On Sunday 24th July 2011, after the Biology of the Rattlesnakes Symposium in Tucson, Bob Ashley, Tell Hicks and I drove the 168 miles (270 km) back to the Chiricahua Desert Museum which was to be the location for the BOR Barbeque the following evening.

The Chiricahua Desert Museum lies between the Chiricahua and the Peloncillo Mountains, on Highway 80 just north of Rodeo, New Mexico, and opposite the leading road to Portal, Arizona. The nearby Highway 533 forms part of the state border between Arizona and New Mexico. A little further north is the Chiricahua Mountain Event Center and Lodge. Both the museum and the lodge are owned by Bob and Sheri Ashley of the ECO t-shirts and publishing business.

Map showing the location of the Chiricahua Desert Museum,
near Rodeo, New Mexico.

click on the map to view an enlarged version.

The Chiricahua Desert Museum was establishing in the San Simon's Valley, in ....... naturally enough on Rattlesnake Canyon Road, opposite the turning for Portal, Arizona.

It occupies a small part of a ...... acre/hectare plot and includes the 8,000 square foot building containing the reptile collection, museum, shop, and ECO publishing and distribution center, with an adjoining 20,000 square foot desert wildlife garden and a large carpark. There are plans to build a convention center on another part of the plot and there certainly is room to expand.


The Chiricahua Desert Museum with the Peloncillo Mountains in the background.

click to enlarge any image

Looking north towards the Chiricahua Mountain Lodge Looking west towards Portal, Arizona, and the Chiricahua Mountains Looking south towards Rodeo


The Peloncillo Mountains in the afternoon photographed from behind the Chiricahua Desert Museum


With the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona in front and the Peloncillo Mountains of New Mexico behind the views from the Museum are incredible, especially in the early morning, and it is also well sited for herp photography trips up into those mountains or out on the roads of the canyon in between at night.

The Chiricahua Desert Museum is on Rattlesnake Canyon Road...naturally! Logo of the Chiricahua Desert Museum, cacti with rattlesnake and horned lizard The steel rattlesnake's tail sculpure, designed by Tell Hicks, has become a local landmark.

It is impossible to miss the Chiricahua Desert Museum. Not only is it the only building on the New Mexico side of the road for some considerable distance, there is now a huge steel rattlesnake's tail sculpture outside. Designed by renowned British wildlife artist Tell Hicks and constructed by Charlie Painter, State Herpetologist for New Mexico and keen metal worker, the anatomically accurate tail rises ..... feet above the ground. Tell told me:

"Plans for the Rattlesnake Tail sculpture were made last year.
From a scaled down model that I designed and built in the studio, back in the UK,
I was able to send Charlie a complete set of measurements and specifications
which he used to cut and prepare all of the required parts.
I flew over in February of 2011 and assisted Charlie in putting the whole thing together.

A series of photographs as the tail was constructed can be found on the official Chiricahua Desert Museum Facebook page. You can almost hear the warning rattle. Tell estimated that the rattlesnake that owned this tail would be exactly 100 feet long.

Gila Monster mosaic by Tell Hicks.
(distortion due to photo-stitching)


Tell also created the impressive Gila monster mosaic that lies in front of the entrance to the Desert Museum. Everybody entering must step on his artwork. It truly was a labour of love, to quote Tell:

"I worked on the 8' X 4' 'Gila Mosaic' two years ago.
Each piece was cut and placed by hand.
It took many weeks and is something that I'm unlikely to repeat.
Working out in the desert sun, all day, was horrendous
and trying to work at night, under lamplight,
just attracted every flying insect,
tarantula and scorpion in the neighbourhood.


Three IHS Presidents
(L-R) Tell Hicks, Mark O'Shea, Bob Ashley

Tell Hicks, Bob Ashley and I have been good friends for many years. I have known Tell for a long time as he was a founder member of the British-based International Herpetological Society in 1969, which I joined in 1973. I was the President of the Society through 2003-2005 while Tell is the President through 2010-2012. I have known Bob for a number of years as he and his co-organised Brian Potter brought me over to the US for six NARBC* shows in Chicago, Philadelphia and Anaheim between during the last decade. Tell and Bob have been friends and worked closely for many years as Tell's designs feature on many of the ECO products (t-shirts, baseball caps) and ECO also markets his art as prints and artist's proofs in the United States. Bob was also President of the IHS, the American-based International Herpetological Symposium, founded in 1976. So all three of us have served as Presidents of one IHS or the other!

* NARBC = North American Reptile Breeders Convention and Trade Show