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May 29, 2008

A couple of friends had recently found their first timber rattlesnake and I was very jealous because I have only seen a few that people have brought to me.  There's something very special about seeing an animal for the first time in the wild and I was hoping I could add the timber to my life list. 

We first stopped at the timber rattlesnake spot in hopes of recreating the magic, but there were none to be found.  We looked around a junk pile that offered many great hiding spots for amphibians and reptiles (and other animals).  I hate seeing trash strewn about the landscape, and I really wish people were a lot less casual with their garbage.  That said, I have to admit that trash piles are great places to find reptiles.



I had been told that a black ratsnake had been residing under a particular piece of metal and the snake didn't disappoint.  It was curled up in a hole, just as described.


My friend called me over and showed me something cool in a burrow under a board he lifted.  His find was two narrow-mouthed toads.  These amphibians have a neat story in that they often share space in a tarantula burrow.  They help keep the burrow clear of ants and other undesireables, and the spider provides them with a safe place to live.  These two weren't living with a tarantula, but I have witnessed that relationship before.


We didn't find much else at this location so we moved along to another area down the road, just off one side of a lake.  There was lots of driftwood to look under, especially since the water level had risen earlier in the week with the rain.  It didn't take long to start finding stuff, like this lovely ring-necked snake.  They usually roll up the end of their body, showing the offending animal (in this case me) a brightly colored tail, which serves as a warning that they're no good to eat.  This photo doesn't show it well, but look at the species page that's linked above for shots of the colorful belly.


We finally located a tarantula burrow under one of the rocks and there just so happened to be a spider home at the time.  It was a beautiful female, waiting for a male to come find her.  If you see tarantulas walking across the roads in late summer, those are always males on the move to find females.  I have never seen a female out away from a burrow.  As far as I know we only have one species in Oklahoma and it's Aphonopelma hentzi.  This girl was just a tangle of legs, sitting at the opening of her burrow.


A lot of the rocks in this area are concave underneath, and that makes for wonderful hiding areas for lots of different animals.  You simply never know what you're going to see when you carefully lift a log or rock.  After looking under about 30 rocks we finally scored a jackpot:  a copperhead, and a gorgeous one at that.



Once we got into this rocky area that was filled with driftwood the snakes got somewhat plentiful.  We found a couple of rough earthsnakes (below) and a few more ring-necked snakes.


We also found the darkest dwarf American toad that I have ever seen.  They're usually a reddish-brown color.



Next up was the animal that made my night:  a flat-headed snake!  This was a first for me and I was elated.  I had just been whining to the guys that I hadn't found any snakes yet.  They were doing all the finding and I hadn't turned up anything yet.  Well, I think this little guy more than made up for the dry spell.  It was a juvenile and was really hard to photograph.  Luckily, my friends are patient and they helped me get some good shots.


The pink belly is very distinct and allows you to tell it apart from other similar species.


Our last stop was to a place that had lots of standing water in the ditches.  My friends had heard a lot of amphibians calling a few nights before and we had hoped to catch sight of more narrow-mouthed toads.  We heard them but couldn't track them down.  We ended up locating a small group of gray treefrog males, all calling around a shallow pool of water, hoping to draw in a female.  Their loud chirping call is distinct and they keep it going long enough to locate them amongst the foliage.  I got a great shot of a male, all blown up in the middle of his call.


2008 Herping main page




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