Several astronomy clubs send us their newsletters covering group activities and upcoming sky events. I recently received “Desert Skies” from the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association. While perusing it, I came across the story concerning rattlesnake alerts for observers. Holy cow! Now that is an observing site danger.
Here in Wisconsin, I think the only wildlife danger at an observing site would be blood loss from mosquito attacks. I suppose it is a fair trade for those dark skies.
Although not in the same ratio, you can find rattlesnakes in Wisconsin. Throw in a whitetail buck in rut, an angry black bear, or a distrubed wasp nest. So you do have some real — albeit rare — in rural observing in our state.
Have you come across any dangerous situations with wildlife? Post it below? Or you can always post it in on our message board under the “Extreme astronomy” board.
Rattlesnakes are an issue out here in AZ, but far more often, I come across scorpions. However, the thing that seems to do the most bodily damage to observers out here is the terrain. Most of the best locations are steep and deep, which leads to many breaks, sprains, scrapes and strains in the night. Then there's the one that never ceases to amaze me... dehydration! Every season someone goes out in the desert without enough water. It reminds me a bit of the moth to the flame. On a more personal note, watch out for the cacti too.
I'm not sure if this counts, but I certainly have postponed or cancelled going down to the Lake by myself for fear of getting mugged, raped, stabbed or shot here in Chicago.
I constantly think, "Oh, that park would be a good place to stargaze" and then I'll follow that up with, "And a great place to get murdered, too, probably."
I live in Arizona, too. I have only encountered snakes in the daytime, and never at night during an observing session. The desert plants can be a major hazard, though. Most desert plants tend to be spiky and sharp, or have thorns, or needles. One of our frequent observing sites, the Junk Bond Observatory (JBO) is surrounded by mesquite trees, which have low-lying branches and long, sharp thorns. After walking into one of these in the dark, one star party attendee had his forearm so severely scratched up, that he had to wear a bandage for a week, and his skin looked like hamburger--sliced and diced. Fortunately, he was a member of our astronomy club and so no lawyers were called. Since then, we have scraped away a larger clearing using a bulldozer. A red flashlight is an essential survival tool when walking around at desert star parties!
From what you write it seems that lawyers are the worst hazard everywhere. Stay away from them!