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
May 2000
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May 2000
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This spring my brother Ron and I returned to the same spots where we had seen so much the year before.  This time our target is the Canebrake Rattlesnake (once considered a distinct subpecies, but now simply regarded as the southern coastal plain variation of the Timber Rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus).  We’re hopeful because temps are warmer this time around, but upon our arrival we also discover that conditions are much drier.  Perhaps that accounts for our not seeing as much on this second trip (unfortunately, no Canebrakes) but we do find some different species.   The first is a great spot by Ron. We’re searching the edges of a small, weedy wetland and his eye catches the slightest bit of movement in the middle.  There is a tiny something sticking up just above the surface of the water among the weeds, and we decide it’s either a real little frog, or just maybe, the tip of a snake’s nose.  Only one way to find out, so Ron goes wading up to his knees in mud, carrying the net we brought for just such occasions.  He gets out to the spot, does sort of a blind scoop in the general vicinity of the dot, and comes up with a nice fat Redbelly Water Snake.  It promptly rewards him by disgorging the very slimy, disgusting remains of a green frog.  We do not take a picture of that.      We have a repeat experience in another grassy pond, but this time the nostrils belong to a turtle. We also catch several Black Racers, including one under the same piece of tin where we flipped a Kingsnake the year before. Flip another piece of tin and almost miss this cute little guy, thinking for a split sec that it’s an earthworm, and for good reason:  It's a Worm Snake. We also find amphibians hiding under cover. Another cutey that we spot dashing between boards.   In a knee-deep swamp we discover some eggs buried in a rotting log.  No idea what species they’re from.   The common lizard where there are pines is the Fence Lizard.  We catch this female in the classic going-up-the- tree routine, with Ron on one side and me on the other, till we succeed in chasing it into someone's hand.  Amazingly, once we hold her for a few minutes she becomes completely cooperative, letting us position her for poses with no further attempt at escape.  I'd like to claim that it’s just our charm and the usual effect we have on females, but our wives know better.   Ironically, a much less common lizard in North Carolina is Anolis carolinensis, the Green Anole.  This one makes sure we know who is king of the rail, as he bobs and extends his dewlap for our benefit .     And we pick up a hitchhiker.  I’m holding a female Five-lined Skink by the open back door of our van when she simply squirts right out, lands in the way-back, and disappears under the seats. Look and look, but to no avail, so we take off for our next spot.  About an hour later I happen to glance down at my feet and there's the Skink resting on my boot. I slowly raise my foot towards my hand, make a grab, and miss. The Skink jumps on my sleeve, slithers north to my shoulder, then jumps to the dashboard, where I finally pin her in the corner.  We take a mug shot, then send the elusive fugitive on her way. Finally, the highlight of this trip. While road cruising at night we had twice come upon fresh roadkills of Mud Snakes. One was still twisting from the car in front of us (don't you just hate that?).  At last, on the morning we’re leaving, right in broad daylight, it’s our turn.        Notice the pointy tip of his tail. Like all Mud Snakes I've ever handled, this one makes absolutely no attempt to bite, but he certainly keeps annoying me with little jabs from the other end.  About 20 years ago I found a 6' giant heading under my parked car in the Everglades. I thought it would make the perfect pet:  impressively big, uncommon, absolutely beautiful, and completely docile. Only problem is that their food is harder to find than they are. I brought it home thinking I could feed it frogs, only to discover that they feed almost exclusively on Amphiuma, which I've never found in the wild (although once on an Everglades hike Ron actually came across a Mud Snake in the middle of swallowing one). I understand some people have had success scenting frogs from frozen Amphiuma, but I have no experience with that. I released my Everglades Mud Snake a week later and haven't tried again since. As we return the Mud Snake to the swamp by the road, we almost step on this nearly invisible Green Snake. I know they're common, but I think they're just beautiful. This was our last live herp of the trip, and we left satisfied, but still sorry we hadn’t seen a Canebrake.  On the bright side, we had a good excuse to go back!  However, our desire to see a 100% guaranteed Rattlesnake was strong enough to send us out west the following year, leading to our first time ever herping in California and Arizona.
Ground Skink Scincella lateralis
Redbelly Water Snake Nerodia erythrogaster
Common Musk Turtle Sternotherus odoratus
Northern Black Racer Coluber constrictor constrictor
Eastern Worm Snake Carphophis amoenus
Eastern Narrowmouth Toad Gastrophryne carolinensis
Atlantic Coast Slimy Salamander Plethedon glutinosus ssp.
Green Anole Anolis carolinensis
Northern Fence Lizard Sceloporus undulatus
Five-lined Skink Eumeces fasciatus
Rough Green Snake Opheodrys vernalis
Mud Snake Farancia abacura