How I Spent My Summer Vacation

snake traps around the pond's edge

Hyla cinerea taddie

Pierson checking traps


Eastern Mud Snake

I was back in Tallahassee again, on vacation with my family, visiting our friends Scott and Topi.  Despite the August heat I was hoping to get out in the field a time or two during our stay; the Panhandle has some fantastic places to go herping.  I called up Pierson Hill, whom I had herped with on my last visit.  Pierson was happy to have some company while he checked his Nerodia traps set in several ponds.  He was working on a project involving Gulf Salt Marsh Snakes (Nerodia clarkii clarkii), taking genetic and morphometric data from a series of these snakes in different locations.  In addition to checking traps, he had a half dozen snakes that had been previously trapped and processed for data, and they needed to be returned to their exact points of capture. 

We met up in the early evening and headed south towards the coast, taking the sand roads on the way.  We stopped several times to take data on some DOR snakes; several Rough Greens, a Cottonmouth, and a Pigmy Rattler. It's always sad to see flattened reptiles on the road, but at least these would serve as photo-vouchered locality specimens. 

The first pond was off in a stand of longleaf pine, and the traps there were empty.  We did find the half-shelled remains of a Chicken Turtle on the bank, a species I've always wanted to see.  Maybe I'll find one on some spring trip down here.  The light was fading fast as we checked the next pond, and the first two traps turned up Hyla cinerea and Rana sphenocephala tadpoles. Pierson nabbed a juvenile Eastern Garter Snake crawling on a tussock near the next trap.  This snake had an interesting pattern and lacked a prominent dorsal stripe - he handed the little serpent to me and checked the next trap.  This one had an occupant - an adult Eastern Mud Snake!  I never get tired of finding those pretty things. The snake was bagged for the time being and also handed to me.  The next two traps contained juvenile Stinkpots, probably last year's hatch.  No Nerodia, but now we had a handful of herps to photograph before releasing.  I took a snip of the garter snake's tail for a DNA project I was helping out with, and then we put everything back.


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