Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day Herping: Mostly Lizards

We took a Labor Day weekend trip to Central Utah to ride 4-wheelers and enjoy the outdoors with a lot of our extended family (mostly mine). With an approaching storm, decent temps, and a lot of time to spend looking for snakes, I thought this trip would get me some really great pictures of a lot of snakes. The first day I was only able to catch some Common Tree Lizards and a Western Fence Lizard (note: the Fence Lizard on its back is not dead or injured. Turning a lizard onto its back and rubbing its belly puts them to sleep immediately. This was done to photo the blue belly markings. Just seconds after snapping this photo the lizard took off quicker than lightning and couldn't be found). The only snake seen this day was seen by my mother-in-law and was likely a Gopher Snake from the description and location. I went to the area where it was seen and looked for a while without finding anything. There were so many rodent holes around. I'm sure it disappeared down one of them. That night I talked my father-in-law into driving the roads with me to look for snakes. We drove the roads for hours and saw only mice and rabbits. He probably thinks I'm crazy. It would have been cool to find at least one snake to let him experience the joys of field herping. Oh, well. The only snake I found on this trip was found near the lake when I was flipping logs and rocks. It was a Wandering Garter Snake and its color was very different from the ones that I find up here. It was piebald and there was very little yellow in it. Piebald (random blotches of white) is a strange thing to me. Some snakes in the pet trade (Ball Pythons especially) are highly valued for their piebald characteristic. For myself, I consider piebald a flaw and would never purchase one. I would sooner purchase expensive art with BBQ or Ketchup stains on it.


p.s in the last photo, I had climbed up to get a picture of two owls and found a petroglyph and an ancient dwelling

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Another One of Steven's Snakes

My brother sent pictures of what the hurricane recently did to their property in S. Georgia and after the storm his son found another cool snake, this time a pretty Ringneck Snake. I have said this before: storms bring out some of the coolest snakes. Stephen: Ringnecks don't drink V8 juice.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Snake Killers

After visiting my brother's house in Santaquin, I decided to drive a canyon on the way back in hopes of finding a cool snake. This canyon normally has little or no traffic, but I forgot that the bow hunt had just started, so there were a lot of vehicles going in both directions. A lot of these "hunters" are a danger to themselves and everything within their range, so I thought it was best to stay in the car for the most part (I'm not into body piercing). The only snake I would find this night was a recently run-over Yellow Bellied Racer. The person who ran the snake over probably did it intentionally. The bright green is hard to miss and these snakes are almost always moving and the canyon road doesn't allow fast speeds in the area where the snake was killed. Anyone who thinks that they have done the world a favor by running over a snake is an uneducated idiot (that includes people that otherwise seem very intelligent). If it was possible to ask the millions that died in Europe of the plague whether they would have wanted snakes to control their rodent population, I'm sure the answer would be an emphatic "yes". Snakes are very important to the environment. It always disgusts me to see a snake killed on the road, but I guess its less traumatic than finding a person killed on the road. I will have to pick another canyon for my next snake hunt, but right now I can't think of one that won't be full of hunter traffic.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Stephen's Snakes

My nephew has started doing some herping on his own in south Georgia. He found a nice looking Banded Water Snake. Finding a lot of cool snakes is a lot easier down in the SE. The last time I visited my older brother down there, I woke up to someone yelling "snake". That was music to my ears. There was a snake that was trying to come into the house (I wish I had that problem). The snake had already made its way past a screen door and would try to come into the house whenever the inside door was opened. It didn't seem to fear people much. That morning I walked around their property for about 2 hours and found 2 Gray Rat Snakes, a large Black Racer (the Racer lived in their barn and they saw it frequently), and some water snakes. Florida and Georgia just have so many species of snakes. My nephew found a Garter Snake when he came out here. He has a lot to learn about keeping snakes. They don't like potato chips or Dr.Pepper.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

BC Herping

Another Rattlesnake.

