Thursday, December 20, 2007

Herping Saturday 15 Dec 07

(Southern copperhead)

Bert Lucas and I spent much of the day herping in the Basin, mostly around Whiskey Bay, Butte La Rose & Indian Bayou. The best herps were a nice Southern copperhead, Agkistrodon c. contortrix and a ring-necked snake, Diadophis punctatus. Walking around Jim Delahoussaye's property in Butte La Rose, we picked up Cope's gray, Hyla chrysoscelis & squirrel, H. squirella treefrogs in his bird houses. The afternoon in Indian Bayou was pretty slow with mostly Coastal Plains, Bufo nebulifer & Eastern narrow-mouthed toads, Gastrophryne carolinensis.

(ring-necked snake)

(ring-necked snake)

(Cope's gray treefrog)

(Cope's gray on left, squirrel on right)

(Eastern narrow-mouthed toad)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Basin Herpin' 27 Nov '07

Rob Dobbs and I spent a couple of hours in the Basin last night, mostly to photograph and re-release a Louisiana milksnake he had found there Sunday night. Of course, we were also there to see what else we could find before (and just after) dark! Below are two of my best pics of the milksnake, Lampropeltis triangulum amaura. (photos by Beck)

We also scored huge with very cooperative upland chorus frogs, Pseudacris ferarium (top) & spring peepers, P. crucifer (bottom)!

After a little more poking around, we found a nice five-lined skink, Eumeces fasciatus and three (3) Eastern narrow-mouthed toads, Gastrophryne carolinensis.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Well, I already have a post devoted to copperheads...I might as well have one for cottonmouths as well. A.K.A. "water mocassins", they are another pit viper closely related to copperheads. The subspecies we have here in Louisiana is Western cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorous. Like their copperhead cousins, they are live-bearers and are born with yellow tips to the tail, to lure potential prey items within striking distance. They're also heavily banded when they're young (picture at end of post). While we're on the subject of snake tails, I want you to notice the drastic truncation at the base of the tail of the below pictured cottonmouth:

This is indicative of a female. The tails of males would taper off much more gradually in shape towards the tip, as they need more room to store the hemipenes.

Cottonmouths are, naturally, venomous and get their name from the light-colored lining in the interior of the mouth. There are numerous species of watersnakes (genus Nerodia), which mimic cottonmouths, but are non-venomous. Below is a picture of a banded watersnake, N. fasciata.

Countless watersnakes are killed each year when people whom are less informed take the snakes' lives often to protect their family from a potential threat of a venomous snake. But...let's not kid ourselves, not everyone who kills a snake is rationally-minded. In fact, some kill snakes because it makes them feel "manly". Wow...please excuse my lack of enthusiasm for someone who is successful in killing something much smaller than themselves and perhaps because they're insecure about themselves.......

Anyway... Cottonmouths, as their specific name (piscivorous) implies, eat fish. Not soley, but they do consume fish and can consume fish as large as bream and small catfish. They also will prey on frogs, lizards, etc. Some can attain lengths of near 5' or so, but this is quite rare. Most are smaller, and individuals of 2-3' are more often encountered. Below is a juvenile snake I caught at the Zoo of Acadiana in Broussard a few years ago.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Northeast Louisiana Plants

Not much to ramble on about here, but included are some images of some of the plant species myself, Bobby Keeland, John McCoy and Erika Stelzer sampled while working in the Tensas River Basin. I took pictures mostly of trees, shrubs & vines that I would like to learn better.

Carolina snailseed (Cocculus carolinus):

Climbing dogbane (Trachelospermum difforme):

Smilax bona-nox:

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans):

The Rattlers of Canebrake

It's been a while since we've had a post on this blog. To tell the truth, I forgot my username and/or password. You know how that goes, you try a thousand different combinations, and nothing works. Then finally, you find where you put it so that you could "find it" if you were ever to forget it. Right....

Anyway, enough about that. This past summer I did a lot of field work up in the Tensas River Basin as well as the White and Cache River Basins of Arkansas. The work was centered around the amphibian research we had been working on, but also now there was a new phase: plants. I got to work with Dr. Bobby Keeland and John McCoy in the field on the plant project. I'll get to that in a minute. First thing's first. While working out in the Buckhorn WMA in Tensas Parish, Susan Walls and I finally stumbled upon what we were really hoping to find while working up there....the mighty CANEBRAKE RATTLESNAKE.

It's pretty funny how we came across the first one, actually. I was leading the way via GPS to one of our frogloggers, deep in the thick, palmetto-covered undergrowth of the forest. I happened to trip over some exposed roots, and landed palms-first on a spread of blackberry (Rubus sp.). Now, previous to this, Susan had been stung four times already by yellowjackets (Vespula sp.)! So, candidly, I told her that I had thorns in my fingertips to make up for not being stung. Just then, I caught a glimpse of something moving on the forest floor right next to where I stood. When my eyes adjusted to the low light, there was a very large canebrake rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)! The snake was at least 5' in length, and had an impressive girth. The pictures do the snake NO justice. The conditions were such that a "perfect" picture was not attainable without further agitating the snake. As it was, the snake showed no signs of rattling. But, we didn't want to take any uneccessary chances way out here. of us (hint, NOT Susan) has been bit by this species before, and not looking for a rematch. The snake we found is illustrated below.

Unbelievably, about 20 minutes after finding this first rattler, I found another one! Susan didn't believe me at first. Only after seeing me taking a picture of something did she come over for a look. This individual was smaller, and thinner than the first, but the picture came out better of this one....figures.

It's been a long time now since I've been up in Tensas. I look to be back up there again the last week of February. It might be too cold for most snakes then, but I'll be constantly be looking...for the rattlers of the canebrake.