Trip Details

Location: Jackson County, IA

Weather: 79 degrees. Sunny. Low wind.

Time: 11:50 a.m.

Herpers: Jeff LeClair, Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Account by: Matt Ricklefs

Photos by: Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Thought of the Day: Taking the stage!

Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus). So I did this as we always include this and, spoiler alert, that is all we found this day. BUT, keep reading, there is more to the story.

On Saturday/Saturday night Jim's band knubby played and hosted a stage for a number of other bands at an event called the 319 Fest. I helped run sound for them. You may ask why this relates to this post, well, it had brought Jeff down to check out the event and of course we would be able to get out and do some herping. Beyond that the staging of the bands ended up being a foreshowing of what was to come. READ ON!

It was a long day on Saturday as we started about 1:00 p.m. and didn' t get home until about 1:00 a.m. Sunday. We decided with the nice weather we would meet at Jim's and take off for herping around 8:30 on Sunday. Though tired, the conditions were about perfect for this time of year and, with all of us catching up, it was energizing.

The majority of the Timber posts come from private land in the family. Over the years we have collected a lot of good information on the site and we know the area pretty well now. There are always surprises however.

As a quick disclaimer, the following account is accompanied by some OK pics and some that are not great. We also did not take pics of every snake we saw. We make all efforts not to disturb the snakes. Especially at this time of year, when they are heading to over winter, we do not want to disrupt their schedule. I think anyone who understands what we try to convey on Herpjournal and believe in will greatly appreciate this and be forgiving of a few less than stellar pics. The account will also be general and the sizes ranged from nice sized adults, the largest we estimated at nearly 4 foot, to as small as this years juveniles. Thanks for understanding.

Our first Timber was not a surprise, as it was exactly where we would have expected it. This is the main point of access for the snakes at the southern den on this property and this one was comfortably tucked in just catching some rays.

We moved along to the northern den. In our August 16, 2014 post we noted an odd spot we always check and got lucky enough to have one out in full hunting posture. 43 days later that same Timber was still hanging at this location. It was tucked back much further (perhaps it "learned a lesson") and although it may have been a different snake, the general size, color and it being where it was points to it more than likely being the same. This is not unusual. It was a little further down the hillside, but still right in line to the den up the hill.

Jeff and I had been having a conversation about the behavior I was noting of timbers getting close to the den but hanging around outside of the den when the conditions were right. Jeff said that this behavior was called "staging". HA! Staging bands - staging Rattlesnakes. Pretty sweet connection huh? Skadouch! This was not the last to be staging.

We made our way up to the den and it was obvious that the time was right as there were a number of Timbers out sunning at the den. We observed them for a while looking closely in crevices and around the area.

Jeff made his way a little further down the hill and in a point across a little gully he made a great spot of a good sized Timber tucked under a rock with just a few back chevrons showing. I had to look at a few angles to see if it was just the leaves and liter (which their camouflage works perfectly with of course) or if it was a snake. It was pretty clear after a good look it was indeed a snake. Now this was not a surprise per se, BUT we had not actually seen a snake down in this area, though we knew they used it for traveling to and from the den site.

We made our way down and around the hill from the den to see if anyone else was out near where Jeff had seen the last one. This leads to a spot that just last year we found a number of juveniles and adults also staging. We had found a few snakes here over the years, but not in the numbers we found them last year, was also new.

When we first started coming here, before we even spotted a Timber, this general area just looked perfect. That doesn't always mean it is, but we always checked this and dreamed of snakes along the ledges like we had seen in old magazines like Iowa Conservationist. Well, our dreams came true.

As we cam down and around we found them just as we hoped, tucked in and staged on the ledges soaking up sun and in many cases just the warmth as they were in shade. It was, forgive the fluffy term, magical. I know many of you reading this can appreciate it. We looked around the area and just watched them for a little while.

We moved down to the last spot, where we had seen a large number last year, and we did find a couple. The last picture is one that Jim had to climb up and over the rock to a crevice to see it. He had spotted a shed. I asked if it was a Timber shed and he said it was most likely. Then he said, and there's one here now. Funny. This was another rock that looked cool for snakes to be on so another dream come true.

It was too dry for Milks to be out and we did spot a couple of Brown snakes on the road on the way out which we just moved off the road without pics.

It was an awesome day. In all, we counted 19 total Timber Rattlesnakes. It was a new record for this area and probably a top two or three total for us all time. We gained more knowledge and had a great time hanging out. That's what herping is all about my friends.

Happy Fall Herpin'

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