Trip Details

Location: Madison County, IA

Weather: Partly cloudy, high of 66 degrees, light winds

Time: 12:30 - 4:00 pm

Herpers: Trent Adamson, Jim Scharosch

Account by: Jim Scharosch

Photos by: Jim Scharosch

Trent had reached out to me a week or so ago and asked about herping in Iowa. He was coming to the state from Florida to visit relatives. He was here on a weekend I had free and he was near Madison County, so that gave me an excuse to head over there. I hadn't been there for a few years and wanted to see the timber rattlesnakes and monster milk snakes that the area is known for. There aren't many "snake tourist" spots in Iowa, but if there were, Madison County would probably be qualified for the top spot.

I met Trent at the local gas station and we headed out to a well known local milk snake hotspot. I found out that although Trent has found all kinds of cool animals in Florida, he was still looking for his lifer milk snake and timber. I told him we would knock them off his list today for sure. I think we were on our fourth or fifth rock when the milk snake part of that promise came true. All told we ended up with nine Milk Snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum) from this hillside.

Trent shooting his lifer milk.

A small juvenile in shed.

This one had really cool bright red blotches...

and the red on the side blotches reached all the way to the ventral scales.

The in-hand, in shed shots...

This was a two rock triple.

A few shots where I kinda tried. The last one is way out of focus, but the snake was so bright red I included it anyway since I didn't get a better shot.

I didn't work very hard at photos today. You can tell from some of the marginal pics I am posting. There were also a few in-hand shots of snakes in shed and some cell phone only shots. Trent was all about getting quality photos, so I either wrangled for him or watched as he shot pics. We also ended up with a couple of ringneck snakes and a handful of eastern garter snakes as well.

We moved on to another area where we often see timbers, but there weren't any out when we were there. I told Trent we don't ofen see milks at this site, but he decided to flip one anyway.

It stuck a defensive pose and I grabbed this terrible photograph.

We moved on to a large and well known timber den in the area. We weren't there more than ten minutes before Trent was able to cross the other lifer of his list when we found our first Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) of the day.

This one was hidng out in the shade of a cedar tree

This one sat and let us get pretty close before crawling into a crevice. It had a messed up eye that you can see in the photo.

The babies from last year.

We ended up finding ten more timbers throughout the den complex. We got a three last year's babies, a number in the two foot range and a couple of large ones, including two that appeared to be females moving to a rookery. I didn't get any shots of the big females as they dived under a large rock pretty quickly and I didn't want to mess with them. All but a couple of the babies were very dirty from spending the winter in a very muddy den. Madison County timbers aren't the prettiest in Iowa, but once they get rained on a few times or shed off the winter skin they won't be as dingy as they look in these photos.

We didn't flip many rocks here, but we did end up finding one last milk snake in the final rock pile of the day.

It was a fun day, and it is always cool to see the enjoyment someone shows when they get to see a critter that is new to them. I look forward to hitting up Trent in the future for a trip to Florida.

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