Trip Details

Location: Linn, Miami and Johnson Counties, Kansas & Cass County Missouri

Conditions: Sunny and warm. High of about 84 degrees.

Time: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm

Herpers: Jim, Laura & Austin Scharosch, Jill Davis, Greg Wegst & Matt Ricklefs

It was border hunting time. Laura, Jim's wife, and their son Austin had come down from Iowa to go with us. We were also going to spend some time with Jim's sister Jill and her daughter Jordan and Jill's boyfriend Greg. All but Jordan, who had to go to school, went out until about noon. Then Greg had to work for a while and the rest of us went on.

When we say border hunting, this means we meander down the KS/MO state line in search for the herps that occupy this area. We also had the quarry that Greg owned and we had done well last year here and were anxious to go back.

Our first stop was the quarry. We had actually gotten there a little to early as the south exposed side was still not open to sun. It had also grown over a bit from last year and an extra week of leaf growth had closed the exposure a bit. At this point we searched and did not find anything. As we were getting ready to leave we hit a small draw with loose rock and began finding Prairie Ring Neck Snakes (Diadophis punctatus arnyi) with regularity. Austin was pretty proud that he caught his first ever Ring Neck.

We often just say Ring Necks, but the subspecies throughout Kansas is the Prairie Ring Neck. These are very common throughout the state and we find them often in many situations. Austin managed to snag four under one rock. We also spotted a Blanchards cricket frog (Acris crepitans blanchardi).

We decided to leave the quarry and come back when the sun could expose more area. We drove in the van and Greg’s truck around gravel roads for a while to see what we could see and find any areas we could go to.

We turned a tight corner and there in the road was what looked like a stick. It would have been hard to miss. However, Jim and I were used to picking out sticks, rocks, goose poop and all sorts of things on the road and identifying them from snakes. Almost at the same time Jim said "Is that a snake?" and I said "Yep!" I baled out the front door and onto a Black Rat Snake (Elaphe o. obsoleta).

It was good size, about four feet long. This was so far the largest and cleanest one we had seen. The ones we found earlier in the week were smaller and more dinged up. This one was also more colorful with the really slick black and white chin. It had faint pattern, but was still very black. This was a good way to stat the day. We also had company. This was near a house where two dogs had decided they wanted to make our acquaintance. They came over and we had to wrangle the dogs as well as the snake. In the process of capture, I managed to get a good bite from the Black Rat. It doesn’t hurt much and feels like small needles. It does draw some blood though. Every once in a while, the dogs would make it through and the Black Rat would rear up in defensive posture. They actually helped us get some good pictures. We got some good footage and went a little ways down the road as the dogs were around and found a good spot to let the Black Rat go on it’s way. And then, so did we.

We drove on and found a rocky draw by the road we decided to investigate. Oddly enough we found what is usually a common snake, but we had not found one yet. Near a rock pile, Austin made a good grab at a Red-Sided Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis).

This was the first of the trip and we were glad to get some footage of this one. It was about twenty-seven inches long and looked like a female ready to have some babies. It was also in good shape with good color. After the usual we moved on.

We found another good spot with some tin and boards. We walked around and Jim and I almost at the same time each found another Black Rat Snake. The one I found was about the same size as the one in the road.

The one Jim found was a bit bigger at about five feet long.

We had now done good with Black Rat Snakes. Five total on the trip. This was great. Jill also found a Blanchard’s Cricket Frog in a field still growing with corn. It was very moist from rain on and off the past week and it seemed to be a very healthy specimen, about one and a half inches long. We got our normal allotment of documentation and decided to move back to the quarry to see what we could find.

At the quarry we turned up only Ringnecks. That was OK. That’s they way it goes. We will always want to come back as this is a great area! Last year we found Ringnecks, a Black Rat, Prairie King and some copperheads. They are there, we just didn’t hit it right. we decided to move on as we planned to meet back up with Greg later for dinner.

We drove around more. Road cruising again . . . . We finally found a good spot. Jim tried our luck first by turning a large board right by the road. Just to see if we wanted to explore more. Jim turned the board. At first it was hard to notice, but in about a second Jim found another small species we hoped to find - a Western Worm Snake (Carphophis vermis).

This was really cool. It was a long time since we had found any of these, so this was a welcome find. It was about five inches long. It looked like it was close to shedding, but was still beautiful. These are dark gray on the top and bright pink on the belly and a little up on the sides. It actually cooperated fairly well, but it is always hard to get good footage of these small snakes. We bid this one a fond farewell and looked around a bit more. we didn’t find anything else here, but the Worm Snake was good enough!!

We drove around and walked some spots. It was getting late and we were not finding anything. We had to think about getting back and picking up Jordan and getting back with Greg. We were all pretty dirty as we had put in a hard day under hot and humid conditions. We actually decided to head back when Jill said we still had some time we could use and wanted to see if we could end the day with a good find. So we drove on.

We found another rocky draw. We decided this was our last hurrah of the trip. As it turned out, Jill’s intuition was right on. After only a few minutes Jim shouted "Milk Snake!"

We had found a species we had wanted to see in this part of the state - the Red Milk Snake (Lampropeltis t. syspila). This was great. This one was about two feet long and was going into a shed, so its colors were muted. We were glad to find this one, but disappointed that it was shedding as we wanted to compare the milks here with the Red/Central Plains intergrade Milk Snakes we found further west. Fortunately, only a few minutes more and Laura also called out "Milk Snake!"

This one, at sixteen inches long, was smaller, but was out of shed and much brighter. We had really hoped to find these subspecies on this trip, and finding these two was a nice closer to a pretty good day.

This marked the end of this year’s Kansas trip. We had a lot of days that were not as productive as they could have been, but all in all it was a good trip.

Until next years trip...

Happy Herpin!!!

5/3/03 - Wabaunsee County, Kansas

5/4/03 - Wabaunsee & Potawatamie Counties, Kansas

5/5/03 - Russell & Barton Counties, Kansas

5/6/03 - Barber County, Kansas

5/7/03 - Barber County, Kansas, Major County, Oklahoma

5/8/03 - Barton County, Kansas

5/9/03 - Linn, Miami and Johnson Counties, Kansas & Cass County Missouri

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