Trip Details

Location: Russell & Barton Counties, Kansas

Conditions: Sunny and warm. High of about 85 degrees.

Time: 11:00 am to 7:00 pm

Herpers: Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

After fixing the van, we decided to get an early start and head to Barton county, to a place we had visited last year. Driving west on I-70, we saw a sign for a place called, "Rattlers & Relics". The sign had a picture of a Prairie Rattler. The store was in Hayes, Kansas and we spent a couple miles debating whether or not to go out of our way to stop there. Curiosity got the better of us and we decided to check it out. Along the way we stopped at a few debris piles. The second place we stopped was an abandoned farm with a large amount of junk, and tons of tin. The kind of place that makes a herper drool. We started turning stuff and saw the usual skinks. After a while, we found a juvenile Lined Snake (Tropdioclonion lineatum).

It was our second one of the trip, but still a nice find. The first one was rather beat up and going into shed, and this one was much nicer. We took the usual photos and turned it loose. We turned mountains of tin, and piles of appliances and everything including the kitchen sink. Sometimes these places are not as good as they look. It may have been that there was no real water source nearby, but we didn’t find much else. On the way out, we turned a board and found a Texas Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi texana).

We don’t find a lot of these when we come to Kansas, and they are slightly different than the ones we find in Iowa. We again took pictures and released.

We started driving west again, headed toward "Rattlers & Relics". We hoped to get some info on some places we might locate Prairie Rattlers near Hayes. We finally got to Hayes and stopped at the convenience store off the interstate. We gassed up and asked the clerk where R&R was located. She told us that it USED TO BE located in the building behind this store, but that it closed a year ago. We got back in the van and after much complaining and cussing, headed south toward Barton county. It was starting to get pretty warm outside.

We arrived at our location in Barton county at 12:45 pm. This is a spot that relies on road cruising as a primary herping technique, so we started driving. We did a couple of laps and found only a squashed Plains Garter Snake. We didn’t take pictures. We got out at a spot with a large pile of rocks and turned a few and found a two foot long Diamondback Water Snake (Nerodia r. rhombifer).

These are very common in this area, but again, something we don’t find in Iowa. We set it on the road and took pictures.

We got back in the van and did a few more laps around the place, again finding nothing. We had some luck last year walking around here, so we decided to give that a try. The mosquitos were thick, and we didn’t have any insect repellant. We walked as far as we could while being hounded by the bloodthirsty little vampires and, finding nothing, we hightailed it back to van to escape their probing proboscis.

Depression was setting in, and we parked the van in the camping area. We grabbed a picnic table and sat there for a while. If we had had any beer in the cooler, the day would have probably ended right there and then. We decided to head to town and celebrate Cinco de Mayo at one of the many mexican restaurants. On the way out we spotted something on the road, and I yelled "SNAKE!", then "MASSASAUGA!". We quickly ran over to check it out and as we got closer, we could see that it wasn’t right. There was a little blood on the side of the snake, and we could tell it had just been hit by a car. The snake was still alive, but barely. It tried to defend itself bravely against us, but every strike weakened it and soon it was going thru its death throes. We took a few pictures and moved it off the road to die in peace. For us, witnessing something like this is heartbreaking. You never know for sure, but it seems like it wouldn’t be that difficult to miss a snake lying in the road. All herpers have probably seen, at least once, someone going out of their way to run a snake over. I think some people get a sense of satisfaction and think they have done the world a favor by removing one more rattlesnake from the earth. Maybe if we keep putting pictures of snakes on the web, the next generation of snake squashers will grow up to at least respect their place in nature.

One thing finding the Massasauga did was get us in the mood to go back out and try again. We hopped back in the van and started to road cruise some more. The temperature was cooling off some, and we turned down a side road. After about ten minutes, we saw a large snake crossing the road, we stopped and ran over, and found a three foot long plus Bullsnake.

It was the third one of the trip, so they were becoming kind of old hat, but it was still a nice find. Like the others, this one reared up and hissed nicely. It was kind of strange finding a Bullsnake here, it was a very marshy area and I would have never pictured this as Bullsnake habitat.

We got back in the van and drove off. We went to a road where we found a Massasauga last year. We decided to walk the sides of the road, which was the technique that had worked for us in this spot. We walked about a mile and saw a four more Diamondback Water Snakes. One sat nicely on the road and let me take a few pictures.

We didn’t find anything else on the road, so we walked back to the van. We were driving our way back out and Matt saw a tiny snake on the road.

We stopped and it was a yearling Diamondback Watersnake. It was about eight inches long. It was lucky, as a pickup truck had just driven past it, and they must have barely missed it. We took pictures and put it back in the rocks.

At this point we headed into town, and after cleaning up, decided to go to a Mexican restaurant and toss back a few Coronas to celebrate Cinco De Mayo. We went to a restaurant near the hotel and tried to order a Corona and were told they didn’t have any. I asked for a Negro Modelo, then a Dos Equis, then a Margarita. Finally the waiter made it clear they had Bud, Bud Lite, Miller and Miller Lite. Not much of a Cinco De Mayo celebration. So we picked up some Fat Tire Ale and drank it at the hotel. That’s how it goes on the road sometimes, I guess.....

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