amphibians, 2006-2010

December 31, 2010

I have been prejudiced toward reptiles, but still managed to photo a few amphibians.  I could have also photoed spotted frogs in Utah’s Millard Co, red-spotted toads in Utah’s Washington Co, and tiger salamanders at additional locations–but did not pull out the camera in those instances.

great basin spadefoot toad, Deep Creek Mtns

early June 2006, great basin spadefoot toad (Spea intermontana), Deep Creek Mtns foothills, Tooele Co, UT

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woodhouse's toad, North Sevier Plateau foothills

late Sept 2006, woodhouse's toad (Bufo woodhousii), North Sevier Plateau foothills, Sevier Co, UT

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sign about boreal toads, Wasatch Mtns

mid Aug 2010, UDWR sign about boreal toads (Bufo boreas boreas), Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT

This is as close as I’ve come so far to seeing a boreal toad.

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tiger salamander, dead, ventral, Wasatch Mtns

late Sept 2010, tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum), dead-on-road, ventral, Wasatch Mtns, Utah Co, UT

This terrestrial adult was crossing the paved road one autumn morning when air temp was <50F.

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Different shot of same specimen above:

tiger salamander, dead, dorsal, Wasatch Mtns

late Sept 2010, tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum), dead-on-road, dorsal, Wasatch Mtns, Utah Co, UT

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habitat of tiger salamander, Wasatch Mtns

late Sept 2010, habitat of tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum), Wasatch Mtns, Utah Co, UT

This creek was on one side of the road, while the other side had rolling sandy hills of scattered gambel oak & juniper.

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earlier snakes, 2002-2005

December 29, 2010

I’ve reached back into dusty envelopes of prints and compiled these scans of photos of snakes from the days when I hauled around my 1970s Minolta (non-SLR) 35mm film camera…along with its macro-lenses required for close-ups.  In my daypack then I carried strips of wrapping-paper ribbon on which I’d marked specific distances, so I could tape the ribbon to the side of the lens and aim for the proper distance-to-subject according to a conversion chart.  The closeups posted here were a result of that.  Sure wasted plenty of photo-developing on out-of-focus close-ups.  But that film camera easily took (& still takes) very nice shots of farther subjects.

Because taking photos then was fairly laborious (& expensive), I photoed primarily the less-often-seen species.  Those less-often-seen snake species are represented in this post in higher proportion than they were encountered across these four years.  I’ve included a few habitat shots, and some specimens are shown in more than one photo.

I regret I failed to photo some specific specimens during these years…such as a neonate nightsnake in Beaver Co’s San Francisco Mtns, a “giant” ~56cm female nightsnake motionless on a dirt road at dusk in Salt Lake Co’s Wasatch Mtns, plateau-striped whiptails in Washington Co’s Pine Valley Mtns foothills and Iron Co’s Hurricane Cliffs, a subadult coachwhip snake basking just after a spring rain in Washington Co’s redrock desert, a neonate western skink in Juab Co’s West Tintic Mtns, & a greenish blacktail rattler along a dirt road in southern Arizona.  I even passed up photos of a couple of photogenic desert tortoises along paved roads in Washington Co.  The two prettiest western-US lizards I’ve seen were ones seen during these four years but not photoed–one oddly vibrant turquoise blue male western fence lizard in the western foothills of Millard Co’s House Range; and the super-bright-orange-sided female lesser earless lizards of late summer, in the eastern foothills of Pima Co’s Baboquivari Mtns in southern Arizona.  If I had had my easy-to-use digital camera back then, I would have recorded shots of all those.  And, I would probably have obtained better shots of specimens I did photograph than some of the shots here in this post.

