Some fun in the evening!
Sorry for the lack of updates, I’ve decided to start taking my larger camera with me in hopes to get proper pictures of what’s going on. I have a whole barrage of stuff that happened this week, so brace yourself, this is the first of a few. 😀
You might be looking to the right and wonder what’s going on. Well, that’s my hand (pardon the hangnails), and I’m holding an Eastern Milk Snake. Why am I holding a snake? I’ve started herp monitoring at Huiras Lake!!!
I am doing it through the entire month of July. What might it entail? Glad you asked! We have dozens of snake boards setup throughout this state natural area and as it gets within 3 hours of dusk, I have to set out on a snake catching adventure. It’s fairly simple, actually. I go to the boards, record which one they are (A-1, A-2, etc) and lift them up. That’s where the fun begins.
Each board holds something unexpected it would seem. Some have tons of ants, one I found had the very first stage of a bumblebee nest (and an angry queen who was ready to sting whatever got near her 8-10 little larva!!!). In others you’ll find crayfish holes, or rodent nests. The most excitement, however, comes when you find the snakes! In this part of Wisconsin we’re mostly catching common garter snakes. I am on the lookout for plains garter snakes, and the very rare and endangered butler’s garter snake. There are a couple other species that I might run across, but these will be the ones that I’m most likely to catch. There are total of 21 snakes in Wisconsin. Only 2 are venomous, so you really shouldn’t be afraid of them.
After I lift the boards, it’s my job to do the best that I can to catch any and all the snakes that are under them. Escapees are bound to happen (especially when there are dozen+ snakes under one board!!!) but so far I’m doing well getting the majority of them. Speed is key, you have to lift the board and immediately start grabbing snakes before they flee. At one point last night I had 3 snakes in one hand, and 5 in the other. They spray a little musk and poo at you to get away, but don’t bite. I put them in a pillowcase to settle them a little, and then it’s time to survey them! I have to identify the snake, measure the snake’s length, determine their sex (either visually or with a probe) and then the finally mark the snake by clipping ventral scales in a numbering system. Each snake takes a couple minutes, depending on how quickly they take to my gentle, warm, caring hands. 😉
They are rather tame, often just liking the chance to curl up along my arm and soak in some heat. As you can see, they come in all different sizes. Some only 6 inches long, others a couple feet … as you can see. Minus the zillions of mosquito bites on my neck (soon to be solved by a mosquito head net!) it’s an utter blast. Interested in joining me sometime this month? Let me know! We’ll head out and catch some snakes! 😀