Saturday, December 12, 2009


Being from the Wolverine state, the state that borders us to the south is not a favorite amongst Michiganders. When most people think of Ohio, they envision flat agricultural and rural areas across the entire state. However, there are some regions of the state are quite different than that stereotype and are home to some amazing herps. In July of 2008, I traveled southward to meet up with Mike Graziano who had agreed to show me around the area. I made it to Mike's and we then piled into his car and drove until reaching our destination in the late afternoon. Although the Appalachian Mountains do not run through Ohio, the state is part of the Appalachian Plateau and foothills and ridgetops dominate the area of the state.

We checked a few spots but it was a little late in the day, so we decided to go and set up camp before road cruising into the night hours. A large rainstorm moved through the area and it seemed to really hold back snakes from being on the road, we did however eventually come across this sight after a few hours of driving through the switchback curves of the area.

It was hard to miss this bright red beacon in the middle of the road, and it turned out to be a lifer for me.

Northern Red Salamander - Pseudotriton ruber

We hit a few other areas that night and turned up a young Queen Snake, Northern Dusky Salamander, and Two-lined Salamanders. We hit the sack and were up early the next morning to go hit a few trash sites that Mike knew of. The first site we checked turned out to be well worth hitting, as Mike called the flip on this beautiful snake, our virst viper of the trip.

Northern Copperhead - Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen

Our first viper of the trip really got our morale up, and we hit another site and found two more interesting things. One of the more attractive Milk Snakes I've ever seen and an adult female Five-lined Skink brooding her eggs under a board pile.

Eastern Milk Snake - Lampropeltis triangulum

Five-lined Skink - Plestiodon fasciatus

In the late afternoon, Mike and I headed to some ridgetop areas which were quite remote. These rock stodded ridges are perfect habitat for Copperheads and the most notorious snake of the Applachians, the Timber Rattlesnake. This unique habitat is one that has been slowly lost due to development and deforestation, and is critical to the survival of several endangered species including the Timber Rattlesnake.

As we were traversing along the ridgetop, we reached an area that looked especially ideal for vipers. I happened to notice a particularly nice looking rock that had a crawlspace underneath it. Mike and I decided to investigate.

As we flipped the rock, we both were dumbfounded for what was hiding underneath...and neither of us could do anything but freeze.

We both eventually were able to simultaneously shout, "Timber!" The Timber Rattlesnake is listed as an endangered species in Ohio and is critically imperiled throughout its range. Mike and I were both grateful to be able to encounter one of these majestic snakes in the wild, and for Mike seeing them in his home state is something that he loves. This snake was never harmed or handled in any way, and its coiled nicely and allowed us to take some really nice photographs.

Timber Rattlesnake - Crotalus horridus

It is always a real privelege to encounter these great serpents in the wild, and it is something I will never tire of. We pushed on along the ridgetop and found another section of rocks. Mike flipped one and revealed this absolutely gorgeous Copperhead which was also quite cooperative for a few photographs.

Northern Copperhead - Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen

It was a fantastic trip that I owe all my thanks to Mike for, without him as a guide I wouldn't have found most of anything we saw. I enjoyed the area so much that I was thrilled to discover that my herptology class this fall had a trip scheduled for October of 2009. We descended to the same region of Ohio more than a year after I had been there last. Unfortunately, we arrived to some of the worst rainstorms on records for October in this particular region of the state. It rained without relief for our entire trip. But nonetheless, we pushed forward and hoped for the best.

The only snakes found the entire weekend were a Worm Snake, Red-bellied Snake, ajuvenile Racer, and this monster crossing the road in a terrential downpour, a large lack Rat Snake.

 However, the rains did not deter some of the amphibians in the area and this little guy.

Eastern Fence Lizard - Sceloporus undulatus

Mountain Chorus Frog - Pseudacris brachyphona

Our group then headed to a stream to look for several species of salamander. We ended up finding three separate species, one of which I had long wanted to see and was also a lifer for me, the Kentucky Spring Salamander.

Northern Dusky Salamander - Desmognathus fuscus

Northern Slimy Salamander - Plethodon glutinosis

Kentucky Spring Salamander - Gyrinophilus porphyriticus duryi

The Buckeye state is surpisingly diverse in its species of reptiles and amphibians, and has some beautiful scenery to boot. Its a place that I feel fortunate to have been able to visit, and hopefully will be able to visit again in the future.

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