nonvenomous snakes, 2006

December 10, 2010

I cringe somewhat at the minimal attention I put into some of these photos when I took them.  As I mention on my Introduction Page, it was not until December 2009 that I decided to begin this blog.  Some photos taken prior were only good enough to unambiguously record the species of a specimen.

Some snake species are usually rather difficult to photograph.  I find nonvenomous snakes tend to be harder to photograph than rattlers.  Rattlers’ proud grumpiness tends to make them slower to flee when disturbed.

Adult striped whipsnakes are usually difficult unless they happen to be in a rock corner without a crevice to escape down (or–I learned in 2010–unless they are up in a small juniper, where they seem to think they are less visible & slow down).  The two photos below (of different specimens, a couple miles apart) involved holding the snake’s tail with one hand & the camera in the other.

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striped whipsnake, adult, Indian Peak Range

late April 06, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), adult, S foothills of Indian Peak Range, Iron Co, UT

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striped whipsnake, adult, Indian Peak Range

early May 06, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), adult, S foothills of Indian Peak Range, Iron Co, UT

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wandering gartersnake, adult, Mineral Mtns foothills

mid May 06, wandering gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans), healed adult along paved road, Mineral Mtns foothills, Beaver Co, UT

This gartersnake had an old scar on its neck (visible) that did not affect its locomotion.

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rubber boa, adult female, dirt road, Wasatch Mtns

late May 06, rubber boa (Charina bottae), adult female, dirt road, Wasatch Mtns, Wasatch Co, UT

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Different shot of same specimen as above:

rubber boa, adult female, dirt road, Wasatch Mtns

late May 06, rubber boa (Charina bottae), adult female in hand, dirt road, Wasatch Mtns, Wasatch Co, UT

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habitat of rubber boa, dirt road, Wasatch Mtns

late May 06, habitat of rubber boa (Charina bottae), adult female, dirt road, Wasatch Mtns, Wasatch Co, UT

This adult rubber boa was out on the sunny sandy road, heading uphill from the heavily vegetated creek toward the sun-warmed rock outcrops and patchy gambel oak.  Rubber boas are usually found active at night or under cloudy skies, or resting under cover.  But this 144-gram, 52-cm-long female was an exception…moving in the sunlight (where air temp was 74F and the sandy, sunny road’s surface was 77F).

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great basin gophersnake, adult, dirt road, East Tintic Mtns

late May 06, great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), adult, dirt road, East Tintic Mtns, Juab Co, UT

In several hours of driving and walking around the East Tintic Mtns, this has been the only live snake I’ve seen.

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striped whipsnake, adult, West Tintic Mtns

late May 06, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), adult as found, West Tintic Mtns, Juab Co, UT

Most whipsnakes I encounter I scare into flight.  However, this one I noticed from a far enough distance that I could gently approach & sneak this shot without causing it to bolt.

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habitat of striped whipsnake, West Tintic Mtns

late May 06, habitat of striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), adult, West Tintic Mtns, Juab Co, UT

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great basin gophersnake, subadult, S of Sheeprock Mtns

late May 06, great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), subadult, dirt road, S of Sheeprock Mtns, Juab Co, UT

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smooth greensnake, in oak, Wasatch Mtns

early June 06, smooth greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis), placed up in oak, Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT

I found smooth greensnakes in central Pennsylvania in the late 1980s.  This species and the common gartersnake, Thamnophis sirtalis, are the only reptile species that live both in central Utah and central Pennsylvania.  Smooth greensnake habitat in Utah–at least some of it–is far drier than Pennsylvania habitat, but still it copes.

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Different shot of same specimen as above:

smooth greensnake, head-on in oak, Wasatch Mtns

early June 06, smooth greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis), head-on in oak, Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT

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rubber boa, subadult under rock, Wasatch Mtns

early June 06, rubber boa (Charina bottae), subadult under rock, Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT

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smooth greensnake, large adult, Wasatch Mtns

early June 06, smooth greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis), large adult, Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT

This specimen was found nearby on the same day but is not the same one shown above.  This one is bigger & duller green.

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yellowbelly racer, female after egg-laying, Canyon Mtns

late June 06, yellowbelly racer (Coluber constrictor mormon), female after egg-laying, Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT

This specimen was in a weakened, dazed state, as I saw it at the edge of a sandy road I walked along.  Its dazed state, plus its wrinkled skin in its posterior (visible), plus the fact it was a female, all lead me to conclude it had laid a clutch of eggs very recently, probably within the past day.  My familiarity with captive-breeding of colubrid snakes also helps me reach this conclusion.  This remains the only instance that I encountered a wild snake that had just laid eggs.  It was in habitat of gambel oak and grasses.

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wandering gartersnake, large adult female, Sheeprock Mtns

early July 06, wandering gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans), large adult female, central Sheeprock Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

I had seen what may have been this same specimen on an earlier visit to this remote canyon–at the same wild rose patch below rubble from an old minepit.  The earlier time there were two adults together of very similar size & appearance, and they seemed to behave as a group, as though they noticed each other’s presence.  On this visit, though, I only found this one there.

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wandering gartersnake, colorful adult, Wasatch Mtns

late July 06, wandering gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans), colorful adult, near Honeyville, Wasatch Mtns foothills, Box Elder Co, UT

This remains the prettiest wandering gartersnake I have encountered.  Appearance of this subspecies is quite variable.

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wandering gartersnake, neonate, central Sheeprock Mtns

early Aug 06, wandering gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans), neonate, central Sheeprock Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

You can tell this photo was staged–that this specimen was gently set on the log, and then the photo was quickly shot before it moved.  A gartersnake would not assume that position on its own.  The usual way for one to place its tail is against its surroundings, not flailing loose like this.

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rubber boa, adult female, during rain, Wasatch Mtns

mid Sept 06, rubber boa (Charina bottae), adult female, moving during rain, Wasatch Mtns, Wasatch Co, UT

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habitat of rubber boa, adult female, rain, Wasatch Mtns

mid Sept 06, habitat of rubber boa (Charina bottae), adult female moving during rain, Wasatch Mtns, Wasatch Co, UT

This 89-gram 46-cm-long adult female boa was out moving late in the season, during light rain with air temperature 58F and the damp substrate’s temperature 62.5F.  The larger plant species apparent in the photo here at about 6,600 ft elevation are (left to right) Artemisia tridentata (big sagebrush), utah juneberry (Amelanchier utahensis), and gambel oak (Quercus gambelii).  Other plant species nearby include Purshia tridentata (bitterbrush), Artemisia ludoviciana (wormwood) and Cercocarpus montanus (alderleaf mahogany).

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yellowbelly racer, neonate male, Wasatch Mtns

late Sept 06, yellowbelly racer (Coluber constrictor mormon), neonate male, Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT

In a different part of the Wasatch Mtns eleven days later, this 30.5-cm-long baby racer was the only snake seen on an autumn walk.  It was up above 6,700 ft elevation in the early evening, warming itself on this sun-warmed rock while air temperature was 71F.  Plant species nearby included Holodiscus dumosus (mountain spray), Quercus gambelii (gambel oak), Petrophyton caespitosum (rockmat), Cercocarpus ledifolius (curlleaf mahogany) and Juniperus scopulorum (rocky mountain juniper).

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One Response to “nonvenomous snakes, 2006”

  1. Paul Cooper said

    Great herp blog! I want to know how to make a similar one. I’m an old herpetologist.

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