattles, it is most likely a warning to stay away, and given the option, it will quickly and quietly disappear.   

Modern genetic research indicates that dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, living intimately with human beings and deeply bonded and connected with us.  Although a common belief has been that dogs descended from wolves or foxes, this new research indicates that they are descended from another unique genetic strain that we identify as dogs.  Our bond with dogs is unlike any other connection with animals in the world.  In general, dogs want to please us and the biggest difficulty encountered in training is helping the dog understand what you want him to do, so he can please you.  


Randy Babb, Wildlife Biologist