Trip Details

Start Time: 4:00 p.m.

Weather: Sunny, high of 58

Location: Linn County, Iowa

Herpers: Jim Scharosch

Account and photos by: Jim Scharosch

It had been too cold Saturday to herp, and Saturday night temps dipped down to about 31 degrees. Herp season has been in full swing for a couple of weeks and I had yet to see a fox snake. I decided to get out on Sunday to see if I could turn one up. The sun was out all day, and it warmed up to a balmy 58 degrees in the afternoon. So after doing some yard work to keep Laura happy on Mother's Day, I headed out to an area near home that I have been visiting for over twenty years that is usually good for a fox snake or two.

About twenty minutes into my search, I found a Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum).

It was about eighteen inches long, and was in shed. I didn't spend much time with it.

I was in an section of this spot that doesn't normally produce, but the rocks still looked too good to pass up. I did one of those, "I will move on after this rock, no, after that rock" deals for a while. I finally came to what I was sure would be the last rock, and I turned a nice Fox Snake (Elaphe vulpina).

It was about twenty-eight inches long and was nicely patterned. It wouldn't sit still for pictures though, and went into a defensive behavior that mostly allows for head-on shots. You can get nice shots when a fox snake goes into this mode if you have two people, one to distract the snake and the other to shoot, but I was alone so I didn't try very hard.

After I returned him to his rock, I turned only the best looking rocks on my way back to where I had left my camera bag. I turned a likely looking rock, and almost missed seeing a large milk snake tucked way up under the top part of the rock.

It was a brownish colored milk, like some we had seen on previous trips this year. It was pretty good sized for this part of the state, measuring about thirty inches long. I know the photos look pretty staged with the cow vertebrae, but after shooting pictures of twenty plus milk snakes this season, you start to look for something to break up the photos.

I moved on to the other section of this spot hoping to see another fox snake, and it didn't take long to turn one up.

This one had some cool patterning, with a lot of small blotches, and some of the blotches joined in "motley" pattern, to borrow a term from the snake pet trade. Too bad it was in shed. It was about two feet long.

A few rocks later I found another fox snake. It was a smaller one, probably sixteen inches long and had nice coloration. I probably should have worked harder at getting pictures of this one, but the black flies were driving me nuts now.

Another milk snake in shed rounded out the trip. It was about sixteen inches long.

I set out to find a fox snake, and I ended up with three fox snakes and three milk snakes. Nice to see that this spot I have been visiting for so long still pays off. We are off to Kansas at the end of the week and the forecast calls for almost constant rain between now and then so probably no more posts 'til Kansas...

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