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great basin gophersnake, subadult, Canyon Mtns

mid July 2002, great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), subadult male, Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT

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utah milksnake, dead-on-road adult female, Oquirrh Mtns

mid Aug 2002, utah milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum taylori), dead-on-road adult female, Oquirrh Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

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Different shot of same specimen above:

utah milksnake, dead-on-road adult female, ventral, Oquirrh Mtns

mid Aug 2002, utah milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum taylori), dead-on-road adult female, ventral, Oquirrh Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

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great basin rattler, adult, Canyon Mtns

mid Sept 2002, great basin rattler (Crotalus lutosus), adult, Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT

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habitat of great basin rattler adult, Canyon Mtns

mid Sept 2002, habitat of great basin rattler (Crotalus lutosus), adult, Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT

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regal ringneck snake, adult male, dead, Pine Valley Mtns

early Oct 2002, regal ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus regalis), adult male, dead on dirt road, Pine Valley Mtns foothills, Washington Co, UT

DNA sequence data, from this specimen I collected, became part of a Utah State University graduate student’s publication on ringneck snake phylogeography.  Most ringnecks found in Utah have been found at higher elevations, but I came across this one in redrock desert habitat below 4,000 ft elevation.

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rubber boas, adult males basking, Wasatch Mtns

mid April 2003, rubber boas (Charina bottae), adult males basking, Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT

These two early-spring male boas were temporarily collected and became part of a friend’s research study to observe scalation variations among individuals.  They were found basking together, in contact, in position only slightly altered in this photo.  Late-afternoon air temperature was 72F, and their sunlit rock’s surface temperature was 83F.  The larger one was 80 grams, 57-cm-long; and the smaller was 53 grams, 50-cm-long.  Following the researcher’s release of them a few days after I found them here, I again found the smaller male basking at the very same site 11 days after my initial find, and then I found him again–a third and final time basking in the same place–8 more days after that.  Did not see the larger male again there, after the first time.

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habitat of rubber boas, adult males basking, Wasatch Mtns

mid April 2003, habitat of rubber boas (Charina bottae), adult males basking, Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT

Plant species in this field of view include Quercus gambelii (gambel oak), Acer negundo (box elder), Artemisia tridentata (big sagebrush), Artemisia ludoviciana (wormwood), Chrysothamnus nauseosus (rubber rabbitbrush).

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utah mtn kingsnake, adult female, Hurricane Cliffs

mid April 2004, utah mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana infralabialis), adult female, Hurricane Cliffs, Iron Co, UT

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Different shot of same specimen:

utah mtn kingsnake, adult female, closer, Hurricane Cliffs

mid April 2004, utah mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana infralabialis), adult female, closer, Hurricane Cliffs, Iron Co, UT

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Different shot of same specimen:

utah mountain kingsnake, adult female, head-on, Hurricane Cliffs

mid April 2004, utah mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana infralabialis), adult female, head-on, Hurricane Cliffs, Iron Co, UT

This specimen was an interesting find for several reasons.  1) The boulder crevice I found her in the first day I saw her contained a second adult of the same species alongside her, probably a male.  That second adult was more inclined to flee than she.  2) She had an old wound in her posterior, visible as a constriction (an abruptness of tapering) in this head-on photo’s right foreground.  This wound had healed fully but may have limited her reproductive capability. (Could an egg pass the constriction?)  3) The bulge inside her, clearly visible in this photo’s central rear, was a large food item, probably a mammal or bird.  Her attempt to digest it despite mid-April’s low temperatures is probably what induced her to seek some afternoon sun’s warmth.  4) I returned the afternoon following the day I first saw her (after the intervening night’s one-inch snowfall in the area), found her again, alone this time, and gently removed her from the crevice for these photos and some measurements.  When I subsequently returned her to her crevice she simply re-assumed her initial position at the crevice edge’s warmest spot, instead of retreating from me out of sight.  5) When a friend passed by the same area one week later, he checked the same crevice and again found this female, this time in mating position with another adult, very probably a male.  He obtained further photos, including photos that show the female’s food bulge I documented in these photos was no longer noticeable.  6) These observations demonstrate how early in the season this cold-adapted and fairly high-elevation snake species can be feeding and mating in Utah.

