Trip Details

Location: Linn County, IA

Weather: Sunny. High of 76 degrees. Low Wind.

Time: 5:30 p.m.

Herpers: Matt Ricklefs

Account by: Matt Ricklefs

Photos by: Matt Ricklefs

Thought of the Day: An offering to the “snake gods” or semi-instant Karma.

First off, a very Happy Birthday to Jim. Jim could not be with us today so I would like to accept these herps on his behalf. Jim actually went to see Clutch for his birthday this evening so I went out solo. Han Solo as it was…ha ha ha, you’ll need to go back to the 5/4/12 post to understand that reference. Yes, it is a shameless ploy to keep you browsing though our website!!!

It was a beautiful day out and the lure of herping was greater than usual. It was late in the day and the sun was on its way down so I hit a spot close to home. I walked my usual route and saw quite a few garters out on the crawl, but that was all. I reached my final destination, a piece of metal that produces semi-regularly and found a decent sized garter coiled up for the night and near the other side a Milk Snake. The milk snakewas just showing and the reason for that is because it was a little more than half in a hole. I did grab it out of instinct, and could have safely retrieved it from the hole, but I decided to let it be and not disturb the hole any. If the milk snake is using the hole, and since I had found two here previously, it made sense to keep this as intact as possible. I was good with the call I made. I didn’t find anything else in this area and moved on to my next spot.

The garters continued to be on the move and I observed about a dozen of various sizes roaming around. I reached a location we know snakes hibernate at. We had an unusually warm April and it did get many species moving. It then cooled down and that did keep some snakes nearer to their places of hibernation. It seemed, however, that it was later in the year because of this and I had wondered if there would be anyone still at the hibernation location, then I realized that it was only May 10th.

I uncovered some debris and instinctively grabbed for a snake even though I knew it was a garter. However, as it went beyond my sight and as I pulled it out, I discovered that it had become entangled with another snake…a much more desirable snake. I pulled out the garter and let it be as it had “given” me a Fox Snake (Elaphe v. vulpina).

This one was in nice shape and appeared to have recently shed. It was about 17 inches long. I was very happy to find a Fox Snake and it was good that Jim was not along as it seems if we are together he will find like a billion of them and I cannot find one if it was to crawl up my pant leg. A nice one was all wall and good, but it did not have ANY interest in getting its picture taken. It continually and relentlessly tried to crawl away. As usual, patience did prevail somewhat and after a few “still” shots I was able to perturb it enough to get some fun defensive shots before letting it go back to its home.

There was a time when Jim had never found a live Hognose and for many years it was considered a tragic jinx on him. You’ll see where I’m going with this in a second. My next location was a tried a true piece of tin. It doesn’t always pay off, but often does big time when it does. I flipped and saw a smallish Racer (Coluber constrictor) about 16 inches coiled up, a split second later my gaze caught movement of another Racer about 23 inches and it was on the move. I grabbed both. A split second later as I grabbed these two I realized there was another large form partially buried in the upper left hand corner of the tin – an Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platyrhinos)! This was a nice size one at about 24 inches; it was in great shape and was not in shed.

I always feel odd having a snake bag with me, but it is for this exact reason that I do. I bagged the Racers so I could focus on the Hognose. It continued to flair and flatten its neck, hissed and moved away. I was able to get it to coil for a bit and continually waited for the inevitable flop and die. To my surprise it continued to move around! I even picked it up to look it over and it just hissed and gapped at me. I put it back down and it continued to do so. I actually got some pretty nice shots.

It was getting late and the sun threw some odd shadows so I did use a flash with my new diffuser which I am still working with, but I was glad to get some good shots. The Hognose got tired of being defensive and started to just burrow.

I actually felt sorry for the little guy (or gal… I didn’t check to see which) and put the tin back and allowed it to go back under. The impression it was in was only a partial hole as I put it in there but it only had worked it about half way and moved back out. It did eventually find its way back there. I did include a few shot of the Hognose as it was moving around along with the normal pose shots so you could some of its posing. As I turned my attention to the Racers I would occasionally hear the Hoggie moving around under the tin settling back in.

The Racers both did the flight thing and did not do the coil and head bury. Which made it difficult to get some shots but I did get a few

WOW, a triple with a Hoggie! I figured at this point that I was being rewarded by someone (Thank you JES-us!!!) for allowing the Milk to go back in its hole and not disturbing the habitat. I also pondered the story I began a few paragraphs ago. I’m glad Jim had broken his jinx on Hognose a few years ago as this would have been the ultimate insult: having me find a Hog ON HIS BIRTHDAY when he was not able to go. Funny.

I had one more piece of tin to check nearby and came up with another Racer. This one was a little darker and about 15 inches long. This was a nice sign as this tin does not pay off very often so it was nice knowing that herps are using it.

I checked a few more spots and there was nothing else to be found. That was OK as it was pretty late now anyway. It was a great evening and it was my first Hog of the season, not that I am lucky enough to find them every season anyway. I texted Jim let him know about the Hoggie as they are still a big deal for us and went home in quite a good mood.

Jim did have a good birthday concert so that was a good deal too.

Happy Birthday Jim and Happy Herping to All!

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