Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Snake Trouble - The Best Kind of Trouble

Yes,  I have snake trouble.  Yes, snake trouble is the best kind of trouble to have.  What is my snake trouble?  Well, my snake trouble is that I travel to Louisiana on Thursday.  BIG SNAKE TROUBLE!

Me getting into Snake Trouble
I am supposed to be attending the Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation annual meeting.  I was invited to give a talk about the Center for Snake Conservation and Social Media.  This is going to be a fun talk to give but my mind has already left the conference and is looking for snakes.  Yes, I can sit in my office in Denver, think about snakes, and see myself finding them as if I were catching them in the wild - I have quite a powerful imagination.  

I am SO FREAKING excited for this trip!  It has been years since I have had the opportunity to look for snakes in the southeastern United States.  My only hurdle is that it is still February and the weather is not going to be ideal for snakes.  The highs will be in the 50s on Thursday, 60s on Friday, and 70s on Saturday - not perfect snake weather in February but as long as the sun is out, I can still find snakes.  However, I won't be able to find all the species that occur in the area and I am going to have to work hard for the snakes that I do find.  

Weather forecast for Covington, LA this weekend
Still - this is my snake trouble and I am SO HAPPY to have it.  I need it.

There are roughly 45 species of snakes in Louisiana - 36 of these species have the potential to occur in Saint Tammany Parish (where I will be).  Most of these are snakes that I grew up with and know very well.  The trick is going to be can I find them in a new place for me to herp (I have only herped in Louisiana once before) and can I find them in February.

Here is the list of the potentials for this trip in no particular order:

Nerodia fasciata Micrurus fluvius
Storeria dekayi Nerodia cyclopion
Crotalus horridus Farancia abacura
Coluber flagellum Rhadinaea flavilata
Thamnophis sirtalis Lampropeltis calligaster
Nerodia sipedon Sistrurus miliarius
Agkistrodon contortrix Coluber constrictor
Agkistrodon piscivorus Farancia erytrogramma
Nerodia rhombifer Pantherophis guttata
Crotalus adamanteus Storeria occipitomaculata
Heterodon platirhinos Diadophis punctatus
Thamnophis sauritus Virginia striatula
Caraphophis amoenus Opheodrys aestivus
Regina rigida Lampropeltis elapsoides
Pantherophis spiloides Cemophora coccinea
Thamnophis proximus Virginia valeriae
Nerodia erythrogaster Tantilla coronata
Nerodia clarkii Lampropeltis getula

Shit Cameron - you only wrote the scientific names down.  Like I said above, these are the snakes I grew up with and know best.  These are the names I know the best.  Yes, I know their common names too but those can really vary depending on where you live.  

Below (if you care to be interest) is a brief summary for each major group of snakes and the likelihood of me finding them this trip.  I will use common names for your reading pleasure...

I have a great chance of finding watersnakes in any temperatures as long as the sun is out.  I anticipate finding banded watersnakes, common watersnakes, and diamond-backed watersnakes without much trouble.  It will be a lot harder to find plain-bellied watersnakes and Mississippi green watersnakes.  Salt marsh snakes are limited to the coast and I don't plan on looking for them this trip.

Diamond-backed Watersnake
Crayfish snakes
There are two species in the state but only one where I will be.  I don't expect finding these unless I find some stranded water hyacinths that I can flip and rake through. 

Crayfish Snake
Mud and Rainbow Snakes
Although February can be a good month to find rainbow snakes, both these species are difficult to find unless I specifically target them.  I really would need some minnow traps to increase my chances but it is unlikely that I will have the chance with such a short trip.  Again, if I find some stranded water hyacinths, my luck may change.

There are 3 species of rattlesnakes that I could find.  For the eastern diamond-backed rattlesnakes, I would need to find an area with lots of gopher tortoises.  I don't plan on spending that much time in high and dry habitats so my chances aren't good.  The canebrake (timber) rattlesnake will be a chance occurrence if I find a good abandoned house that has blown apart or an area of long discarded wood piles.  I could certainly flip a canebrake.  Pygmy rattlesnakes will be hard unless I target them which I don't plan on doing with the little time I have.  

Pygmy Rattlesnake
Ratsnakes and Cornsnakes
I will find these if I can find stuff, junk, and trash to flip over.  I just need to find this stuff.

Small Fossorial Snakes
I have a great chance of finding brown snakes, red-bellied snakes, ringneck snakes, wormsnakes, or earth snakes if I get out and roll logs.  I have identified some areas to look at when I get to LA to see about the log rolling potential.  I don't want to trespass anywhere so I will have to just wait and see.

Red-bellied snakes
Copperheads and Cottonmouths
If the sun is shining, I will find cottonmouths.  I will walk stream banks and the edges of swamps waiting for a cottonmouth to flash me its white mouth.  It may be too early in the year for copperheads but I may find one if I find large pieces of wood or tin to flip over.

Racers and Coachwhips
Racers will be a given but it is unlikely I find a coachwhip for the same reasons I am unlikely to run across a diamond-backed rattlesnake.  You never know though and I could get lucky.

Black Racer
It is probably too early in the year but if the sun gets really warm, I could find one basking in a shrub near a stream somewhere.

Kingsnakes and Milksnakes
If I decide to peel some bark off of rotten stumps, I should find scarlet kiingsnakes.  I should also find kingsnakes if I can find trash piles to flip.

Hognose and Pine Snakes
It is probably too early in the year for these guys but if the sun gets really warm, I could find one basking on a sand mound somewhere.  I would have to target them though.

Hognose Snake

Well, I am dreaming of snakes and I can't wait to get off the plane in New Orleans, hop in my rental car, and explore some habitats.  Now if I can just finish my talk and be present enough at the meeting for people to remember who I am (or maybe I can convince them to go snake hunting with me instead).

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