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habitat of utah mtn kingsnake, Hurricane Cliffs

early May 2006, habitat of utah mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana infralabialis), Hurricane Cliffs, Iron Co, UT

I returned to this utah mountain kingsnake habitat a couple years later and took this habitat shot.  The primary trees in this habitat (& in this shot’s foreground) are Pinus edulis (two-needle pinion) and Juniperus osteosperma (utah juniper).  Quercus gambelii (gambel oak), Cercocarpus montanus (alderleaf mahogany) and Populus angustifolia (narowleaf cottonwood) also occur nearby.

The presence of kingsnakes here is supported by lizard species that can constitute their prey.  At this site, sagebrush lizards occur at moderate density, and sideblotch lizards at low density (as they wander in occasionally from lower-elevation habitat nearby).  What’s interesting to me is I’ve learned collared lizards and plateau striped whiptail lizards also occur here, but at what I’d call very low density…for I’ve seen each of those species only once in over 20 visits to this site.  For those two additional lizard species, this constitutes less optimal habitat than other sites’ where I’ve seen them much more easily.  I think collared lizards prefer habitat that’s less shady & more rocky (and has higher densities of the small lizard species…on which they feed).  And, I would say plateau striped whiptails prefer habitat with more vegetative cover close to the ground and greater density of low-elevation gambel oak (& leaf litter) than exist here.  Of course, these four lizard species I’ve noticed so far in 20+ visits do not necessarily constitute the only four present here.  I suspect western fence lizards, western whiptails and western skinks could also occur here–although I have not seen those.

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utah milksnake, dead-on-road adult, bird-pecked, Wasatch Mtns

mid May 2004, utah milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum taylori), dead-on-road adult, bird-pecked, Wasatch Mtns, Utah Co, UT

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Different shot of same specimen above:

utah milksnake, dead-on-road adult, bird-pecked, ventral, Wasatch Mtns

mid May 2004, utah milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum taylori), dead-on-road adult, bird-pecked, ventral, Wasatch Mtns, Utah Co, UT

When I found this dead specimen at the edge of a road, I froze it at the first opportunity, without having photographed it.  Then later, just prior to submitting it to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (for eventual accession into Brigham Young University’s museum), I removed the frozen specimen from the freezer and quickly took these shots.  That’s why it holds itself awkwardly–it’s frozen.

I found this specimen, very unexpectedly, at noontime.  I think it’s more likely it was hit by a vehicle that morning than the previous evening.  Few people search for milksnakes moving in the morning, do they?–but maybe some do.

When I found this I declared it to be a female.  The posterior place where some predator–probably a bird?–pulled out some internal tissue from this specimen seemed right where the male sexual organs would have been.  (You can see this in the photo above.)  This specimen was either a male that had had his organs removed or a female that never had them.  I did not have the confidence to poke around and try to identify female-specific organs.  Although I could not be certain, I guessed based on the tail length that this was a female.  (Females have shorter and thinner tails than males.)  In retrospect, I should have just declared this specimen to be of unknown sex.  I have seen more milksnake tails now since 2004, and now know males can have pretty short & female-like tails.  Also, I have heard, from others more experienced finding utah milksnakes than I, that adults on the move in spring tend to primarily be males, while adults on the move in late summer tend to primarily be females.  So maybe this one was a male…that had had his sexual organs pretty specifically extracted, after death, by some predator.

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california kingsnake, adult male, Henry Mtns area

mid May 2004, california kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae), adult male, Henry Mtns area, Garfield Co, UT

This remains the only specimen of this species I have found in Utah.  I found it up above 6,200 ft, in what I thought seemed like potential utah mountain kingsnake habitat.  It was outstretched in the open in the early evening, under cloudy skies.

