Trip Details

Start Time: 10:00 a.m.

End Time: 3:00 p.m.

Weather: Sunny with clouds moving in. 78 degrees. Wind moderate.

Location: Hardin Co. Iowa

Herpers: John Barker, Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Account & photos by: Matt Ricklefs

Thought of the Day: A new friend…and a new snake road?

John had contacted Jim through the website. John mentioned finding Smooth Green Snakes at a location he knew. John very nicely offered to take us to this spot and we accepted. Now, in the world of herping, no spot is guaranteed. Well we did decide that if someone really wanted to see a ring-neck snake we could, without a doubt, take them to Kansas and find a ring-neck. Barring that, most spots have an element of chance. So we knew going in that the elusive green snake may continue to be just that for us – elusive.

The day was very nice and the fall colors abounded in the trees around us. The spot was very good as well. Late season herping is always a little more challenging as the weeds, grasses, etc. are very high and at times overwhelming. The spot had plenty of things to turn and turn we did. We had not found anything yet, but Jim did notice a massing of Boxelder nymphs so I took a picture.

The picture is a small representation of some of the many masses we found. They may be a little annoying to some people, but they are kinda cool looking. Not long after Jim found an Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). It was a young one about eight inches long. Jim and John both hammed it up for a pic or two. (Note from Jim: Man, I tried to look funny and ended up looking like a dork there. No, I don't usually wear gloves for handling eight inch garter snakes. I was still recovering from a broken arm.)

A little later, I found another Eastern Garter and took a few pics of the snake before it scurried off.

We worked the rest of the area, but alas – no Smooth Green Snakes today. We will return in the spring to try and break our newfound jinx.
We did have another spot to go to and we headed out. As we went down a gravel road there were many snakes dead on the road – mostly garters. As we continued to look there were also some live ones on the road. As the afternoon progressed, at any time you could see a Garter Snake or Brown Snake crossing the road. It is fall and there was a field and a probable place of hibernation and we made the comment that with the late warm spring day they were on the move to settle in hibernation. The normal high for Iowa at this time of year is 66 degrees. At one spot we were looking around in John and I spotted a small garter moving across a small trail. We got a closer look and this one was particularly dark. It was quite stunning actually. John snagged it and we got some nice pics.

This one turned out to be a very dark Plains Garter Snake (Thamnophis radix). It was also a young one and was about 7 inches long. We took time documenting this one before we let it go on its way. About the same time, Jim grabbed an adult Eastern Garter and we also took some time to get some pictures of it.

As we were walking out of this area, I spied a nice sized Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi). I tried to get an in situ shot as it was all stretched out, but as soon as we got a little closer it bolted. I did get a nice posed shot.

This one was about 10 inches long. Not much farther or longer after photographing the Brown Snake, we spied another Plains Garter. This was a fine example about fourteen inches long. This time I hammed it up for a shot.

Our last stop was for another Brown Snake. This one went defensive so I took a few shots of it “in mode”.

The finds may be common to some, but it was a great day to get out, especially this late in the year. John’s company was also very welcome and it was great to get out with another person who shares this unique (OK, just plain weird to some) hobby. John’s love for the hobby was as genuine as his personality and it was truly a pleasure spending time with him.

It was quite amazing on and around the road. Even during the time we talked before leaving we continued to see garters and browns often crossing. All in all we spied several dozen. Not quite the same as snake road in Illinois, but there were a lot of little snakes.

Until next time (OK, this may really be next season), happy herpin’!

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