All text copyright  Eitan Grunwald.  All photographs copyright  Eitan or Ron Grunwald  except photographs by others are copyright per photo credits.  All rights reserved.  Terms
FLORIDA
April 2002
1 of 1
FLORIDA
April 2002
1 of 1
       
I’m driving through north Florida en route to the panhandle, in time to do a little road cruising before sunset.     The next day I meet up with some friends, Frank and Gerry, in a forest where trumpet pitcher plants are popping up among the grasses between the pines. The weather turns hot so we concentrate near water, looking around bridges and wading out among the cypress knees to see what we can find. At one stop we count about a dozen Yellow-bellied Turtles and a couple of Alligators, and atop a tangle of branches we spot a Brown Water Snake basking in the shade. We slosh out into a swampy area and come across a picture-perfect log, beautifully weathered with smooth, split wood and graceful hollows. We’re commenting on its ideal design for an aquatic display, and how by all rights there should be a snake basking on it, at which point Frank says, “Snake!”  We watch a juvenile Brown Water Snake slither and dive off the log, where it had been hiding in plain sight.  Keeping up his streak, a few minutes later Frank spots the rusty bands of a very colorful juvenile Moccasin that retreats into the hollow of a cypress stump.   As evening approaches we meet up with Gerry and a friend of Frank’s.  Being four people and two cars, we decide to split up to cover twice the ground. We agree to meet every hour for show-and-tell.  Gerry and I do OK the first hour, chasing a small gator off the road and finding a Rough Green Snake, a distressingly injured Eastern Box Turtle, and a Moccasin. We also score a couple of Pygmy Rattlesnakes, one of which is typically-colored, while the other is hypo- anerythristic (whitish dorsal stripe instead of a normally reddish one, and a pale gray background color with none of the usual reddish markings visible anywhere). Frank and his friend also find a couple of Pygmies and a DOR Moccasin, as well as a cute little Glossy Crayfish Snake.  Then almost as an afterthought, Frank says, “Oh, yeah, we found something else,” and with a sly grin he pulls out this gorgeous Corn Snake.   OK, so now Gerry and I are feeling like, “Just wait till next hour!” and off we go. We meet up again around 9:00 pm, and this time Frank and friend have hit the Water Snake jackpot, scooping up five in just 15 minutes, plus a Peninsular Ribbon Snake, and another Glossy Crayfish Snake. And, oh yeah, another large Corn Snake, this time a feisty male who’s even more red and beautiful than the last one. By comparison, Gerry and I find just two Banded Water Snakes, a Peninsular Ribbon Snake, and a juvenile Moccasin. But then, just before meeting the others, I pull off the road to let a tail-gating truck go by.  And just as my car comes to a stop, this stunning young Eastern Diamondback comes crawling out from the grass along the highway. We all agree that this round goes to the visitors. We cruise one more round, but once again Frank has the home-field advantage.  Gerry and I find one DOR scarlet snake, but Frank, of course, finds three AOR!   On the way out we come across two more DOR Corns and one DOR Scarlet, and Frank shows us three Scarlet King Snakes from the previous week. The following day I join Gerry to cruise the Gulf Hammock area, but unfortunately, conditions are perfect (nighttime temps of about 70 F following a late afternoon thunderstorm), which means, naturally, we get skunked. TMTC frogs, toads, and one DOR Garter Snake, but not a single live snake the whole evening. Fortunately, Gerry was kind enough to bring with him an extraordinarily beautiful Bluestripe Garter, so he could at least show me an endemic from the area. Pictures don’t do it justice.   Oh, we did catch one other herp in hand, a Gray Treefrog. The next morning I wander a bit around Gulf Hammock, enjoying a flock of ibis circle overhead, then head back up to the panhandle.  I find a shy Gulf Coast Box Turtle in the middle of a road as I make one last cruise on my final evening in Florida.   Although not as much activity as the other night, finding this classic Corn Snake is worth the trip.     Once again, the most frequently found species are Cottonmouths, Water Snakes, and Pygmy Rattlesnakes.   I also find a common snake with a not-so-common pattern, an Eastern Garter Snake that is completely checkered without any stripes at all.  
Florida Cottonmouth Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti
Florida Red-Bellied Snake Storeria occipitomaculata obscura
Rough Green Snake Opheodrys aestivus
Eastern Mud Snake Farancia abacura abacura
Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake Sistrurus miliarius barbouri
Corn Snake Elaphe guttata guttata
Normal
Hypo-anerythristic
Scarlet King Snake Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides
Banded Water Snake Nerodia fasciata fasciata
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Crotalus adamanteus
Northern Scarlet Snake Cemophora coccinea copei
Bluestripe Garter Snake Thamnophis sirtalis similis
Gulf Coast Box Turtle Terrapene carolina major
Gray Treefrog Hyla chrysocelis
Eastern Garter Snake Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis