Trip Details

Location: Jackson County, Iowa

Weather: 78 degrees, cloudy and rainy

Time: 3:30 PM

Herpers: Jeff LeClere, Jim Scharosch

Account by: Jim Scharosch

Photos by: Jeff LeClere except where noted

Jeff and I went to Jackson County to do some work at one of the timber dens in the area. The weather wasn't really inviting, it had been raining all day and we had waffled back and forth on the decision to go at all. After looking at the radar, we just decided to bite the bullet and go take care of the work we need to get done. We had even more second thoughts on the drive up as it started raining hard enough that cars were pulling over instead of driving in the deluge. We hoped we would hit a window in the downpour and just get a little wet instead of soaked. We had no thoughts at all of actually seeing any snakes out.

In hindsight, we should have been more optimistic as though it was raining, it was fairly warm...

We got our work done at the south den and on the way down Jeff found a Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris). We don't see them very often around Iowa, except at this location.

We moved to the north den and it wasn't long before we spotted a young Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) coiled not far from the den.

Photo by Jim Scharosch

All we had was Jeff's phone for shooting photos, and the snake took off pretty quickly, but at least I grabbed this quick voucher pic as it scooted into a crevice.

We got our work done and decided to check a few more crevices. Nobody was home under the first ledge we checked, but since we had seen one small timber out we decided to check one other area that we suspected was a rookery area for females awaiting the birth of their babies.

As we approached the den we spotted a large timber shed on the rock.

Soon we saw another, and as I went to look at it I spotted a large timber on the top of the rock, under a small ledge.

In the second photo you can see the shed and timber above.

Soon Jeff spotted three more timbers just above the one we were looking at. As we prepared to check them out, another one scooted along the base of the rock and into a small hole in the rock face. This one was also fairly large and had a very dark black tail, and even a black rattle! The first photo isn't very good, but shows the black rattle as the snake was zipping into the hole.

We got back to taking pics of the three timbers together, and noticed that one was a gray timber, which was a first for this area. We have seen a few of them at one other site in Jackson County, so it was cool to see one from here now as well.

We ended up finding two more sheds, and I shimmied around to the front side of the very slippery rookery rock and saw our last timber of the day in exactly the same spot I had seen one in the fall of 2013.

Photo by Jim Scharosch

There was another shed in the crevice with this timber. All of these snakes appeared to be gravid females, so it is fairly obvious that this is a rookery rock. It was really nice to see that the population of timbers at this location seems to be reproducing fairly well.

It was a great day, especially since we set out with such low expectations and ended up seeing so many animals, and also because we learned a bit about this population specifically.

Read our disclaimer here...