Trip Details

Location: Pine County, Minnesota

Conditions: High of about 70 degrees, sunny

Time: 9:00 am - 11 am

Herpers: Jeff LeClere, Dāv Kaufman, Austin and Jim Scharosch

We started off the morning again at about 9:00 am. The sun was starting to shine through the trees and we had a good feeling about how the day might turn out. We started to drive the roads, hoping to see something crossing or catching some early sun on the warm pavement. Nothing was out yet, so we stopped off to turn some logs on a forested ridge, hoping to spot some salamanders. After turning a bunch of logs, we came to the conclusion that the salamanders were somewhere else.

We decided it was warm enough now to go to the area where we had seen the snapping turtle nests the night before. We parked the jeep and walked down the hill to the river. We walked along the road next to the habitat, and Austin was following right behind me. I told him to cut up into the grass as he wasn't going to find anything by following right behind me. It wasn't more than a couple of seconds later when Austin yelled, "Eastern" and I looked over to see him holding an awesome fourteen inch long Eastern Hognose (Heterodon platyrhinos).

It was gray with spots on the back, and was hissing and doing its bluff display, spreading it's neck like a hood and hissing. I told him to set it down on the ground before it started to play dead, but as soon as he set it down it started writhing around and doing the typical hognose death scene. Austin had wanted to see this, and he got to see a short version of the classic hognose behavior. I brought the snake over to a shady area to take post-mortem pics and waited for it to turn over and let me take some pictures of it right side up. It's funny how the hognose work, when you wait for them to turn over and you sneak over to take pictures, they know you are back and keep an eye on you. If you get a little too close, they start to think about rolling back over again. You know if you touch them to try to pose them that they will flip right back over again.

In the meantime, Austin, Jeff and Dāv started to walk around some more and a few minutes later, Dāv found a second hognose. This one was the same size, and very similar in appearance to the first, but not similar in temperament. This one kept up it's hissing bluff and never played dead. I was happy about this as it allowed me to get some better pictures than I could of the one Austin had found.

I shot a little video of the hognose puffing himself up and hissing the air back out. He's got kinda a mini Darth Vader thing going on.

While I was taking pictures of the hog Dāv had found I looked over at the other one that was laying by my camera bag. It was peeking over to see what we were up to, so I took this shot from a distance.

We let the snakes go and walked back to the truck. We turned a few logs on the way back to the main highway, and Austin spotted, and Jeff caught a Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica).

I hadn't taken pictures of one before, so I took the time to do so.

We had made plans to herp a few other spots a ways away from here today, but after finding the three western hognose the day before and the two eastern hognose today, I was already very satisfied with the trip. We talked about looking for salamanders around the area we were in, but my salamander motivation wasn't very high at the time. I wasn't really looking forward to driving home late that night, so we decided to call it a trip and headed back to Iowa early. We all went to Famous Dāve's Barbeque for a great trip-ending lunch before we headed out.

This was a fantastic trip. Austin and I had discussed on the way up how awesome it would be to end the spring season finding one western and one eastern hognose on this trip, not really believing it would happen. Finding three westerns and two easterns in less than forty-eight hours, without really working all that hard at it, was really cool. If we had one more day, I would like to have tried to find another hog at some of the other locations the guys had mentioned. A world of thanks to Jeff and Dāv for taking the time to show us around some of the coolest habitats I have seen, and for being a lot of fun to herp around with.

RIP - The hognose curse!

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