In Search of the Queen

Which rock to turn?

Midland Brown Snake

Longtailed Salamander

Ventral view

habitat shot

I was looking at some pictures that Rick Milas handed me.  "That's a Queen Snake," he said, pointing at a small serpent in someone's hand.

"Holy cow!  Where did you find that?"

Central Indiana, it turned out, and now we were headed back to the same place so that I could get a look at one.  It was late March, but sunny and fairly warm, so I had high hopes for this jaunt.  Apparently, you find Queen Snakes along small, rocky streams, of which there are plenty in this area.  It was our first herp trip of the year, and it felt good to be out of doors and throwing off the yoke of winter.

Our destination was a hike of nearly a mile from where we parked the car, and we lost a hundred foot or more in elevation as we eased down to the creek bed.  This small, meandering creek had cut deeply through layers of sedimentary rock over thousands of years.  the actions of heat and ice had split off many thin layers of rock,so that the creek and its banks was littered with large, flat rocks.

We started lifting one side of these rocks and looking underneath.  Presently we were rewarded with the appearance of  a good-sized Midland Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi wrightorum) which promptly flattened itself out as a defensive posture, trying to look bigger than it really was. A pretty snake, but not the object of our search, so we interred it back under its rock and moved on.

"Longtail!" Rick shouted, and I came over to look at a nice adult Longtail Salamander, Euycea longicauda.  It wasn't long before I was finding Longtails under my own rocks.  These Indiana specimens were gorgeous, with a lovely orange ground color more like that of the Longtail's cousin, the Cave Salamander (E. lucifuga) rather than their more typical lemon-yellow coloration.

First Queen

Oftentimes, the quest to see a new species is filled with trials, tribulations, great distances and large outlays of cash and vacation time.  Not on this occasion!  It wasn't long before Rick found the first Queen, muddy and opaque under a large stone.  If you were to gauge this species strictly on color, it would certainly not rate much attention; a slate grey with a hint of brown dorsum with darker longintudinal stripes, creamy white belly with four brown stripes.  Conant, in his Field Guide, describes the Queen Snake as having a dark brown dorsum with a yellow belly, but we've yet to see any here fitting that description.  Still, I was very pleased to see one.

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