Although their photos are not pretty, finding road-killed snakes can be important for documenting some species’ presence in some areas.  All 3 utah milksnakes and all 5 western longnose snakes I have found in Utah, so far, have been dead-on-road specimens.  Of those 8 specimens, the 7 that were in better condition continue their non-living existence as preserved specimens in Brigham Young University’s Bean Museum.

great basin gophersnake, dead subadult, magpie-dropped, Wasatch Mtns

early June 06, great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), dead subadult, dropped by a magpie onto sidewalk, Wasatch Mtns foothills, Salt Lake Co, UT

This gophersnake was dead-on-sidewalk… I saw a magpie holding what I guessed was a long worm, but as I walked up the sidewalk toward it I realized it might not be a worm.  I darted toward it, and startled the bird away from its anticipated meal, which was freshly dead.

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great basin gophersnakes, dead-on-road subadults, Deep Creek Mtns

late Aug 06, great basin gophersnakes (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), dead-on-road subadult males, Deep Creek Mtns NW foothills, Tooele Co, UT

I found these two on the same night, a couple miles from each other.

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striped whipsnake, dead-on-road subadult, Pilot Range

late Aug 06, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), dead-on-road subadult, Pilot Range E foothills, Box Elder Co, UT

From its size, I would proclaim this subadult whipsnake to be a one-year-old.  Just-hatched neonates tend to consistently measure about 30cm snout-to-vent plus 12cm tail (or, at least they did when I found them in 2010).  This one is so much bigger than that, I think, that it must have hatched the year prior (or, perhaps, two years prior?).

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rubber boa, dead-on-road adult, Wasatch Mtns

mid Sept 06, rubber boa (Charina bottae), dead-on-road adult, Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT

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yellowbelly racer, dead-on-road subadult, Wasatch Mtns

mid Sept 06, yellowbelly racer (Coluber constrictor mormon), dead-on-road subadult, Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT

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longnose snake, dead-on-road adult female, W of Canyon Mtns

late July 08, western longnose snake (Rhinochelius lecontei), dead-on-road adult female, W of Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT

This came from a general area where I had not known of this species being found before.  Its habitat is shown in the photo below that I took on following day, after the night I found it.

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habitat of western longnose snake, W of Canyon Mtns

late July 08, habitat of western longnose snake (Rhinochelius lecontei), dead-on-road adult female, W of Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT

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wandering gartersnake, dead-on-road adult, Uinta Mtns

late Aug 08, wandering gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans), dead-on-road adult, North Slope Uinta Mtns, Summit Co, UT

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habitat of wandering gartersnake, Uinta Mtns

late Aug 08, habitat of wandering gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans), North Slope Uinta Mtns, Summit Co, UT

This gartersnake habitat is above 8,500 ft elevation, on the north-facing side of the Uinta Mtns.  I think this is the highest elevation I have ever found a snake.  I would presume these gartersnakes could survive at a higher elevation on the more sun-warmed south slope of a mountain range than the north slope.

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utah milksnake, dead-on-road adult male, Uinta Mtns

early Sept 2010, utah milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum taylori), dead-on-road adult male, South Slope Uinta Mtns, Duchesne Co, UT

More milksnakes in Utah continue to be documented by citizen-scientists who are not professional herpetologists.  Dead specimens…such as the one above…are salvaged & submitted to Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources for eventual museum accession, live specimens are photovouchered & quickly released, and a few live specimens are photovouchered in connection with their state-permitted legal collection.  Through such efforts it grows more evident that this secretive species can utilize very diverse habitats.  They can be found up canyons among fir trees, and in foothills’ habitat with patchy gambel oak & grass, and down in flat arid areas of homogeneous sagebrush or homogeneous greasewood.  I hope citizen-scientists will continue to pass their carefully collected sightings’ information, and salvaged specimens, to the interested professional herpetologists who work for wildlife agencies and universities.

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nonvenomous snakes, 2010

December 15, 2010

2010 was the first season when I anticipated that decent photos I obtained in the field would be posted here on this blog.  I found several specimens each of some of the most easily seen snake species, and took photos of most despite these species’ familiarity.

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great basin gophersnake, adult female, Onaqui Mtns

late April 2010, great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), adult female, Onaqui Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

This adult gophersnake is the first one I have seen in Utah that had no brown on it.  All its spots were black rather than brown.  She was quite annoyed to be disturbed by me for photos on this sunny but cool day.  I found her in the partial shade of a big sagebrush shrub.  She retreated into a crevice in the limestone, after our photos.

