Trip Details

Location: Jackson County, Iowa.

Herpers: Jeff LeClere, Kati Marier, Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Start Time: 11:00 am

Weather: Cloudy with some clearing later in the day. Medium wind. High of 71 degrees.

Quote of the day: "It's only a matter of time."

 "It's only a matter if time before we find a Black Rat Snake here," Jim said. We were on private land that we have been on and posted to our website before. For those keeping up, this is now called the "milk snake spot" as we find milk snakes here regularly, and it is Matt's uncle's property. It was overcast and about seventy degrees when we started. The driveway into the land is a small road. It is very "Black Rat Snake looking". Meaning that the habitat is such that we have found Black Rats in before. We had not found any here - until this day. On the way in we spotted a Black Rat (Elaphe o. obsoleta) on the road all stretched out.

It was thinner than some we have found, but not in bad shape. It was approximately four feet long. We proceeded to take pictures and look at this specimen.

While doing so my cousin came up the road to leave. I spoke with her and she related that she had had a dream the night before of getting bit by a snake. I told her what we caught and then said, "There it is" and pointed to Kati who was holding the snake. She wasted no time in leaving. I will be talking to her about the benefits of snakes at the next holiday event... Kati shed the first blood of the day as the Black Rat did give a good "chewing" bite on her arm.

The Black Rat had tried half-heartedly to bite me when I caught it, but was more like just "mouthing" slowly instead of actually biting. Kind of like a dog that is just playing around. We took some good pics and posed the snake in some nice shots and let it go on its way.  

We got prepped to hit the hillsides and spread out. Kati and Jeff found the next critter, a gravid Five-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus).

Throughout the day we found a number of Five-Lined Skinks, with quite a few of them gravid. We also found a number of American Toads (Bufo americanus).

We have had a lot of rain and many areas have been damaged by severe storms. Flooding is now prevalent in many areas. We had had a good amount of rain the night before and the area showed signs of this. After taking some pics of the Five-Lined and the "bufo" we carried on.

Soon after, Kati found something else - a juvenile milk snake (Lampropeltis t. triangulum/syspila).

The ones in this area are intergrades, but show more of the "eastern" patterning. This was a pretty one, about seven inches long. It was found under a small rock.

We took time to examine this one then set it on its way. We had all split up and Matt was trying to find a small area that we had found timbers the last two years. This was the only spot thus far where we had found timbers at this location. The area is split in two. There is an area to the south of my uncle's house and then a more northern area right behind the house. The northern area is where we find most of the milks but we do usually pull some up in the southern section, where we were currently - got all that??

We proceeded to herp down toward the house. Matt and Jim never did find the spot where we had caught the timbers before. We will have to go back through the video to pin point this. Close down toward the house Jeff and Kati caught two Eastern Garter Snakes (Thamnophis s. sirtalis).

One was good sized - about twenty inches long and the other was smaller at about twelve inches.

They were male and larger female that appeared to be ready to mate, but had not committed to the act yet. It was questionable if the female was being receptive at this point. We didn't bother to ask her. We let the two "young lovers" be on their way.

We were discouraged that we could not find "the timber spot". We split up again and went to the area behind the house. Not too long after and Jim yelled "TIMBER!!" No, he was not cutting down trees. I was the first to get up to where he was. This is a fairly steep hillside that opens to some rocks on top. Jim had seen one stretched out by the rock opening and as he approached there was another on coiled nearby. To show how inoffensive the can be - Jim had just turned a huge rock before seeing them and this did not even make them stir. When I got there they were still in the same position as when Jim saw them. They were gorgeous. They were also big. Jeff and Kati soon got there and the one in the rocks started to move and we had to snag it before it got down in the deep rock fissures where we would not be able to retrieve it.

Matt with the male, Jeff with the female...

There we were, staring at two beautiful Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus).

The female...

The male...

Once the first one started to move the other one got a little restless also. One was about four feet long, and female. The other one was only slightly shorter, but also less bulky, this was a male. The female also had a bulbous infected eye on her left side. We knew we couldn't do anything for the infection, and hopefully it will heal okay. There is no good reason to get that close to a timber of this size even if you were to try to help. Timbers this size could certainly inflict a fatal bite under the right circumstances. They were truly awesome. We spent quite a bit of time examining them and taking pics and video, about two hours. We hadn't even looked at too much on this side of the habitat, because these captivated us. Neither snake wanted to sit tight for photos, so we employed a new trick that Jeff and Jim had gathered. Jim was close enough to the truck to go get a small Rubbermaid container. This was used as "shelter" for the snake to make it feel more protected. Upon uncovering the snake, it would then sit still. This worked well. After a long time of documentation and admiring these two, we let them scramble back to the rocks. They promptly went back down into the crevices. The female was still slightly visible, even when Jim stopped by later to gather the Rubbermaid container that he left so he would not have to drag it around the hillside.

We all split up again and then Jim found another Timber.

This one was about two feet long and was probably only two seasons or so old. It was in nice shape and was as bright as the other two. All seemed to have shed very recently. On the way to see it, Jeff and Kati found a huge Black Rat Snake shed.

The shed was a good six feet or so long. This doesn't tell the true size of the snake, but it does mean that it was big. We took some more time to take pictures of this timber too. Finding three here in one day was great!! Jim had found this one under a rock on a ledge so after documenting we let it go back to this rock, which was replaced as it had been.

We look around for a while but found no adult milk snakes. The rain may have washed the hillside out so much that perhaps they took alternate cover. Jim went back to get the container and then herped down one side toward the house. Kati, Jeff and I went the other way. Kati and I did find a very nice Eastern Grey Tree frog (Hyla versicolor).

It was about one and a half inches long. It was a light, almost mint green, as it went through the leaves and grass, but then darkened up some upon capture. I took some video, Jim took some photos, and we let is go on its way.

Jim did find another juvenile milk snake.

This was about seven inches long as well. We took some pics and we concluded the day with this find. This had been a great day here. We had found more timbers than we had ever found at my uncle's, still pulled up two milk snakes and found a Black Rat with the shed of another. We will be anxious to get back here in the fall. This will probably be the last trip up here till then as we have a few other places to explore and spring is nearing an end...

Until next time - Happy herpin!

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