Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Crayfish Specialist

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had to make an impromptu trip home to Michigan last week due to the loss of my family's beloved dog, Cassie. I needed to find some time to get out of the house to clear my head, so I took some time to get into the field at a few local spots that I frequent in Michigan. The dry weather has had a real impact on snake activity in the midwest, and I only saw three snakes in a few days of being home. Late summer is usually a great time to find gravid female massasaugas and they are fairly reliable at a couple of sites near my house at this time of year. However, many hours produced only a single garter snake at these sites. After giving up on rattlesnakes, I made a small pit stop at a local stream where I missed out on a species earlier this spring.

This small rocky stream is home to a population of Queen Snakes, a recent addition to Michigan's Species of Special Concern list. This species is a dietary specialist, only consuming freshly molted crayfish. This stream runs into a larger river which also has queens along its banks. Because the water levels were fairly low, there were plenty of flat rocks to flip. One particularly nice rock produced two snakes, one of which got away. Luckily, I managed to get my hands on the nicer of the two.

Queen Snake - Regina septemvittata

The etymology of the species name septemvittata, comes from the Latin words septem (seven) and vitta (lines), which refers to the light and dark stripes found on this snake species. This was a particularly well marked individual, as the striping often fades on queens as they age. It was nice to get out and keep my mind off losing Cassie, all while getting to photograph a species I struck out on this spring.

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