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
MISSOURI
June 2011
 2 of 4
MISSOURI
June 2011
2 of 4
Next day we’re off to a glade, Missouri’s version of a meadow, joined by Wayne’s wife, Rachel, and their friend, Darrell.  Wayne leads us through woods into a vast clearing. We spread out, sweeping through the grass in search of scattered rocks, lifting them to uncover an occasional inhabitant.    Specks of color are also scattered across the hillside prairie.   But early summer flowers are not the only specks we find.  I’m about to flip a rock when I notice speckles visible through a gap.  It takes a moment, then suddenly I realize what I’m seeing!  I reach into the opening, make a grab, and lift the rock with my other hand to reveal Midwestern royalty.         Everyone gathers round to admire, and we take turns taking pictures.  While Ron and I linger to appreciate this unfamiliar (to us) subspecies, Wayne returns to flipping rocks.  It’s not long before he’s rewarded with another of our target species, the Midwestern cousin to our eastern Corn Snake.   Another few hours of searching, but it’s getting hotter, and that’s it for this glade.  Trekking back through the woods, Ron tries a good-looking rock, and comes up with a good-looking Ribbon Snake. Walking a gravel road, we come across an unusual sight:  a Ringneck on the crawl.  These fossorial snakes normally stay hidden, and it’s rare to see them out and about.         Through fields of wildflowers we make our way to another glade. Nothing under the rocks, but in a rotting log I see just the slightest hint of a tiny tail.  I gently tease out the snake, but then I’m not sure what it is.  At first I think Smooth Earth Snake, but the color isn’t quite right, and the dark, flat head tells me it’s some kind of Tantilla, a snake I’ve rarely found.  Very cool. Back on the gravel road, and this time, a sad sight:  a Three-toed Box Turtle, most likely sick, covered with flies and their eggs.      And yet another Ringneck crawling around in the daylight, apparently very confused about its identity.  First, it freezes and kinks up like a defensive Ratsnake.  Then it periscopes like a Racer, moving away with its head raised high.  I’ve never before seen a Ringneck behave like this.  Weird.        At a nearby pond, one more Ribbon Snake.  I’m still enamored of how colorful these Westerns are compared to our eastern variety.     And then there’s this silly Racer.  I spot it stretched out on a pile of rocks, but as we approach, the snake crawls down into a crevice.  The rear half remains exposed, draped over the rocks.  Then the head emerges from an opening at the bottom, with the tail still in sight, just off to the side. We get closer, so the snake begins to vibrate its tail like mad, the way Racers normally do when threatened.  Only this one doesn’t realize that the moving object in front of its face is actually attached, so he starts striking at his own tail!  Cute as a puppy. That night Ron and I say farewell to Wayne and Rachel (thanks again for being such generous hosts!) and we head for tomorrow’s rendezvous with another group of herpers.    
Flat-headed Snake Tantilla gracilus
Rough Earth Snake Virginia striatula
Missouri Tarantula
Prairie Racerunner Aspidoscelis sexlineata viridis
Speckled Kingsnake Lampropeltis getula holbrooki
Great Plains Ratsnake Elaphe emoryi
Prairie Ringneck Snake Diadophis punctatus arnyi