Monday, July 31, 2006

Mountain Garter

07/31/2006 @ 10:22:54 AM MDT
This western terrestrial garter snake (Thamnophis elegans) was found at about 9000 ft. on the Rio Santa Barbara trail in the Pecos Wilderness section of the Carson National Forest, near Penasco, NM. I'm very lucky to live so close to such incredible wilderness, but unfortunately, the Pecos Wilderness offers very little in the way of herptofauna, so this little snake was an incredibly lucky find.

Monday, July 24, 2006

We Owe It All To (Or Blame) The Snakes

My friend David Pescovitz sent me a link to this news release which proposes that snakes, or more accurately the avoidance of snakes, are at the root of modern civilization:
Some primate groups less threatened by snakes show fewer signs of evolutionary pressure to evolve better vision. For example, the lemurs of Madagascar do not have any venomous snakes in their environment, and in evolutionary terms "have stayed where they are," Isbell said. In South America, monkeys arrived millions of years before venomous snakes, and show less specialization in their visual system compared with Old World monkeys and apes, which all have good vision, including color.

Having evolved for one purpose, a good eye for color, detail and movement later became useful for other purposes, such as social interactions in groups.
So next time you see a snake, thank it (or curse it) for bringing about just about everything you encounter as a social creature.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Laguna Rattler

07/23/2006 @ 02:41:04 PM PDT
While in Southern California visiting friends and relatives this past weekend, I attended a religious festival in Laguna Canyon in south Orange County. Having lived in the Canyon a few years back, I know it's chock full of rattlesnakes, so I expected to come across one at some point. This young western rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri) was found by a teenaged gal after she moved a small brush pile in an asphalt parking lot. The temperatures in California had been obscene all weekend, hitting 98 degrees at the beach, so all this snake wanted to do was stay out of the sun until it went down. I tried to tail it into a better photo position, but it was hard to reach and not cooperating, as is usually the case with rattlesnakes.

07/23/2006 @ 02:44:22 PM PDT

Monday, July 10, 2006

It's Good To Live Near Arizona

05/29/2004 @ 06:02:29 PM MDT
In May of 2004 we went to Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains in the Coronado National Forest in southeastern Arizona, one of the "sky islands" in the desert of the American Southwest and an area that supports a diverse array of herptofauna. First up was this pair of canyon tree frogs (Hyla arenicolor).

05/29/2004 @ 06:04:43 PM MDT

05/29/2004 @ 06:27:16 PM MDT
Next, my friend Megan came upon this baby female mottled rock rattlesnake (Crotalus lepidus lepidus.) Its strikingly beautiful markings were stunning against the backdrop of its habitat.

05/29/2004 @ 06:29:08 PM MDT

05/30/2004 @ 11:02:01 AM MDT
The following day we came upon this Yarrow's spiny lizard (Sceloporus jarrovii). We also heard a rock rattlesnake in some rocks on the trail (imagine that!), but we couldn't manage to pull him into daylight.

05/31/2004 @ 11:12:54 AM MDT
On the third day of the trip, my friend Jeff and I hiked further up Cave Creek. As we were exploring a sandstone outcropping next to the creek, we came upon this greenish mottled rock rattlesnake, the hue indicating its sex as male. It was sitting on the rock under a blanket of leaves, buzzing as we looked for it. We had a very difficult time determining exactly where it was as the rattling was bouncing around under the leaves off the irregular rock surfaces. As it turns out, I was standing right next to it wearing river sandals. Much of the time we were looking for it I was within striking range. Fortunately, it didn't strike and I learned to stay out of the leaves while wearing sandals when there are rattlesnakes afoot.

05/31/2004 @ 12:10:41 PM MDT
Another Yarrow's spiny lizard up the creek.

05/31/2004 @ 05:50:48 PM MDT
On the hike out we captured this striped plateau lizard (Sceloporus virgatus). These orange markings indicate this is a mature female in the middle of her breeding season.

05/31/2004 @ 05:52:53 PM MDT

06/01/2004 @ 11:49:58 AM MDT
On our last day in southeast Arizona we visited the Sonoran Desert National Monument outside of Tucson, Arizona. We arrived too late in the day to see anything other than this greater earless lizard (Cophosaurus texanus) taking refuge in the 100 degree-plus desert heat.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Kiss of the Coastal Garter Snake

06/29/2006 @ 06:16:02 AM MDT
My niece gets blessed with a kiss from a California red-sided garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis infernalis) that was recently found living on the bluffs along the Mendocino County coast in Northern California.

07/01/2006 @ 03:40:37 PM MDT

Monday, July 03, 2006

Treasures of the Gila River

05/20/2005 @ 09:28:12 AM MDT
In May 2005 I took my younger brother up the west fork of the Gila River into the Gila Wilderness. Right away we came upon this decent-sized gopher snake (Pituophis melanoleucus).

05/20/2005 @ 09:59:49 AM MDT
Next up was this Gila spotted whiptail (Cnemidophorus flagellicaudus). It looked to be close to 9 inches long including the tail, and it was definitely a female. This species has done away with males altogether and reproduces parthenogenically.

05/20/2005 @ 11:13:00 AM MDT
The river is infested with bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana). Not good news for the native species.

05/20/2005 @ 01:44:59 PM MDT
We were sitting on a rock bar in the middle of the river eating lunch when this monster gopher snake pulled up right next to us.

05/20/2005 @ 03:48:04 PM MDT
Huge bullfrog tadpoles in a side pool off the river.

05/20/2005 @ 06:02:59 PM MDT
You are looking at the culmination of my life as a herper. Ever since I saw a picture in my first field guide when I was 8-years-old, I've wanted to find a mountain kingsnake. This particular beauty is a Sonoran mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana). For me this is the holy grail of North American reptiles. I found the snake just like this, right next to the trail and bright as can be. I was over the moon and practically in tears. They really don't get much more beautiful than this. Definitely the highlight of my herping career.

05/20/2005 @ 06:03:14 PM MDT

05/21/2005 @ 11:51:35 AM MDT
This large crevice spiny lizard (Sceloporus poinsetti) let me get pretty darn close, but not close enough to catch.

05/21/2005 @ 01:09:28 PM MDT
A blackneck garter snake (Thamnophis cyrtopsis). They are associated with water like the terrestrial garter snake.

05/22/2005 @ 10:54:45 AM MDT
Another blackneck garter snake fresh from a feeding.