Trip Details

Location: Jackson County

Weather: Sunny. High of 78 degrees. Low to moderate wind.

Time: 11:00 a.m.

Herpers: Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Account by: Matt Ricklefs

Photos by: Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Thought of the Day: The Green Mile

Apparently this is the spring for Stephen King references. The story you are about to read is true, the names have not been changed to protect the rather silly individuals who embarked on a noble, yet someone foolhardy quest. The quest itself was noble; the means to embark and complete the quest were foolhardy. Read on, if you dare!

We have a location that we have been going to for many, many years. We have developed a better understanding of the area over the years, but quite honestly still have much to learn. Our goal this day was to tie together three main areas. One area we were most familiar with a second location on the same bluff top that we have gather a fair amount of info on over the past ten years and a new area on the far end that we had been given new information on. BUT, before this we decided to scout a few new areas in the general vicinity.

Our first stop turned up an area that was not quite suitable for Timber Rattlesnakes, our main species of interest on this scouting adventure. It was also not great for other species that would share the habitat and indeed we found no herp sign (meaning skinks, or flippable rocks or other cover that would produce other smaller herps). We did do a good amount of walking, down then up and around the rocky hillside, then down then back up. No biggie…yet.

Our second location proved to be more favorable, but still lacked the telltale signs and herp sign of Timber Rattlesnake habitat. It probably does warrant some more scouting though as it was still early in the spring despite the unseasonable weather. I did manage to rustle up a small Raccoon that was peering out from under some rocky crevices. I obviously disturbed its daily slumber. It took a look at what was going on, namely me, and then went back “to bed”. This particular area was a bit more ambitious and we walked down the hill around by the river, up to the bluff tops, along the bluff tops and of course back again retracing the way we came. It was getting warm out now too. It was unseasonable green as the plants were about three weeks ahead of schedule with the early warmth we had.

Our final location was our last. However, we decided to enter at the newest location. Now this is a location that is a known Timber area. This entrance we were at had reports of Timbers, but we have not documented any here as of yet. In the middle section of this area we do find Black Rat snakes often and it is certainly a den, but we have yet to document Timbers from there either. The last section we would get to (which is usually the first and often only section) is where we find our Timbers. Wow, does that make sense?

So we trodded the newest area down along the river and then up, up and along the hilltop scouting as we went. It wasn’t bad, but still was lacking herp sign. Then onward and down, down back to the river. We were ready to embark on the second leg of the trip, the “Black Rat area”.

We had been at it for quite a while now with no herps. Then, we came to our “spot” – the den. We were finally rewarded with a beautiful moderate sized (about 54 inch) Black Rat Snake (Elaphe o. obsoleta).

Photos by Jim Scharosch

Its coloring was actually a very pretty brownish that glistened in the late afternoon sun. It was just partially out of its crevice sunning. As we took pictures Jim noticed a small back circle that was, yes, a coiled Black Rat Snake mostly buried in the leaves.

Photo by Matt Ricklefs

This one was closer to 6 feet. It was also not far from the crevice and was coiled in basking mode. It did not take long for it to decide it was time to go “home” and we watched as it nosed its way around what appeared to be fine crevices.

Photos by Matt Ricklefs

We just watched them and let them do their thing. Eventually, the larger snake ended up crawling into the same crevice that the first snake was using. It disturbed the smaller snake and then both found their way back into the rock face.

Photos by Matt Ricklefs

It was very cool and a welcome find after nothing all day so far. Ah, but wait we had more left to go!

We walked along the rest of the hilltop, then down, down again then along the river, then up, up, up to our last location which is a pretty long hillside alone. Guess what, nothing! We took a well needed rest at the far side (end) of the hill top and pondered the long trip back. The Green Mile as it was, as we felt like we were on death row by the end.

That was it. A very long day with two Black Rats to show for it. BUT, we again gained much knowledge and were able to decide which other areas we could “cross of the list”.

It was a trip we had long discussed and we accepted and met triumphantly the challenge. We will never do that long trip all at once quite the same way again.

My apologies for those who read all the way through when you really could have just skipped to the Black Rat pics. More apologies for what may seem like whining at the long trip, but seriously, it was a pretty decent hike all day long! Thanks for allowing me to ramble, as any long time readers will attest I do pretty well.

Happy (really, happy?) Serious Cross Country Herpin’!

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