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
MIDWEST
April 2005
 6 of 6
MIDWEST
April 2005
 6 of 6
Final day of the trip, and I’m debating where to go.  Stay in central Kansas, which has been so productive, or  return to the eastern part of the state?  Decide to try again for syspila, so I head back to those disappointing road cuts for one last attempt.   As I’m leaving I hear the local forecast calling for thunderstorms, and later on I learn that six tornadoes (the first of the season) touched down a few hours after I left, one of them within a mile of where I would’ve been herping had I decided to stay.  Another routine part of the Kansas field experience?   Arrive in the same area I had hunted earlier in the week, but once again strike out on syspila.  Doom and gloom, doom and gloom.  Looks like my last day will be the least successful, but then I have the good fortune to reach Matt Jeppson, who generously invites me for a late afternoon outing in western Missouri.  By the time I get to his place we have only a few hours, so Matt leads me on a whirlwind of special sites, each one living up to the name he’s given them (well, almost).   First up is Copperhead Hill.  Matt walks up to a large rock (“This one never fails”) and pulls it back like a magician lifting the lid of a secret box.  I look underneath and see . . . nothing.  Then Matt says, “There!” and suddenly I notice the neonate Copperhead that seemed to magically appear.   Next we go to Syspila Hill (“This one never fails”). Start lifting rocks, and finally, at last, I find . . . a Garter Snake.   Matt is disappointed  this hill never lets him down but he doesn’t know what he’s up against with me and my curse.  I assure him all will be well when I leave the state. Confidence returns at Calligaster Hill when, right on cue, Matt flips a couple of juvenile Prairie Kingsnakes.   On to Kingsnake Hill, where I am hoping . . . no, expecting . . . to see my first Speckled King.   It’s a weird sensation to be finding snakes with such predictability.  Instead of hunting it feels more like a serpentarium tour, stopping now and then to handle the specimens on display.  Only things missing are signs and a gift shop.   Matt turns a perfect looking rock and turns up a perfecta: While I’m futzing with photos Matt flips another rock and hits the trifecta, his third King in hand. Kingsnake Hill even produces a bonus for us, this beautiful Yellow-Bellied Racer that is unusually blue and exceptionally calm, the final find of my trip.       I arrived in the Midwest feeling curious; I leave feeling slightly stunned.  For my local companions it was nothing out of the ordinary  everyone kept apologizing that we weren’t finding more  but I am amazed by the quantity and variety of herps I had seen.  It was remarkable.   I was extremely fortunate to have been helped all along the way by a terrific bunch of herpers.  My gratitude goes out to Mike Pingleton, Mike Cravens, Chad Whitney, Matt Jeppson, Keith Brekhus, and especially Wayne Brekhus, who helped provide the initial inspiration and organization for this trip.   Thanks, guys.  You made a true believer out of me.  
Osage Copperhead Agkistrodon contortrix phaeogaster
Red-sided Garter Snake Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis
Prairie Kingsnake Lampropeltis calligaster
Speckled Kingsnake Lampropeltis getulus holbrooki
 Matt Jeppson