Friday, December 4, 2009

The Hoosier State

Back in early July, my cousin Robbie visited from Florida and we had planned a trip to Indiana to meet up with Jake Seals and Todd Pierson for a few days of herping. We headed out in the mid afternoon and reached our destination in the late evening. After setting up camp, we hit the road to hit our first site. On the way over, we stumbled across this handsome fellow scurrying across the road.

Eastern Box Turtle - Terrapene carolina

After letting the box turtle on his way, we made it to our first destination and immediately spread out to search for copperheads. As were heading out, Jake Seals pulled in and joined us. Although we didn't find any copperheads, Jake did flip a large and beat up milk snake.

Milk Snake - Lampropeltis triangulum x syspila

As the sun set on our first day, we had already made two decent finds and were looking forward to a full day in the field starting bright and early. Todd Pierson arrived early in the morning and all of us headed out around 9:30 AM to hit some junk sites nearby to see if anything would be under cover. The first few spots did not yield much, but our final spot really gave us the jackpot. We found these four species within 30 yards of each other under cover.

Northern Ringneck Snake - Diadophis punctatus edwardsii

Milk Snake - Lampropeltis triangulum x syspila

Eastern Worm Snake - Carphophis amoenus

Southern Black Racer - Coluber constrictor priapus

These finds really got us going, and we headed to our primary site for the day after photographing the four species. The foothills of the areas are steep and are home to two venomous species, the Northern Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake. The site we were visiting was home to both species, and we hoped we'd be lucky enough to encounter either. It didn't take us long to make our first find as Todd spotted this green snake handing out in a bush.

Rough Green Snake - Opheodrys aestivus

As we were photographing the green snake, I found this litle snake out on the crawl. It's not the most common thing to see this species out in the open.

Northern Red-bellied Snake - Storeria occipitomaculata

To get to our next ridge, we had to cross a lowland area which had a rocky stream running through it. It looked like a great spot for salamanders, so we decided to spend a little time flipping some rocks and were rewarded with several species.

Northern Slimy Salamander - Plethodon glutinosis

Longtail Salamander - Eurycea longicauda

Northern Dusky Salamander - Desmognathus fuscus

Southern Leopard Frog - Rana sphenocephala

We continued onto our next ridge as the temperature really began to rise. The combined slope, heat, and humidity made herping this site very exhausting. But eventually our persistence paid off as Jake yelled, "Copperhead!" The snake was tucked right against an old stump in the shade. It was great to get our first of several vipers for the trip.

Northern Copperhead - Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen

Copperheads are a relatively venomous snake that are close cousins with the Cottonmouth. Their patterning looks just like fallen leaves and can make spotting them even in good habitat extremely difficult. After find the Copperhead, we headed out. On our way back to camp, we stumbled across this absolute brute crossing a forest road in the late afternoon. It was by far the largest and most attractive horridus I've ever come across.

Timber Rattlesnake - Crotalus horridus

It was a great way to close the afternoon, and the warm temperatures ensured that there would be snake movement on the roads later that night. We decided to split up into two different cars to cover as much ground as possible. Rob and I were in my car and Todd and Jake in the other, within a few minutes of driving I passed a serpentine shape coming onto the road. I backed up and was excited to see that I hadn't made a mistake, as this beautiful Copperhead was just coming onto the road.

Northern Copperhead - Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen

We had decided earlier that we would call the other car if we found something, so I gave the guys a call to tell them we had found a nice Copperhead. Todd laughed and told us that they had just found something better. So we let the snake on its way and got over to their location, indeed their find was much cooler, a neonate Timber Rattlesnake.

Timber Rattlesnake - Crotalus horridus

It was a great way to finish a great trip, seeing two individuals of each of the vipers was a cool experience, and one I won't soon forget.

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