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
TEXAS
April 2017
 2 of 6
TEXAS
April 2017
 2 of 6
Much like our over-ambitious watersnake, Darin and I attempted to take in more than we should.  During the course of our ten-day trip we stayed in ten different places; passed through three dozen counties; explored Piney Woods, Oak Woods & Prairies, Gulf Coast Prairies & Marshes, Coastal Sand Plains, South Texas Brush Country, plus the Lower Rio Grande Valley; and traveled 3,730 miles on interstate expressways, divided highways, two-lane blacktops, unpaved gravel, and dusty dirt roads. With all that driving, no surprise that of the 203 snakes we found, alive or dead, 158 were on the road.  Our tally included 12 Texas Rat Snakes, but every one of the 11 found on-road was DOR, which did surprise me.  With that kind of frequency, you’d think we’d encounter a live one on the road at least once, but another vehicle always seemed to find them first, with unfortunate results. Fortunately, the one live Rat Snake we do see is safely away from the road, found by Robert to start off our day.      Flipping continues at a different spot, where we score another of our top targets:  a fluffy mouse nest.   With resident Milk Snake. We are shocked  shocked to find another Ribbon Snake. We move on for a hike, hoping to walk up on something in habitat.   It’s a pleasant stroll through woods and wetlands, but no herps in sight.  It’s time for Robert and Nicole to head home, so we return to the vehicles and say our good-byes.  Back in the car, we start seeing herps again. First, a Box Turtle beside the road.   And then the slamming of brakes, the flying of almonds, the shouting of Darin, and we’re out of the car, chasing down a Coachwhip.  Off it streaks under a bush, zig-zags to another, then disappears.   We peer into thick vegetation, but no snake; I’m thinking maybe it’s gone down a hole.  But Darin takes command of the scene and directs a systematic search.  We clear one section, then move on.  I poke into the shrubs while he stands on the other side, prepared to apprehend.  For a long time, nothing, and then a glimpse of movement.  We reposition and reverse roles.  Darin shakes the bushes, I wait to intercept.  “Get ready, get ready!”  On my side, a glimpse of snake goes gliding through the undergrowth, visible between leaves.  I dive in, and our teamwork pays off. For such an energetic species, it’s always unusual to see Coachwhips go limp after capture, pretending to be dead.  But then they revive, unmistakably alert, and ready to race again.   For me, it’s also unusual to see, and say, “the  native Red-eared Slider.”  They’re unwelcome invaders everywhere else, including back home in New Jersey, so it’s a little strange knowing the ones in Texas actually belong here.   We try cruising after dark, but by then temps have fallen too much, so instead we spend the night driving to a distant destination.  Come morning we retrace our steps from two days earlier, hitting the same sites Robert had shared, hoping for a more dramatic Buttermilk this time, but all we find are many Earth Snakes again.  Oh, and four more Ribbons . . . is it possible they’re not so rare?   Another long haul that afternoon, heading south towards the Gulf.  We leave behind the dense forests of the Big Thicket and roll down to the Coastal Plain, flat and featureless, except for occasional windbreaks and defiant houses waiting for a storm surge.   Lots and lots of cruising, with nothing but DORs (Racer, Rat Snake, and Ribbon) and the inevitable Brown Snake.   The day slips into darkness, the pastel sky turning purple as this prose.          For a while we wander around on foot, following an armadillo snuffling through shrubs, as if we’re hunting a quasi-herp (raise your hand if you’ve ever been fooled by the tail of a dead armadillo while road-cruising).  We stay out late, score zero snakes, and conceding defeat, call it a disappointing night.
Western (Texas) Rat Snake Pantherophis obsoletus (lindheimerii)
Western (Louisiana) Milk Snake Lampropeltis (triangulum amaura) gentilis
Three-toed Box Turtle Terrapene carolina triunguis
Red-eared Slider Trachemys scripta elegans