Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Dog Days of Florida

The dog days of summer are brutal in south Florida. It's opressively hot, humid, and buggy. July and August bring little relief from the rainy season, and trying to find time to herp where it doesn't rain is a challenge. In mid July, I found myself with a free evening and decided to travel west to one of my favorite areas in south Florida. I drove through some heavy thunderstorms but arrived to an overcast sky with heat indexes above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, great rattlesnake weather. On my first pass down a forest road, I was rewarded with this sight.

A five foot adult male Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) from SW Florida.
This was an impressive diamondback, one of the largest individuals I've seen in the field. Despite its size, this diamondback was fairly inoffensive. He coiled briefly and then did nothing more than try to crawl away. This is the third individual I've seen at this location, all of which have been large males.

An adult male Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) from SW Florida.
After a short photo session we parted ways. I continued to cruise for another hour or so, but the forest yielded no snakes so I decided to quit while I was ahead and call it a night. A few days later I was back at it and cruised a small snake that I've only seen a few of.

An adult South Florida Swamp Snake (Liodytes pygaea cyclas) from south Florida.
A snake that challenges the patience of any photographer, I took my time and was rewarded with a nice photoset. This will likely be the only time that I put in effort to photograph this species. The following week went like any other, I had a free evening and decided to head out with up and comer Taz Rosenfeld, a high school student whose smarts are way beyond where I was at his age. We headed up to an area we've both been to many times before, though the weather forecast looked suspect. A large thunderstorm system rumbled on the horizon upon our arrival, but never got close enough to rain us out. In short order, we cruised a healthy adult corn snake. A little further down the road, we noticed a large snake laid out in the sand. The initial thought in my head was a snake I've seen before, but not in July, it couldn't be.


But it was. A beautiful four foot adult Florida Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus mugitus), my first live individual from the state of Florida, and from an area they're particularly difficult to find.

An adult Florida Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus mugitus) from the pasturelands of central Florida.
It's funny how certain snakes show up when you least expect them to. Most people find pine snakes in April-May, and then again in September-October. But to find one at in late July at 6:45 PM with a heat index of 103° Fahrenheit is pretty unheard of. Riding high on our find, we cruised for awhile after dark and were rewarded with this lovely candy cane.

A young Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius) from the pasturelands of central Florida.
This was the smallest coral snake I've seen, no more than twelve inches in length. It was particularly squirrelly, making it a challenge to photograph. It was a night short on snakes, but the quality of what we did find made up for it. That's it for now, stay tuned for more.

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