The Pahranagat Valley Wildlife Refuge held another scorpion hunt July 30. A very reasonable question is how do you hunt scorpions? At night, with an ultraviolet flashlight, explained Visitors Services Specialist and ranger Tim Parker. About 15 people, locals as well as a few from Las Vegas, gathered at the south end of Upper Pahranagat Lake for the hunt. It’s not to catch or kill, just to look.
Parker stated that scorpions are “just like us, but completely different.” That seems odd, so he explained. Humans have five senses, scorpions have at least four. Humans have legs, scorpions do also, but eight in number. Humans have two hands, scorpions have two front pincers. Scorpions are part of the Arachnid family (spiders and such, but they don’t spin webs). Humans can see and touch, so can scorpions. Humans need food, water, and air to breath, so do scorpions.
So the group, including a couple of pre-school kids, gathered at a meeting point at the lake about 8 p.m. as night was falling. After a brief orientation, we all walked to the other side of the lake. You hunt for scorpions in the dark, because they are mostly nocturnal, avoiding the daytime, because they can then be prey for birds and foxes, even snakes.
Scorpions glow when exposed to ultraviolet light, so they are easy to see scurrying around. Don’t touch, just look is the rule. Scorpions move fast, so try to allow at least two feet of distance. Some like to even climb on shrubs.
“The little ones, especially the Bark Scorpion like we have here at the refuge, have the most powerful sting,”
Parker noted. “If you get stung by one of those little guys, it’s strong enough to require a doctor’s immediate attention.”
But scorpions don’t have to give a full dose of their venom, Parker explained. “Depending on the level of threat they sense, they might just give you a partial dose. The reason for that is that after giving out a full dose, it takes quite a while for it to rebuild, leaving the scorpion somewhat vulnerable for a time,” he said.
While the venom might work well on other creatures, Parker said it doesn’t work very well on another scorpion.
Everyone in the group spread out to look for the critters, and they weren’t too hard to find.
Often, when the ultraviolet light shined on one, it would scurry away under a bush, or down a hole to its burrow.
One little boy, age 5, who was there with his mother said he saw one, “but it went down a hole and turned off its lights.”
Scorpions are carnivorous, and while preferring mostly “to hang out in front of their burrow and let unsuspecting food pass by, they have the two front pincers with which to reach out and grab,” Parker said. Some of the larger species, the giant Desert Hairy or Northern Hairy, are active hunters and will go on the chase. However, in cases where enough insects, bugs or grub worms just cannot be found for the newly hatched scorpions, the mother will begin to eat their own young.
Scorpions are not year-round creatures, as the cooler weather of fall begins, Parker said scorpions will go into their burrow and begin a period similar to hibernation. “The body functions really slow down until the warmer weather of springtime.”
Amanda Schweistahl and Ryan Moss from Las Vegas said they came up for the hunt because they like hiking. “I am very weird about bugs,” she said, “and he (Ryan) is trying to expand my horizons. I like challenging myself to do new things. We do a lot of things with BLM, but I have not done anything with Fish and Wildlife.”
Parker said, “You will never see a head on a scorpion, because they don’t have one. The mouth and brain are all one part of the body.”
He said the most common question asked by people is why scorpions glow. Scientists said they don’t know, it’s a mystery. Several theories have been proposed, including to help them figure out when they are under cover, but nothing definitively has been found.
Steven and Amber Palecek and their daughter Sheyla, a high school senior, said they came on the scorpion hunt, “Not knowing what we were in for, but we wanted to give it a try. We have camped at the lake, come to the Carp Rodeo, we had fun,” Amber said. Sheyla said now she can tell her friends she went out and hunted for scorpions, and they are going to think I’m crazy, but I think it’s cool.”