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striped whipsnake, adult female, Onaqui Mtns

late April 2010, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), adult female, Onaqui Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

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striped whipsnakes, adult pair, Confusion Mtns

early May 2010, striped whipsnakes (Masticophis taeniatus), adult pair interacting, Confusion Mtns, Millard Co, UT

This appeared to be a male-female pair.  The one that was smaller was chasing the bigger one, which responded by retreating–but with much less energy than adult striped whipsnakes routinely flee from me.  When the larger one climbed up into a utah juniper tree (Juniperus osteosperma), the smaller one was confused for several minutes but tongue-flicked energetically, and eventually followed up into the juniper and continued its pursuit.

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Different photo of same specimen as the larger one above:

striped whipsnake, adult female, Confusion Mtns

early May 2010, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), adult female, into juniper & escaping the male, Confusion Mtns, Millard Co, UT

This specimen seemed calm when I approached for some quick photos after it had climbed into this juniper.  Adult striped whipsnakes are never that calm on the ground when approached.  Because it knew it was in a tree it believed it was less visible–I presume.  Smooth greensakes are similar in being slower-moving, and therefore more easily photographed, up in trees than on the ground.

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habitat of striped whipsnake pair, Confusion Mtns

early May 2010, habitat of striped whipsnakes (Masticophis taeniatus), interacting pair, Confusion Mtns, Millard Co, UT

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great basin gophersnake, subadult, Confusion Mtns

late June 2010, great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), subadult, Confusion Mtns, Millard Co, UT

While walking at night with a headlamp, I noticed this small gophersnake staring up at the bright moon.

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rubber boa, adult male, Wasatch Mtns

early July 2010, rubber boa (Charina bottae), adult male, under rock, Wasatch Mtns, Wasatch Co, UT

Of the 3 rubber boas I have found under rocks, two were juveniles and this was my first adult male.  He was 39 grams, 38-cm-long; and the air temperature was 65F, and the substrate’s temperature under the boa’s rock was 67F.  I believe few adult boas are found under rocks as late as July; but it does happen.

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striped whipsnake, adult, Deep Creek Mtns

late Aug 2010, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), adult, Deep Creek Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

I snapped this shot as the snake was moving quickly.  A second later its head was down a hole.  I only happened to have the camera ready because I was photographing a blue elderberry bush nearby.

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striped whipsnake, neonate female, Deep Creek Mtns

late Aug 2010, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), neonate female, Deep Creek Mtns, Juab Co, UT

In previous seasons I had never found a neonate striped whipsnake later in the same season it must have hatched.  But this season I found three of them, and photographed all three.  There were hatchling sideblotch, western fence and sagebrush lizards in the area I found this one.  She was under a rock on an overcast morning.

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striped whipsnake, neonate male, Asphalt Ridge

early Sept 2010, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), neonate male, Asphalt Ridge area, Uintah Co, UT

This one, found far eastward on the other side of Utah, was out moving in the early evening in a rocky area about 5,500 ft elevation that held sideblotch and sagebrush lizards.

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Different photo of same specimen as above:

striped whipsnake, neonate male, Asphalt Ridge

early Sept 2010, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), neonate male, Asphalt Ridge area, Uintah Co, UT

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great basin gophersnake, subadult, S of Vernal

early Sept 2010, great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), subadult, on dirt road, S of Vernal area, Uintah Co, UT

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Some years, mid-October is too late and too chilly to bother looking for snakes in northern Utah.  But on one warm mid-October day, in a generally S-facing area of the Stansbury Mtns, I happened to find three snake species within a short time–the four specimens shown below.

great basin gophersnake, neonate, Stansbury Mtns

mid Oct 2010, great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), neonate female, under metal, Stansbury Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

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striped whipsnake, neonate female, Stansbury Mtns

mid Oct 2010, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), neonate female, Stansbury Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

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habitat of whipsnake & gophersnake, Stansbury Mtns

mid Oct 2010, habitat of striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus) and great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), Stansbury Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

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yellowbelly racer, adult female, Stansbury Mtns

mid Oct 2010, yellowbelly racer (Coluber constrictor mormon), adult female, Stansbury Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

I had heard from friends that the dorsal coloration of Utah’s yellowbelly racers can sometimes be brown rather than the usual green-gray color; but I had not seen one of those brown ones until this specimen.  It was basking on talus.

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great basin gophersnake, neonate, Stansbury Mtns

mid Oct 2010, great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), neonate male, basking, Stansbury Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

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nonvenomous snakes, 2008-2009

December 14, 2010

In 2008 I made what I would probably consider my most important snake find so far.  It is documented in the first four photos below.  In Nevada’s South Snake Range, in a place that looked to me to be too arid to bother searching for mountain kingsnakes, I found one.

