Trip Details

Location: Jackson County, Iowa

Weather: Sunny. Unseasonably warm. High of 90 degrees. Low to moderate wind.

Time: 10:20 a.m.

Herpers: Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Account by: Matt Ricklefs

Photos by: Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Thought of the Day: Oooop, there’s one!

Photo by Matt Ricklefs

In this video, somewhere between the two minute and three minute forty-five second marks you can see a Timber Rattlesnake. See if you can spot it before we notice it!

We knew it was going to be warm and thought that having this warm a day early in the year might just get things moving well. It was also Jim’s birthday so we took the day off and headed to my uncle’s place!

In the past several years we have gained a lot of information about my uncle’s place. We know where the “good areas” are, even some rocks that usually always provide something. More importantly, we also have a good idea of where the dens are and where the Timbers disperse to. So this has become a favorite area for us. Last year we even did some work on a road cut where we have been finding milks and this was our first time this year we had a chance to check it.

Photo by Matt Ricklefs

This picture is of the birthday boy hamming it up with his hatcam invention.

Photo by Matt Ricklefs

Then we started to find a few Milk Snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum). We also discovered that my uncle needed to plow the road a little to widen it so part of our work the previous year had been destroyed. We do know from other areas that this is a recoverable action and in general shouldn’t do much. We did take some time to help the habitat out again a little though. The milks we found all ranged around 24 inches and we got a nice cross section of coloration.

Photos by Jim Scharosch

Photos by Matt Ricklefs

We finished up at our Milk Snake spot and headed over to hopefully find some Timbers.

Not that we have a good idea where the “main” dens are, we usually have a method that takes us to them first and then we walk the dispersal zone. Last year we had found a couple of Timbers in the crevice at one of the main dens and that showed us where the good spot was. This year we found the same. We spied a Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) just peeking out of the rocks

Photo by Jim Scharosch

Photo by Matt Ricklefs

It’s a little odd as it seems there is one main crevice that they use here. It appeared to be about a 3 foot snake. That was all we found at “the den” and so we surveyed the surrounding area.

There are three areas to my uncle’s property where we find snakes. Now, if you read the last post you will know where this is going… On the drive in is the first hillside, behind the house is the “main” hillside and the area we usually hit first now, as we did this day, is the “milk snake road”. The den we had just seen the snake at is the only den we have identified on the first hillside. Overall, as far as Milk Snakes go, this is a tremendous area. Other than Jim and I, no one comes here to look for snakes. At one time there were some “old timers” that would take a Timber for use at a conservation area, but they have since stopped coming. Even they would just walk the outcrops and didn’t even bother with Milk Snakes. This is another reason that it is so nice coming here. We know we are the only ones who come here herping and we have the ability to monitor and modify if needed the area to encourage the right conditions for all the snakes.

On the rest of the first hillside we found two few adult Milk Snakes around the 24 to 36 inch range and three juveniles about 8 inches. That was all we found on the first hillside.

Photos by Matt Ricklefs

Photos by Jim Scharosch

We headed over to the “main hillside”. As we did before we walked in a path that took us to one of the main dens on this side. On a few occasions we have seen Timbers out sunning. Last year, at the end of the year, I encountered several at the main den so we are careful to keep an eye out to try and get pics of them undisturbed. As careful as we are, you still need to remember how well Timbers blend in to their environment. To get to where one of the main dens is from our usual approach you need to go around, up or under a large fallen tree.

Photos by Matt Ricklefs

You can see the den before you do so, but ultimately you need to decide on a route. The quickest is under. Jim had the video going just in case we came up on something. We carefully looked around at many of the known hiding places and decided, after not seeing anything, to head to the den. I was closest and decided to go under the tree. “Ooooop! there’s one!” I said. To the right near some rocks and under the shade of the tree was a 2 foot Timber coiled up and just getting some rays.

Photos by Jim Scharosch

Photos by Matt Ricklefs

We did not disturb it and got all of our pictures in situ. I also took a few shots just so you could see the general area in relation to where the snake was. It wasn’t a close call by any means but a reminder that you really need to keep an eye out.

We found a few more milks about the same size range as what we had found, but overall less than we expected

Photos by Jim Scharosch

It seems, based on this little outing that a really warm day does not necessarily mean that snakes will be out. We did OK, but we thought we might do better.

We did take some time to explore a few other areas but did not find anything. It will warrant more time for searching.

That’s all for now. Happy Birthday Jim and happy herpin’!


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