Trip Details

Location: Benton County, IA

Weather: 70 and overcast early, to 85 degrees and sunny

Time: 9:00 am

Herpers: Jacob Harmon, David Becker, Don Becker, Jim Scharosch

Account by: Jim Scharosch

Photos by: Jim Scharosch except where noted

Wanted to get out and check a location where a graham's crayfish snake had turned up recently. That's a snake I have always wanted to see in Iowa but had never targeted. This site wasn't too far from home, so that added to the desire to check it out. David, Don and I drove down and met up with Jacob who had driven over from Ames. It was supposed to be a near record hot day, but we were greeted with an overcast sky that was keeping the temperature somewhat cool. We all hopped into my truck and took off for an area that had some rocks near the water. We approached the rocky area and I was slowing down to stop when I spotted a snake on the road side. I knew what it was right away, as I yelped out "Snake, live snake, on the road, it's a crayfish snake!" We weren't even five mintues into our day and we had found our target, an adult Graham's Crayfish Snake (Reginia grayhamii).

Photo by Don Becker

It was a nice adult snake, between two and three feet long. It was very clean, with no scars and fairly freshly shed. I was really happy to see one in Iowa finally, and also happy that it sat and posed for photos.

We worked the rocky area and turned up a juvenile Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon)

The garter snakes here were predominantly Plains Garter Snakes (Thamnophis radix), in fact, that's the only garters we saw. I don't see them all that often, so it's a nice change.

The rocks didn't turn up any more crayfish snakes.

In some nearby rocks I saw another water snake that had just injested a large meal.

We moved on and hiked a large marshy prairie with very tall grass. We didn't see anything, but in the short grass near the parking area I saw motion in the grass. I knew it was a snake, but couldn't tell what it was and actually couldn't see it at all. I saw motion again and thought that maybe I was dealing with a green snake. So I used the technique we had developed a few years earlier, aptly named by Mike Pingleton as "Slap your hand where the wiggle was" and came up with this large gravid female Smooth Green Snake (Opheodrys vernalis).

She didn't show much interest in posing for pics, and we didn't want to stress the obviously gravid snake too much, so we grabbed what photos we could and let her go.

The only other snake I saw was another plains garter.

We only saw one crayfish snake, but that was still worth the trip! I will probably try again next year when the water is a bit higher.

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