Sandy Anderson

  • Sandy Anderson releases a rattlesnake near the San Pedro River

    Bruce Berman
 


Sandy Anderson, 41, with her husband, Alvin, owns the Gray Hawk Ranch, a popular birdwatching retreat along the San Pedro River a few miles east of Sierra Vista. They bought the property in 1984. Her comments are excerpted from interviews with reporters Tony Davis and Ray Ring.





"I was born north of Blythe, Calif., on a 400-acre farm. I grew up on the Colorado River, where it is now totally destroyed. My father cleared Colorado River riparian forests for alfalfa fields after World War II. I've seen pictures and read stories, old accounts of mesquite bosques on the Colorado to rival anything on the planet ... For me, the San Pedro is the last stand ...


(In this photo), "We were relocating rattlesnakes from a den where they hibernated. It was just outside Sierra Vista, and development had encroached right up to the den. A new subdivision. We took eight of the snakes and moved them to a rocky outcropping in the conservation area ...


"I do freelance natural history education, a class or two of schoolkids a week - buses pull in here or I go out to the schools. I do senior citizens, church groups. And most of what I do is reptile-related. I'm known far and wide as the snake lady - they (snakes) are so misunderstood and maligned ...


"I have in my personal teaching collection about 25 snakes. I take my snakes along with me, in travel cages. I present them and bust the snake myths. My aim is to get a (non-poisonous) snake in every participant's hand ...


"Personally, I'm just impassioned with the natural world and I try to pass that on to as many people as I can. I drag people out on the river and turn them onto it. They learn how all this stuff fits together. I have 60 acres right on the river; it's become the Gray Hawk Learning Center ...


"People really misunderstand the natural world, through a lack of knowledge. People in Sierra Vista really misunderstand the riparian area like that ... They are not inherently bad, they just lack knowledge ...


"My theme lately has been biodiversity. I try to increase awareness and hope out of that comes a sense of caring. I figure every little bit helps.


"It's very fulfilling. It doesn't pay worth a damn, though." n