First photo shows what I first noticed as I found it–its tail protruding from under a juniper:

utah mtn kingsnake, tail, S Snake Range

mid May 08, utah mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana infralabialis), adult male, tail as found, South Snake Range, White Pine Co, NV

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Second photo shows the snake from a different angle.  It still has not moved.  Air temperature in the shade where it lies is 67F.  I called out to other annual Nevada Mountain Kingsnake Survey participants, searching near me, and they obtained better photos of this specimen than I did.

utah mtn kingsnake, juniper, S Snake Range

mid May 08, utah mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana infralabialis), adult male, under juniper as found, South Snake Range, White Pine Co, NV

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This photo shows the arid limestone habitat where this snake was found.  Plant species include Juniperus osteosperma (utah juniper), Pinus monophylla (singleleaf pinion pine), Cercocarpus intricatus (littleleaf mahogany), Ephedra viridis (green ephedra), Glossopetalon spinescens (spiny greasebush), and Atriplex confertifolia (shadscale).  There is no surface water, nor what I would call riparian vegetation, near this area.

habitat of utah mtn kingsnake, S Snake Range

mid May 08, habitat of utah mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana infralabialis), adult male, South Snake Range, White Pine Co, NV

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Here is one more shot of the uncharacteristically dry Utah Mountain Kingsnake habitat in which this specimen was found.  Or: maybe it’s not so uncharacteristic for this species–and people just have not bothered searching for and documenting the species in such habitat?

habitat of utah mtn kingsnake, S Snake Range

mid May 08, habitat of utah mountain kingsnake (Lampropeltis pyromelana infralabialis), adult male, South Snake Range, White Pine Co, NV

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striped whipsnake, subadult, Canyon Mtns

mid May 08, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), subadult, under rock, Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT

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yellowbelly racer, neonate, Wasatch Mtns

mid June 08, yellowbelly racer (Coluber constrictor mormon), neonate, under rock, Wasatch Mtns, Salt Lake Co, UT

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striped whipsnake, subadult, Canyon Mtns

late July 08, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), subadult, Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT

The Canyon Mtns are a mountain range–along with the Stansbury Mtns, the Oquirrh Mtns and the Sheeprock/West Tintic Mtns–where both striped whipsnakes and yellowbelly racers share habitat.  I have personally found both species those four different places.  Within Utah, farther south and west of these ranges there seem only the whipsnakes, without the racers.  The habitats utilized and the likely prey species are similar for these two diurnal, big-eyed, fast-moving snake species.  What determines how the two species can share habitat together in a few ranges, and what restricts the range of racers farther southwest?

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great basin nightsnake, neonate, Canyon Mtns

late Sept 08, great basin nightsnake (Hypsiglena chlorophaea deserticola), neonate, moving on surface, Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT

Finding this little nightsnake here was a sort of surprise.  I don’t believe they had been documented in this range before, and I had never heard of anyone else seeing one there.  Just after the sun set, this tiny hatchling was out crawling on the surface of limestone rubble.

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wandering gartersnake, adult female, Sheeprock Mtns

mid May 09, wandering gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans), adult female, before eating sagebrush liz, Sheeprock Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

The two photos below I included earlier in a lizards’ post, but I will repost them here.  The gartersnake above and in the two below is the same specimen.  She seemed thinner than most I see of her length.  When she was not energetic enough to flee like usual after I photographed her, I decided to offer her a freshly captured sagebrush lizard.  She gladly accepted.

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sagebrush liz caught by wandering gartersnake, Sheeprock Mtns

mid May 09, sagebrush liz (Sceloporus graciosus), subadult, caught by wandering gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans), female, Sheeprock Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

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sagebrush liz inside wandering gartersnake, Sheeprock Mtns

mid May 09, sagebrush liz (Sceloporus graciosus), subadult, inside wandering gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans), female, Sheeprock Mtns, Tooele Co, UT

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striped whipsnake, adult as found, S Snake Range

late May 09, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), adult as found, South Snake Range, White Pine Co, NV

This is really a photo of the habitat, although the outstretched snake is visible in the lower center.  Below is different photo of same specimen above.

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striped whipsnake, adult, South Snake Range

late May 09, striped whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus), adult, South Snake Range, White Pine Co, NV

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great basin gophersnake, gravid female, Canyon Mtns

late June 09, great basin gophersnake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola), gravid female, Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT

The well-developed eggs could be clearly felt inside this ~76-cm-long female, that was basking on a sun-warmed rocky area above 6,500 ft on a partly cloudy morning.  Air temperature was 70F and the rock substrate was 75F.

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wandering gartersnake, neonate, Canyon Mtns

early Sept 09, wandering gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans), neonate, on dirt road, Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT

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wandering gartersnake, adult, Canyon Mtns

early Sept 09, wandering gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans), adult, on dirt road, Canyon Mtns, Millard Co, UT

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