Trip Details

Iowa Herpalooza - Day 3

Start Time: 9:30 a.m./10:30 a.m.

Location: Alamakee and Jackson Counties, Iowa


Alamakee county - Overcast. Start temp around 55 degrees. Mild wind.

Jackson county– Sunny. Start temp around 75 degrees. Low Wind.

Herpers: Mike Pingleton, Jeff LeClere, Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Account by: Matt Ricklefs

Photos by: Jim Scharosch unless noted otherwise

Thought of the Day: “So just go until it gets crappy”

Day three brought us to two locations. The first was Alamakee County. We left home a little later than planned and were a little concerned that it would be too warm. As we drove to Alamakee, it began to get cooler and cloudier. By the time we got there it was overcast and cold. We did hit one spot, but did not find anything. I did get a nice scenery shot though.

photo by Matt Ricklefs

We had to make a decision. We decided to hit our other area a day early. So we mozied down to Jackson county. As we drove there it began to get warmer and sunnier. Yipee!! Jackson county is one of our “primary” areas in eastern Iowa. The day was nice now and we were hopeful considering the cold start, no pun intended. Mike had never been herping in Iowa and we were glad to finally have him up. You always feel pressure to provide a good herp tour, even though you know your guest understands how things work. Jeff had been to this spot with us once before and we did well. We hoped for the same today!

We hiked up a hillside and reviewed the layout for the “hot spots”. Mike gave us the quote of the day by saying, “So just go until it gets crappy”. That’s about it. All herpers know what that is like. So, off we went.

The first catch was Jim’s. A nice Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum) about eighteen inches long.

The color was light and it was a nice specimen. We gathered and got pics for a while then moved out. Not a bad start. I was going around the top of a small rock outcrop as Jim was rounding the bottom. I shouted “Milk” and of course Jim uped me one and the primary find was accomplished – our first Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) of the day!

This one was good sized at approximately forty inches and was a beautiful golden-yellow color. It really stood out as it was it was just coiled up out sunning. It’s just being at the right place at the right time. The Milk Snake I had was blue eyed and about sixteen inches.

photos by Matt Ricklefs

It was too close to the outcrop and it held tight for a little bit then didn’t like us so close so we had to wrangle it. I got a few pics of the Milk as they wrangled the Timber. Once calmed down the Timber posed pretty well and after a compliment of pics we let it go back under the outcrop.

A little further down Jim uncovered yet another Milk Snake.

This was similar in size to the first at about sixteen inches long. Finding things with regularity is always a good thing.

We also found a brown snake (Storeria dekayi) in this same area. Not a common find up on these hillsides.

Near the same time, I had gone to a rock overhang where we had found Timbers in the past. No Timber. However, sitting nicely on a low branch tucked up against the trunk of a small tree was a Grey Treefrog (Hyla versicolor).

photo by Matt Ricklefs

It was an adult, about two inches long. As it was sitting so well, we opted not to bother it but just take situ shots. A nice addition to the day.

We were finishing our first area and had broken up. Jeff and I had gone off and peering into a stump I noticed not a snake but something else. A mother Raccoon and her two cubs. Jeff and I spoke and we decided not to take a picture for two reasons. One, because we did not want and angry mama Raccoon tearing up the place (or us) and two, we would not want to have someone come and take pictures of us at 2:00 in the morning. I did settle on a picture of the stump they were in.

photo by Matt Ricklefs

Going down, Jeff and I separated and I found Mike. I spoke to Mike if he had seen Jim. I had told him I had just seen Jeff on another part going out. We hollered a bit with no answer. I told Mike, “He either found something or twisted something. I hope he found something”. As it turned out, he did indeed find another Milk.

This was a juvenile at about six inches. It was a pretty one. After pics here we took a water break and headed to another area.

The next find was Jeff’s and it was a good one. At a large picturesque rock outcrop Jeff spied not one but two Timbers nestled together out sunning. We had spread out to cover the area and were coming to assist. Although we were careful, the Timbers were wary and started to go under a large rock at the top. Jeff sprung into action, but with him alone and two Timber the going was rough. Jim hastened over to assist and was able to get one and Jeff had one. Alas the one Jim got had poised itself close to the rock and with the jumble was a little quicker than we were. We had to opt to let it go under least we cause harm. There was nothing we could have done unless two people were right there and ready to go. You win some you loose some. The last thing you want to do however is to cause injury. The one Jeff got was more of the brownish phase and was about thirty-six inches long.

Jeff told us the other one had a predominant amount of black on it head. This is unique in our area. We did asses the rock it went under and could hear it rattle underneath. The rock was actually in two parts and we did make efforts to turn it but it was locked with the other one. We could not move it without damaging the rock and possibly the snake. Again, sometimes you need to admit defeat. It is better to preserve the environment that they are using then ruin a good area for them. We’ll be back!

After taking pics of the Timber and lamenting our missed one, which was still under the rock and rattled when we returned the one we photographed. Our last find of the day was another juvenile Milk. This was also about six inches long. It did not want to sit still for photos, thus the one out of focus picture.

That was all for day three. It was great to have Mike with us again and we would have him for one more day. Unfortunately Jeff had to head back home so this was the last day for him. We sat at the local Dairy Queen and celebrated the past few days and looked forward to one more day of herping. Ah, the joys of field herping. Nothing like a cold drink of water, a good meal and a good day of herping to re-live!

Don’t go away – day four is coming right up!!

Read our disclaimer here...