Trip Details

Location: Barber County, Kansas, Major County, Oklahoma

Conditions: Sunny and warm and windy. High of about 75 degrees.

Time: 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Herpers: Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Sometimes herp trips involve wild goose chases. Today we has a wild goose chase that actually paid off. At the hotel we stayed at in Medicine Lodge,the desk clerk told us about a rattlesnake hunt in Waynoka, Oklahoma that had taken place last weekend. Though we are not fans of rattlesnake roundups we really wanted to find a rattler, so we thought we would go down there and try to find someone who could point us in the right direction. We also were not exactly tearing it up in Barber Co. Kansas.

We took off for Oklahoma about 10:00 am, and took a back road that cuts through the Gypsum Hills. About fifteen miles down the road, we spotted a small snake lying on the road. We locked up the brakes and backed up to find a small, yearling Bullsnake.

It was very light in color, showing almost none of the black on the neck that we find on Iowa Bullsnakes, and on the ones we found earlier, farther north in Kansas. It was nice to find this one also because after the one we found yesterday we were curious to see if all the Bullsnakes in this area flattened their heads out when threatened. This one reared back and struck and hissed a little, but did not flatten it’s head like the previous one. We took him off the road and started off for Oklahoma.

We arrived in Waynoka about noon and asked a few people about rattlesnakes. We got the standard "they are all over" answer. Of course this is never really true. We drove around the town a little and drove down a small gravel road. The west side of town is very sandy, and the road we were driving got kind of scary. A Dodge Caravan isn’t really built for off road sand dunes and after the blown tire fiasco of the weekend, I was afraid of getting stuck. We got out of there and started to drive back toward town to find somewhere else to go. As we got to the edge of town, Matt yelled "SNAKE" and I looked over to see a four foot long Western Coachwhip shoot across a side road and dive into the grass. We got out and looked for it, but knew we would never find it.

We took off down some back roads, and found an area with a small amount of junk scattered about. Under a large piece of wood we found a Great Plains Rat Snake (Elaphe guttata emoryi).

It was about three and a half feet in length. This was a very welcome find, as we hadn’t found one in quite a few years and it was one of the things we were targeting on this trip. We took a bunch of pictures, then put him back under his board and went further up the road.

We found a place to wander around. It was very picturesque. we wandered further toward a small butte and turned rocks. Something we were used to and we had very little other info to go on at this point. After a little while of finding nothing Jim managed to find a small, unusual snake - a Ground Snake (Sonora semiannulata).

This is a highly variable patterned snake, but the colors remain fairly consistent. This one was pretty uniformly tan-brown with orange by the head and down the back in a faint stripe. It had one of the telltale black marks by the head, but only this one. This was a neat find and helped complete our checklist of species. We took some video and tried the "hand cup" trick for some stills. Instead of the hand cup trick it became the disappearing snake trick!! The snake had slid out with both of us right there without feeling or seeing it escape. These snakes are small as a species, this one was about six inches long, and are very smooth. It had found a small opening and was gone in a flash. Good thing we had some video! This was a learning experience and one that we would carry with us from this moment on.

At this point we separated to cover more ground. We had radios, but didn’t bring them with us for our walk here. No, we don’t know why either . . . Out on these hills you realize how small you are. After splitting for only a short while I finally noticed Jim going up another small butte. I was hunting the mid range of the same area and seeing Jim he was but a spec in the distance. I knew at this point it would be a little while before we saw each other again...

After searching a long while I had discovered nothing. Then I came across a fun little sight. Under a rather large rock I found a tarantula.

A Texas Brown Tarantula I believe, but am as much adept at entomology as ornithology. The rock was very heavy and to avoid smushing this cool little spider, I suffered a rather nasty and painful bruise and scrape on my calf. All in the name of nature documentary! It was not a herp, but to really appreciate reptiles and amphibians you should also appreciate and respect the other diverse creatures that share their domain. Here’s a little side story, but it relates this this incident. Many years ago, I had an aversion to spiders. Then I rationalized that I preach to others that snakes are not to be feared. I applied this to spiders and it actually broke my phobia. I really like spiders of all kinds now, and it is amazing the variety and diversity they show. Whenever I find them in the house, I either let them go on their way or take them outside. Now the large centipedes in Kansas that are uniformly bright yellow used to spook me, but I have gotten used to them. The ones we were finding in Oklahoma were similar in size, but the body was solid jet black with the yellow legs. These are cool, but I must admit they still spook me occasionally.

We moved on and after losing each other and then finding each other, we decided that we had had enough as it was getting late. We did travel the roads for a while longer and found an old house. At the abandoned house there was an old foundation with some large brick slabs. These were pleasantly easy to turn and allowed some nice air space below. Under these rocks we found another small but cool find, the Blackhead Snake (Tantilla nigriceps).

This was another small snake we had not found before. It was getting dark and the area was shaded so we did not get as good of footage as we wanted. We did manage to capture some footage of this little one on my hand, but that was about it. It was neat, and this was to be the last find of the day. We decided that we were done with our "deep south" herping and decided we would travel back to Barton county for the night and go back out to find the elusive western Massasauga. A snake that we had found one of last year in an area they are fairly common. However it involved the dreaded road hunting so we prepped ourselves by driving two hours back north....

That was it for Wednesday.

Until tomorrow, happy herpin’!

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