Trip Details

Location: Western Illinois

Weather: 68 degrees, partly cloudy, no wind

Time: 11:30

Herpers: Pat Kirby, Lacy Hansen, Chelsea Haley, Alex McGill, Devin Kirby-Hansen, Jeff LeClere, Jim Scharosch

Account by: Jim Scharosch

Photos by: Jim Scharosch (except where noted)

My band knubby had a show in Rock Island this evening, so Jeff and I decided we would spend the day herping in the area. I invited a friend from the area, Devin Kirby-Hansen, to come along. He thought it sounded like fun and invited Pat Kirby, Lacy Hansen, Chelsea Haley and Alex McGill. We were headed to a prairie plot, so with that "walking around" kind of herping, the more eyes the better. These folks are not "herpers", just people who enjoy nature and thought this would be an interesting day. Of course, today they were herpers.

Before we headed out to walk the prairie, we stopped at a small rocky area near the river to see if we could dig up a water snake. We saw a large northern water snake, but it slipped into the water before we could get a hand on it.

Photo by Lacy Hansen

We rolled a rock or two and turned up a couple of Eastern Gartersnakes (Thamnophis sirtalis). I took a few pictures of the one I found while Jeff explained various facts about snakes in general. The gartersnakes here are a bit different from the ones we normally find around home, with very little red color and a double row of small "dashes" of pattern between the dorsal stripe and the lower stripe.

Photos by Lacy Hansen

After seeing the small gartersnake bite Jeff, Devin decided he wanted to see what it was like to get bit. He waved his hand out in front of the gartersnake and it obliged him.

Photo by Lacy Hansen

The snake started to shed while being handled, so everyone thought it was neat to see that process.

Photos by Lacy Hansen

We also saw a leopard frog, cricket frog and bullfrog, but no pics were taken.

We headed off to the prairie area and explained what we were looking for. We split up and started wandering the sandy, cactus filled prairie. After about twenty minutes, Pat Kirby called out that he had a snake and Jeff headed over there. Turned out to be two Western Hognose Snakes (Heterodon nasicus). We all headed over to see them and take pictures. They were both average sized adult males.

Here is the first one.

The second...

As we stood there, Devin heard a rustle, looked over and saw a third hognose! It was another male about the same size as the first two.

This was the only one to play dead when it was handled.

The snakes were only handled long enough for Jeff to gather scale clippings for DNA samples then were released.

Here is Alex McGill with one of the hogs.

Photo by Lacy Hansen

And Lacy with a hog.

Photo by Chelsea Haley

Here are some pics taken by Lacy during the scale clipping for DNA sample collection.

Jeff explained that there was probably a female in the area, and that was why the three males were all nosing around within twenty-five feet of each other. I would have been thrilled to see one western hognose, so it was awesome seeing three without even working all that hard at it.

Photo by Lacy Hansen

We also saw a couple of Six-Lined Racerunners scampering around in the brush. They were much too fast to catch easily so we didn't put a lot of effort into trying.

We walked a little more and checked out another nearby location, but all we turned up was one more gartersnake on the crawl. The Quad Cities crew called it a day at this point and headed home, Jeff and I took off for another nearby prairie spot.

We walked the area and didn't find any snakes, though we did turn up four Ornate Box Turtles (Terrapene ornata). I only got photos of three as Jeff found one while we were separated.

The first two were females.

The last one was a male.

That was it for the day. It was an awesome day, made more fun by having friends to share it with.

Read our disclaimer here...