Trip Details

Location: Jefferson, Van Buren, Wapello and Davis Counties, Iowa

Weather: 70 degrees, windy, partly cloudy

Time: 9:30 am to 2:00 pm

Herpers: Laura and Jim Scharosch

Account by: Jim Scharosch

Photos by: Jim Scharosch except where noted

Laura and I wanted to take Memorial Day to spend some time together herping. There are some sites in southern Iowa I have been wanting to visit but haven't been able to arrange it. The weather was supposed to be decent, but warming up quite a bit in the afternoon so we took off early in the morning and got down there before it started to heat up. We hit quite a few sites in four different counties. Things were kind of slow, so I'm not going to go into detail site by site, but just cover the things we saw.

Our first find was in Jefferson County. We found a nice sized Fox Snake (Pantherophis vulpinis).

It was nice and stocky, obviously well fed, and also completely blind.

Either through birth defect or old injury, the snake had no eyes. It is amazing to see a snake with this disability still managing to make its way through life, keeping fed and avoiding predators without being able to see anything. That's pretty cool.

We hit a few more sites without seeing anything and ended up in Davis County. We flipped a tin and didn't see anything under it. I didn't like how the tin was laying so I turned it over to lay it the other side up and upon further review, there was a Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) deep in shed that we had missed on first glance.

Second photo by Laura Scharosch

It was kinda funny because we both saw it at the same time, Laura said "Fox Snake!", and I thought the same as I reached for the snake, witch was partially obscured by the grass. I realized it wasn't a fox snake before I grabbed it up, but with the bad luck I tend to have finding hogs, my brain just wouldn't believe I was looking at a hog until I popped it out of the grass. It posed without playing dead, though it did drop a pretty major poop all over itself. I released it back under the tin, and when I lifted the tin to place it there, I couldn't believe it, but there was another snake there. This time it was a dark adult Prairie Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster) under the tin.

This was my first live prairie king in Iowa, so I was pretty happy to see it. Funny that we almost missed it. We checked a few more cover objects at this site, and under the last one we got a second prairie king!

This one was smaller, but still an adult. It was much lighter in color than the first and was a really pretty snake. I commented that this was one of those snakes that is difficult to release, but we did.

We stopped at a couple more sites then ended up back in Jefferson County. The last snake we found was a nice adult Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum).

I must have been a bit off my game that day because I missed this one too, Laura spotted it buried in a mouse nest before I put the tin back down.

That was it for the day. Not a ton of animals for how many stops we made, but what we found was top notch. It was a great day and I had a lot of fun seeing some critters I don't see very often and spending the day with Laura!

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