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arizona mtn kingsnake, subadult male, dead on road, Patagonia Mtns

late Aug 2004, arizona mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana pyromelana), subadult male, dead on road, Patagonia Mtns, Santa Cruz Co, AZ

Partly because I kept and bred a captive lineage of arizona mountain kingsnakes supposedly descended from this mountain range in Arizona, during a visit to southern Arizona I was interested to see this species’ habitat there in that range.  I was also able to salvage this specimen during my 1.5 days spent poking around that range.  It was very recently road-killed, and very likely had been run over by the US Border Patrol SUV that was the only vehicle that seemed to share that stretch of dirt road with mine there that night.  I later transferred this specimen to a biologist based at Arizona State University, for his examination of its gut contents and its submission into that university’s specimen collection.  There certainly was not any food item of much size within its skinny diameter.  Some photos of mountain kingsnakes kept in captivity show pretty chubby snakes; but this wild specimen is quite trim like most wild specimens.

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Different shot of same specimen:

arizona mtn kingsnake, subadult male, dead, dorsal, Patagonia Mtns

late Aug 2004, arizona mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana pyromelana), subadult male, dead on road, dorsal, Patagonia Mtns, Santa Cruz Co, AZ

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Different shot of same specimen:

arizona mtn kingsnake, subadult male, dead, ventral, Patagonia Mtns

late Aug 2004, arizona mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana pyromelana), subadult male, dead on road, ventral, Patagonia Mtns, Santa Cruz Co, AZ

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habitat of arizona mountain kingsnake, along road, Patagonia Mtns

late Aug 2004, habitat of arizona mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana pyromelana), along road, Patagonia Mtns, Santa Cruz Co, AZ

In this kingsnake’s habitat there were several species of conifers, much grass, and no nearby exposed rock nor apparent surface water.

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great basin gophersnake, extra-large adult male, Black Mtns

mid May 2005, great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), extra-large adult male, W Black Mtns, Iron Co, UT

This ~140-cm-long gophersnake remains the largest I have seen.  It was stretched out like this on an E-facing slope on a cloudy morning, trying to absorb a little warmth from the eastern sky.

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One can come across snakes’ shed skins with some regularity, just by watching carefully while walking around.  With a little effort, one can usually identify the snake species each shed skin came from–if you note the degree of keeling on the scales, whether the anal plate is single or divided, how big the eyes are, and the indications of contrasting pattern that are often visible.  One can also be more rigorous and pay attention to finer details of scalation, but usually that is not necessary.

Here are some instances where I found a shed skin from a nonvenomous snake and took some photos.  It occurs to me that these were all from excursions when I failed to find a live snake.  I guess a searcher who has been failing to photo a live snake may be more inclined to photo snake sheds.

In the early 1990s, scientists began isolating DNA useful for genetic work from shed reptile skin–although higher quality DNA is routinely obtained from fresh, living internal tissue.

great basin gophersnake, shed skin, House Range

mid June 07, great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), shed skin, House Range, Millard Co, UT

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yellowbelly racer, shed skin, Wasatch Mtns

early Aug 09, yellowbelly racer (Coluber constrictor mormon), shed skin, Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT

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habitat of yellowbelly racer's shed skin, Wasatch Mtns

early Aug 09, habitat of yellowbelly racer's (Coluber constrictor mormon) shed skin, Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT

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great basin gophersnake, shed skin, Canyon Mtns

early Sept 09, great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), shed skin, Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT

The large gophersnake must have wound around these juniper branches as it slid out of its old skin.

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striped whipsnake, shed skin, Antelope Range

mid Oct 09, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), shed skin, Antelope Range, Iron Co, UT

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habitat of striped whipsnake's shed skin, Antelope Range

mid Oct 09, habitat of striped whipsnake's (Masticophis taeniatus) shed skin, Antelope Range, Iron Co, UT

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yellowbelly racer, shed skin, San Pitch Mtns

late Sept 2010, yellowbelly racer (Coluber constrictor mormon), shed skin, San Pitch Mtns, Juab Co, UT

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habitat of yellowbelly racer's shed skin, San Pitch Mtns

late Sept 2010, habitat of yellowbelly racer's (Coluber constrictor mormon) shed skin, San Pitch Mtns, Juab Co, UT

The San Pitch Mtns is a place I have visited very little.  I wonder what other reptile species might live up around those high SW-facing outcrops in this photo?

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