Got Buttermilk?

Thamnophis radix in Missouri

Storeria dekayi texanum, Oklahoma

Copperhead on the road

Crappie nets work great with small pit vipers

Shooting the Copper while a couple locals look on

Gray Treefrog on the tarmac

Morning photo shoot

Copperhead, formal portrait


Every year I try to get out in the field at least once with some far-flung herping buddies.  Jim and Matt live in Iowa, Jeff in Minnesota, and I live in Illinois, so the logistics of getting all of us together in the same place at the same time can be a challenge.  This year we decided to try for Coluber constrictor anthicus in east Texas over the Memorial day weekend, a long stinking drive for all concerned, but a worthy target indeed.  The Buttermilk Racer was a snake all of us were jonesing to see. It was a little late in the year for this quest, but it was the only week in our busy lives that coincided for the trip.

We decided to meet in Kansas City and head south together from there.  I stopped to do some herping in northern Missouri along the way, and ran into trouble turning over a large, extra-heavy railroad tie.  It got away from me, and I tore my left biceps muscle.  The pain wasn't too bad, and I didn't want to back out of the trip, so I stopped for some ice packs and continued on to KC and our rendezvous point.  Later that summer I had surgery to reattach the muscle to the bone, which curtailed field herping and other physical activities until the fall.

Heading south from Kansas City, we stopped for the night in Oklahoma, and did some road-cruising on two-lane roads around Tulsa.  Our first herp of the evening was a real winner - a Western Pigmy Rattler (Sistrurus miliarius streckeri).  This was a life-list addition for all of us, and it was a very pretty bluish-gray specimen.  Next up was a Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix).  We were close to an intergrade zone between the Osage and the Broad-Banded Copperhead, and this snake showed some pattern characteristics of both subspecies.  The only other herp of the night was a pretty Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor / chrysocelis).

The next morning we took photos of the Copperhead and the Pigmy Rattler, and released them at their capture points before starting the second leg of our loooong drive south to east Texas.  We stopped along the way and rescued a number of sliders and box turtles from the road.  You never know what the next driver will do when it comes to turtles on the road, so I like to think we save the life of every turtle we stop and move off to the side.


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