Richard Lapidus Books

Richard Lapidus Books

Snakebite Help From an Unlikely Source

by Richard Lapidus on 03/29/15

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, opossums may hold the key to new effective snakebite antivenoms.

Tests on lab mice injected with venom from the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake and Russell's Viper were effective with the new opossum therapy.

This is good news for two reasons.  There have been widespread shortages of traditional "horse serum" antivenoms, and the traditional treatments often cause severe reactive side effects.  So far these side effects have been absent with the opossum treatment.

One objection I have is the widespread use of the word "poison" in the Washington Post article.  When will the public learn to use the word "venomous"?

Do Tree Lizards Change Color?

by Richard Lapidus on 03/15/15

To some degree all (or at least many) lizards change color due to changes in temperature or environmental factors.  Others, like the true chameleons and anoles, are famous for changing color to blend in with their surroundings.  I have been observing the small Tree Lizards (Urosaurus ornatus) around my home.  To me they appear to blend in much more so than other common lizards, like swifts and side-blotched varieties.  Much more study will be necessary, but I believe the color changes I have observed are related to more than temperature and territorial or mate-attracting rituals.


The Gila Monster Had a Killer Reputation

by Richard Lapidus on 03/14/15

Here is a link to my article about how Gila Monsters were regarded in the old west.  It appeared in the June 3, 2011 edition of Wild West Magazine.

What's So Great About Hunting for Snakes at Night?

by Richard Lapidus on 02/16/15


Just to be clear, this is not the kind of hunting where any creature gets hurt or killed.  You are armed with a snake hook and maybe a pair of grabbers.  These are tools, not weapons, and they will only be used on venomous snakes.  The others will be picked up with your hands.

All the conditions must be right.  You have to pick a road that has little traffic.  The temperature must be warm enough but not too hot.  The less moonlight shining down the better.  In the desert, humidity is good, and after a summer rain is best.  An experienced snake hunter (field herper) will generally know in advance what species are possible to find in the area. 

Your tools are accessible and your flashlight is handy.  The sun is going down.  As you begin your drive, you calm yourself down.  The anticipation changes your physiology, making you feel younger, making you forget all the little or big hurts.  In my case I forget about the arthritis pain in my knees and fingers.  In Buz Lunsford's case, he forgets the cancer, forgets that he can barely walk at times and becomes limber at the sighting of a snake.

A snake will reflect white in the headlights.  You drive along and watch for the streak of light, sometimes basking still in the road, sometimes coiled and sometimes on the move.

Your mentality is improved.  You forget your troubles and concentrate only on the road.  "What was that, Buz?" "Calm down, Richard, it was just a twig." "Okay."  You lean forward in your seat.  You have done this hundreds of times over the years.  You know you can do this all night and find nothing.  But you also know that it's possible to find a trophy rattlesnake, a rosy boa, a gila monster, a (rear-fanged) lyre snake, common snakes with unusual patterns or colors, the  possibilities are endless.

That's why it's called hunting, not catching.  You just never know.  If you knew in advance that you would definitely catch snakes, and knew what they would be, well that would certainly remove most of the anticipation.  If you think about it, you may not go at all.  For me, the anticipation is crucial to the experience.

Suddenly you hit the brakes. "Did you see that, Buz?"  "Yeah, I saw it," Buz says as he jumps out of the car." You pull over and run back with the flashlight to find that Buz has a Mojave Rattlesnake pinned with a hook.  You shine the light and take Buz's flashlight so he can use both hands to pick up the snake.  You both admire it, as it opens its mouth.  Maybe you take a picture before walking this snake well off the road and out of harms way.  Buz bends down and gives the snake a gentle toss in the soft sand and you watch as it quickly moves away.

You get back in the car, wondering what you'll find next.

These days I get much joy out of catch and release.  It causes me to look closer at even common snakes.  Last year I picked up a leaf-nosed snake and examined it very carefully.  I never noticed before that they appear to be smiling.  There is something amazing and beautiful in all snakes.  It is a tremendous feeling knowing that this snake will have the chance to live freely where it is meant to stay.  The balance of nature will not intentionally be tipped by me.  

Why I Write Westerns

by Richard Lapidus on 02/12/15

In the 1950s and 60s when I grew up, there was no internet. We only had t.v. But it was black and white, and there were no remote controls. We had to get up and manually change the channels, of which there were only a handful, as there was also no cable or satelite. 

In those days we watched westerns. There were dozens of them, and I loved them all. And most homes only had one t.v. set, so the family had to agree on what programs to watch. Many times that meant deciding on which western to watch as networks competed for market share with westerns against westerns. As this was many years before VCRs, CD players, DVRs, etc., the programming decisions were final.

Ultimately the choice of western didn't matter. They were all fun to watch, even though the forces of good always triumphed over the evil rustlers, robbers or murderers.

And that's why many of us who grew up in a city instead of in a small town or on a ranch love to write westerns today. Westerns are branded in our consciousness.