This evening I had a few free hours, so I took my 2 sons and headed for Fort Canyon. I am not the only herper that visits this canyon. Every good hide rock has been rolled over and left that way. It is best to lift the rocks, check for snakes, and then lay the rock back exactly where it was. When we arrived at the starting point there were about 15 cars parked around the gated entrance and teenagers in swimsuits heading to and from the creek (this is very unusual for this canyon). I knew this would be a short outing because my younger son made me carry him. We went a different direction than the swimmers to increase our chances of finding snakes. We flipped some logs with no luck. Then we found a tiny Side-Blotched Lizard that my sons wanted me to catch for them to hold. After releasing the lizard, we walked around until I found an old galvanized pipe in some tall grass. I knew there would be snakes around/under that. I started to walk around the pipe and heard a loud rattlesnake rattle. When I approached the snake I should have had my camera out, because it quickly slithered under the pipe. It was a large Great Basin Rattlesnake with about 9 rattles and would have been cool to photo. It probably could have injured/smashed the snake to have rolled the pipe, so the snake was left alone. I might come back to this area later. This is about the 10th rattlesnake that I have found this season and they are beginning to seem to be one of the easier snakes to find. When we were leaving, a group of guys showed with cameras and dressed in hiking gear. They are probably the ones flipping all the rocks and leaving them flipped. Either that or they were there to take pictures of the teen aged girls swimming in the creek. I am hoping they were herpers.

Monday, August 11, 2008

In-House Snake Adventures

All of my snakes are escape artists. The snakes are cared for so well (better than I care for my own health) that you wouldn't think that they would ever try to escape, but that is just the nature of snakes. Their instincts prompt them to explore their world. About a year ago my Mexican Black Kingsnake was found to be out of its terrarium. I told my son not to tell his mom about this. The last thing I want my wife to know is that she has a 4 foot black snake loose in the house. That is her worst nightmare and it doesn't do much for my campaign to keep snakes as pets. My son and I frantically searched the basement until I found the snake behind the stereo system. The snake rattled his tail and was very defensive as if he was being collected from the wild. One of our baby Corn Snakes got out of a terrarium that was as tall as the snake was long. It should not have been able to get to the top, but I guess Corn Snakes are incredible climbers, just like they are said to be. The Corn Snake was later found when I was running hot water to thaw some frozen pinky mice and he came out of the sink. One day this past week I went down to do the usual inspections and maintenance and the first thing I noticed was that one of the clamps on the Arizona Mountain Kingsnake's cage was not down all the way (darn kids). I checked the cage and he was gone. This is bad. An Arizona Mountain Kingsnake (Pyromelana) is one of the most secretive snakes that I know of. They spend almost their entire lives hidden at the bottom of rock piles and almost never surface. If my captive bred Pyro is anything like his wild relatives, I might not see him again until next spring. For now I go down to the basement quickly at night and check around everywhere. I have tried to get my Dachshund to sniff out the snake, but everything in my basement probably smells like snakes. I might start leaving out some thawing mice to draw him out. For now, I feel pretty dumb going out to look for snakes when there is one that needs to be found in my house.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Tree Hugger or Herper?

My younger brother, my son, my nephew, and I hiked up to Silver Lake (UT). I turned over every rock and dead log on the way up looking for snakes. I trick people into going hiking with me and it turns out to be a snake hunt. We only managed to find 3 Wandering Garter Snakes. One of them appeared to be a gravid female or at least it was very lumpy. All 3 snakes were found within feet of the creek. I have found so many Wandering Garters lately, its like finding a penny on the ground. I sometimes don't even pick them up. Don't get me wrong, I like all snakes, its just that the Wandering Garters are so common here. Most Garter Snakes are brown (One local collection of Garters is pretty awesome because of the diversity). Maybe color is the reason that they are so common. Maybe they would be heavily collected and wouldn't be so common if they had more red or orange (note: at least one Garter subspecies with red is nearly extinct in the wild). It would be very difficult for anyone to know for sure how bad collection harms wild populations, but it is interesting that the dull-looking snakes with only browns or grays seem to be abundant. In Florida, Gray Rat Snakes are considerably more abundant than the closely related Red Rat Snake and their habits/habitat are nearly identical. Gray Rat Snakes (Oak Snakes, as they are called) are almost non-existent in the pet trade, while Red Rat Snakes (Corn Snakes) are the most common snake available in the pet trade. It should be said that there are more brown snakes that are diurnal (active during the day and hence, more visible) and that land development/habitat loss does more to eliminate snakes than collecting ever could, but the collection of snakes certainly cannot help. My wife's good friend called us one night last winter with news of a horrible snake crawling around in her basement. She was going to throw it out in the snow. I went over to find a young Garter Snake in surprisingly good health. I kept the snake until spring and then released it at a good spot near the Jordan River. Would I have kept the snake if it had brilliant colors? Maybe. Maybe not. Compared to my other snakes, the Garter Snake stunk because it ate fish and it also required more work. I was actually glad to see it go, but I hope it is doing well.