Things that go lurk

Talk to anybody from Mississippi, Mexico, Brazil, Iran, Australia, Thailand or Equatorial Africa, and they’ll all tell you Nevada is completely superior in the “hassles from insects, reptiles and amphibians” department. The Great Basin high desert is simply one of the best places to live on this planet if you want to avoid bothersome and/or dangerous critters during your life.

But we aren’t totally G-rated, and we can’t romp around barefoot and innocent. We do have a few species that can cause problems for the careless. So here you go, a list of the top five nastiest non-mammals that you may encounter in northern Nevada, rated from most dangerous on down.

Number one is an easy call. It’s gotta be the western diamondback rattlesnake, the one true viper we co-exist with here in the Great Basin. When you take into account the thoughtful politeness of the buzzworm’s “hey-you-yes-you-stop-right-where-you-are” early warning system, a rattlesnake bite is sorta like a Jim Varney DVD box set: only dummies get ’em. But bites do happen, yessirree, and they are serious attacks requiring immediate medical attention, no doubt. If you do ever get bit, here’s something to remember as you lie there trying to stay calm but you’re really about two seconds away from completely freaking out—of the 8,000 people who get bit by poisonous snakes in America every year, only 12 die. And those are usually little kids, old folks or people with a snake venom allergy.

Number two—the common black widow. The bad news is that the venom of this easily recognized spider is indeed dangerous, and it kills a few people (maybe 1-3 percent of the bite-ees, and they’re probably allergic) every year. The good news is that this predator is actually so timid and unwilling to mess with humans, you’d have to practically lay down naked on its web in the garage to get a bite. They just really don’t want anything to do with us, which is a refreshing trait in a venomous spider.

Number three would be the brown recluse spider, except my research on the Internet confirms over and over, from one spider expert after another, that we simply do not have brown recluse spiders in northern Nevada. Period. I know, there are locals who swear they have suffered mightily from the bite of a recluse, but the experts are going to tell those folks they were misdiagnosed. So repeating—we do not have brown recluses. Therefore, rest easy, because that hideous purple and black mess spreading up your arm and scaring the holy spook out of you is very likely some other necrotic (flesh-killing) disease. (The brown recluse does have a cousin, the desert recluse, that lives in southern Nevada. So maybe those little buggers hitch rides up here on occasion, just to mess with us.)

Next week: evil Nevada creatures three, four and five and a couple of overrated baddies that turn out to be really lovable creampuffs.