Trip Details

Location: Minnesota

Weather: Mostly clear skies. High in the mid-eighties, low humidity.

Time: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Herpers: Jeff LeClere, Anne Yen, Bruce Brecke, Jim Scharosch

Account by: Jim Scharosch

Photos by: Jim Scharosch (except where noted)

We woke up the third morning to another beautiful day. Bruce was a bit more of an early riser than Jeff or I, so he had already been outside walking around some. Jeff and I were sitting at the table in the front room when Bruce walked in. He mentioned that he saw the bullsnake from my first day there laying out by the porch again. Jeff asked how big it was, and Bruce said it was pretty big. Jeff and I both said that the one from day one hadn’t been very large, and Bruce said maybe he had overestimated the size. A little later, Jeff stuck his head out the door and saw the bullsnake dart back under the porch. Jeff said that is definitely not the same snake, and that he was pretty sure it was a large female.

I took a flashlight and shined it under the porch, and there she sat, about three feet back, flicking her tongue and looking at me. I told Jeff that if he could find something long enough to push her a bit from the other side, she would come out and I could snag her. He grabbed a long pole from the shed and started gently prodding the reluctant snake. After a couple of minutes, I saw the head and one coil pop out from under the porch and I grabbed the snake.

Photos by Anne Yen

It was a large female as Jeff had guessed, and after a PIT tag scan, it was proven to be a new snake to the study. Jeff was very pleased because this was to be the last snake to receive a transmitter at this study site. In keeping with the tradition I had started with naming Marshie, we kicked around a few name ideas and Jeff came up with Porchie. It probably should have been Porchie II since we got the one under the porch on Monday, but hey, who’s counting?

We went to the pond and Anne retrieved the turtle traps we had set the night before. The first trap held a Blandings Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) and a Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta).

Anne took measurements and Bruce recorded data from the turtles then pulled up the rest of the traps. We ended up with five more Blanding's turtles, a handful more painted turtles and one nice sized Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina).

Anne got to learn how to wrangle a pissed off snapper. Jeff gave her some pointers and she dove right in and grabbed it

I have to give her credit, I think I expected a bit of hesitation, but if she had an ounce of fear, she didn’t show it.

Anne and Bruce recorded data for all the turtles.

I took some pics of one of the Blanding's turtles to pass the time.

We returned all of the turtles to the pond when we were done.

We got a late start that morning because it took quite a while to process all of those turtles and Jeff had some stuff to follow up on over the phone with people back in the DNR office. As Jeff was sorting out interoffice dealings I got to thinking that we had to run the same probably barren drift fences and track the same snakes that probably hadn’t moved from the day before. I found it kinda funny that even though Jeff has a job that I would do for free if I had all the money in the world, there is still a share of repetitiveness and tedium even in his job. Of course, he gets to herp every day and get paid for it, so there is that side benefit.

Porchie had a date with the vet at 4:00 that afternoon so we knew we had to knock everything else out rather quickly. We split up at the first site and Anne and Bruce tracked the two females and Jeff and I knocked out the drift fences. I think we turned up a garter snake or two. Neither of the two female bullsnakes had moved far.

We hopped into the truck and headed off to track Marshie. We got a signal right away out of the truck, but as we headed out into the field, the signal died off. We assumed Marshie was on the other side of a ridge in the field and it was blocking the transmitter. We hit the top of the ridge and the signal came back. Soon we located Marshie. He was right on the edge of the field, on the crawl and headed in the general direction of the marsh he was named for. You can see in the photo how close he was to the edge of the marsh.

I felt a connection to Marshie, and was really curious where he would end up over the next few days after I left. I told Anne I would be checking in with her via email to see what becomes of Marshie. Anne emailed me a few days after the trip and told me they picked up a distant signal from Marshie in the marsh, so it seems he was headed back toward the field he originally came from.

Next we went back to where the male in the stick pile was. Jeff dropped Anne and I off to run the nearby drift fences and they went to track the last male. I was the garter snake king on this trip (hooooray for garter snakes) as I found quite a number of them in the drift fences and Jeff said that wasn’t really that common of a find there. Of course, that was little consolation to me. Good thing I had decided early on that this trip wasn’t about finding stuff.

Jeff and Bruce finally caught up with Anne and I and told us that they had had a difficult time tracking the last male. They said the signal had moved erratically and quickly and they had been unable to locate the snake. None of us knew what to make of it. It seemed like any predator that would have been large enough to eat the snake and swallow the transmitter would have been visible moving through the grass as they tried to track it. Yet, it seemed to be moving to quickly to have been the snake. We came back to try again later and Anne said that the signal was bouncing around strangely. I wonder if maybe the receiver wasn’t acting up. Anne told me in the email that the snake turned up on a nearby property.

Next we broke out the radio receiver again and started looking for a signal from the female that had been implanted and released the day before. We got no signal in the area the snake was released. We got in the truck and drove around with the antenna hanging out the window and got no signal. We worked for nearly an hour and never picked up the signal for that female. In the email I mentioned above, Anne told me that the snake was located a few days later in the foundation of an old farmhouse nearby.

We were up against the time where they needed to get Porchie to the vet for the transmitter implant procedure. I wanted to get home at a reasonable time so I used this opportunity to say way too fast of a goodbye and take off.

I found it funny the connection I had developed to Marshie, Loopie and Porchie in the three days I spent with them. I am really looking forward to getting periodic updates and later this season talking to Jeff about what these snakes ended up doing the rest of the summer and fall. I would love to see the data on where they end up traveling.

It was a great trip and one I will always remember. I hope to do something similar to it again sometime.

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