Trip Details

Location: Madison County, Iowa

Weather: Partly cloudy, high of 72. A few showers in the afternoon.

Time: Noon until 6:00 PM

Herpers: Miranda Timmons, Tyler Knierim, Mitch Barazowski, Jacob Harmon, Dan Krull, Allen Anderson, Don Becker, Jim Scharosch

Account by: Jim Scharosch

Photos by: Jim Scharosch unless otherwise noted

We decided to hit the four well known spots in Madison County. It was my first time out with Dan Krull, whom I had never met in person. Miranda was a friend of Dan and Don whom I had never met before. It was also my first trip out with Allen Anderson, though I had known him for years through the Iowa Herp Society and various herp shows and symposiums. Tyler, Mitch and Jacob are members of the Iowa State University Reptile and Amphibian Club who had contacted me after viewing this website. All three were graduating from ISU about a week after this trip. Tyler is going to be a naturalist and kayak guide at Bald Head Island Conservancy in North Carolina. Mitch is starting grad school in Tyler, Texas where he will work with desert massasaugas and Jacob is going to New Mexico to do field tech work with lizards.

Now that introductions are out of the way….

While we were waiting for Dan and Miranda to arrive we went to check out our first site, which is a small timber den that has been visited by herpers for years. There isn't a lot of turnable surface rock here so it's usually timbers or nothing. We worked the area and didn't see any timbers, but as we were getting ready to get into the cars to move on Mitch turned a small board and turned up two last year's hatch baby Milk Snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum).

Photo by Don Becker

We had to leave to meet up with Dan so we didn't spend any time getting pics. I believe these were lifer milk snakes for Mitch, so that's kinda cool. He would end up with a few more before the day was out.

We met up with Dan and headed out to our second location, a large timber rattlesnake den complex. We hiked in and after about ten minutes I pointed to a rock and told Tyler, "check that one, it's a good rock". Sure enough, he flipped our first Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) of the day.

It was about eighteen inches in length. Everyone was happy to see it and got in on taking pics.

A little later, Jacob found a sub-adult Racer (Coluber constrictor).

It was two and a half feet or so in length. It was dirty from hibernation.

We climbed the ridge and worked our way around the rocky ledges. After a few minutes, Dan flipped a really nice milk snake.

It was a large snake with really nice coloration.

As we were photographing it, Don started yelling in excitement (as only Don can) as he had found two timbers near a large opening in the hillside. One slipped down into the opening before we could get photos, but the second one coiled up.

It was a very large snake that was still dirty from hibernation, but it still showed the yellow coloration that is often seen in Iowa timbers. The snake was probably four and a half feet in length and very heavy bodied. It had a large cyst or tumor on the neck a few inches behind the head. We got our photos and let it crawl down into the crevice.

We turned up our third and final timber on a rocky talus pile within a few feet of where Matt and I had seen a large timber on our last trip here.

This snake was about three feet long. We took pics and released it back into the rock pile.

We hiked back a ways into another portion of the spot and started to find more milk snakes. This is one that Dan found.

I found this one.

I think a couple more milks were found here by others in the group that I didn't end up photographing.

We also turned up numerous eastern garter snakes and ringnecks. Many of the ringnecks were very large. I didn't pause to photograph either of these species.

That wrapped up this location, so we met up with Miranda and moved on to a well known milk snake spot. Allen left us at this point.

The snakes came fast here, and with a group as large as this, it was impossible to keep up with who was finding what and in what order. I'm not even going to try. It's also difficult to be the guy sitting there taking photos of everything while everyone else is moving on and catching stuff, so I didn't photograph everything either. Suffice to say this is very much an incomplete record of the finds. Miranda did get her lifer milk snake on this hillside. I think Jacob might have too…

Photo by Don Becker

As I was photographing snakes, Don found a Lined Snake (Tropidoclonion lineatum) down near the base of the hill.

It was about twelve inches in length. This was a cool find as it was the first one I had seen in Iowa. It posed nicely for pics, too bad it was in shed.

Again, numerous easter garter snakes were turned up which I neglected to photograph.

We stopped off at one last location for the day. This was a known timber den that was the first place I had ever visited in Madison County on my first trip here years ago. There were no timbers here today.

Jacob turned up a small milk snake high up on the hill.

Soon Miranda came down with something in her hands saying "I got something". Don asked what it was and she said "I don't know". Turned out it was a tiny Smooth Earth Snake (Virginia valeriae).

It couldn't have been more that four inches long. This was another Iowa first for me, so it was really cool to see.

We ended up finding three more last year's baby milk snakes.

That was it for the day, we said our goodbyes and took off.

It was a fun day. It was great to meet some young herpers just getting started in the hobby. It was cool to finally meet Dan. Some people you herp with you just know are folks you are in alignment with. You share common herping philosophies and sensibilities. Dan is one of those guys. It was nice to get out in the field with Allen after all these years. Thanks to Don for setting this all up, driving and being a good herping friend.

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