Trip Details

Location: Southwestern North Dakota

Weather: Highs in the upper 70's to low 80's, lows in the 50's. Rain on the evening of 6/19, partly cloudy, light winds

Time: 10:00 AM for daytime, 8:00 PM for road cruising

Herpers: Jeff Leclere, Jim Scharosch

Account by: Jim Scharosch

Photos by: Jim Scharosch except where noted

A few years ago I went on a trip to North Dakota with Matt Ricklefs, Jeff LeClere, Austin Scharosch and Mike Pingleton. The weather kicked us in the butt that year, and we ended up bailing on North Dakota after a day or so in the cold and rain. We salvaged that trip by heading east, but I wanted to take another shot at North Dakota. This trip was going to be that "Do Over" attempt.

I will keep this report fairly short. The weather seemed great, highs in the upper 70's to low 80's. A little bit of rain during the day. But in the end, it seemed like we were a bit late for rattlesnakes at the den sites and a little early for rattlesnakes on the road. I will start off with some non-herp shots.

This was an aweome landscape. The photo doesn't do it justice. The clouds were dark and the sun was setting and hitting the buttes. I wish I could have captured it.

Same deal with this rainbow. It faded quickly and I only got this terrible phone shot. It felt so close you could touch it.

A terrible phone shot of a Pronghorn Antelope. We saw quite a few, but never had a chance to get a nice pic.

That rock was probably eight feet across. The dirt under it had eroded to make it look like a massive mushroom. There were quite a few of these formations around this one. It makes you wonder how long it took for this to happen.

A landscape shot with my cousin's ranch in the background. You can't grasp the scale of the landscape unless you have been there. That's Jeff way down the hill from where I took this photo. He is shooting pics of a racer at the time.

Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia ssp) were everywhere, and were just beginning to bloom. The second shot the cactus is mixed in with petrified wood, which is very common in the area.

These small Purple Pincushion Cactus (Escobaria vivipara) were much less common. I only saw two small groups of them, and they were not in bloom.

Moving on to herps, we caught three Racers (Coluber constrictor) on the crawl.

Photo by Jeff LeClere

The first was a nice sized adult.

The second was a smaller adult.

The third was a last years baby that still showed the juvenile patterning.

Our first night there we managed to get one Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) while cruising the roads in a light rain with the temperature around 58 degrees.

We kept it over night to take better photos the next day. It was a spectacular snake. The coloration was amazing, and it was in perfect condition. It sported a nice rattle string too. It was an average sized adult, probably just a bit under three feet in length. It was fairly defensive at first, but after a bit settled down and cooperated fairly well for photos.

On our way out the last night we found a Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii)) on the road. It wouldn't sit for pics, so here is an in hand shot.

That was it for North Dakota. We didn't see much, but the one rattlesnake we saw was valuable. Jeff is collaborating on a book of North Dakota reptiles and amphibians and needed quality photos of a prairie rattlesnake from the area. This snake will get to be in his book, so that made it worthwhile.

We headed back to Minnesota. I was going to spend a day with Jeff in the field, but it was pouring rain and supposed to keep up all day so I ended up bailing out. Of course, Jeff found an eastern hognose that day...

I want to try North Dakota again sometime, maybe for a fall trip. As cool as it was finding one on the road, I want to see some hanging out by the dens. That may be a bit easier to accomplish in the fall.


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