Back Row: Dāv, Rick, Tracy, Mike, Steve

Front Row: Jeff, Ken, Jim

Trip Details

Location: Franklin County, Kansas

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

Time: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm

Herpers: Jim Scharosch, Jeff LeClere, Dāv Kaufman, Mike Pingleton, Tracy Mitchell, Ken Felsman, Rick Milas, Steve Coogan

Today was the last day of the trip for Jeff, Dāv and I. We decided to all head back out to the Timber den we had visited the morning before, then the Champaign guys were going to head out west, and we were going to head for home. We got to the habitat at about 8:30 am and it was already pushing 70 degrees. We stopped and took a group photo before heading out to look for timbers. We decided to stick together and just work the south-facing hillside in the forested area. There was a large board a few feet from where we parked, and Ken turned it and found a nice Prairie King Snake (Lampropeltis calligaster).

It didn't want to pose for photos, and we didn't spend a lot of time trying to get it to cooperate.

I finally found a Speckled King Snake (Lampropeltis getula holbrooki), my first of the trip. It was a juvenile, and it had a strange looking growth on the underside of its head. It was too bad, as it was a nice looking little snake otherwise.

We went a while without finding much, and then Mike heard a snake shooting thru the grass. I made an attempt to snag it, but missed. I then saw it slide up into a low bush. It was an adult Yellow Bellied Racer (Coluber constrictor flaviventris). I have chased a few of them around Kansas, but have never seen one go arboreal to avoid capture. I took a couple of photos of it in the bush and left it alone.

We worked the entire south-facing ridge and found a few American Toads and Five Lined Skinks. I walked right by a really cool little Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata).

Jeff spotted it and gave me some crap about missing it. It never boxed up in its shell, and, in fact, was attempting to bite when I was holding it. I don't think I have ever held an Ornate that was quite this ornery. I think it maneuvered enough to bite Tracy when he was holding it.

A little while later Ken came over with a fantastic Red Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum syspila).

Its background color was a sort of tan and the red was very vibrant. It was about twelve inches long. We don't collect snakes on our trips, but it was one of those animals that is difficult to put back under the rock when you are finished with your photos.

Dāv found the next snake, a Prairie King Snake that was under a rock that we had all passed not five minutes prior.

We all wondered if maybe it had been in the grass when we passed and had ducked under the rock after we went by. None of us could imagine that we had missed turning that rock. It was a pretty snake, but the end of its tail had been broken off many years ago. Another sign of the difficult life it must be living in large piles of rocks and in fields full of cattle.

We stopped off at the pond where we had watched the water snakes courting the day before. We saw what appeared to be the female from the previous day sitting in the shallow water at the pond's edge.

The male was nowhere in sight.

In a grassy field on the way back to the trucks, I spotted a tiny baby glass lizard. I chased it down, and got a hand on it to pin it to the ground, but when I looked down to find it, it wasn't there. I really wanted to catch it, as it was only about six inches long and about and eighth of an inch thick and was really cool looking.

We went to the south portion of the habitat, and Jeff spotted two Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus). One managed to scurry under cover, but we managed to get some photos of the second. It was similar in size and coloration to the one we had found the day before, but had a longer rattle.

This wrapped up our trip. The only thing we wanted to find and missed out on was a Massasauga. Jeff, Dāv and I headed back to Iowa. The Champaign guys stayed on another day and a half, and let me know later that they had found two Massasauga farther west!

Photo by Ken Felsman

They found one in an area that I have been herping on and off for sixteen years without finding a live one. Oh well, maybe next year.

Jeff, Dāv and me.

It was a lot of fun herping with the Minnesota crew of Jeff and Dāv and with the Champaign guys, Mike, Tracy, Ken, Rick and Steve. A bunch of us may get together again this fall for another Southern Illinois trip. I am looking forward to it already.



Read our disclaimer here...