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
SOUTHEAST
March 2004
 2 of 4
SOUTHEAST
March 2004
 2 of 4
The next day starts beside a swamp, the cypress still barren and gray and waiting for warmer weather.  So are we, for that matter.  The thermometer was down in the lower 40s at night and not expected to rise much above 70 during the day.  With such cool temps our prospects are looking somewhat doubtful.   We walk around the woods and see some encouraging signs, such as lizards basking on branches.  At least a few herps are out; perhaps others will follow.     So we begin flipping sheets of tin in the surrounding forest, hoping a patch of sun has convinced some snake it is a good place to warm up.   Happily, at least one is persuaded, as we learn when Danny turns this piece and discovers a Southern Copperhead.      Danny also plays a key role in finding our next snake, this time adding a touch of drama.  We move on to another site, a sprawling wasteland of discarded appliances and piles of tin  an environmental eyesore for people, but a sheet-metal spa for heat-loving herps.     The three of us spread out to distant corners of the dump, when Ron and I hear Danny’s voice on our walkie- talkies:  “Uh, guys, there’s a big Diamondback over here.”  Off we run!  Flying over broken glass (well, actually I trip), all excited to see another of our top targets.   I spot Danny and hear an angry buzz getting louder as I get closer.   We arrive with a reverent “Wow . . .”  and immediately press Danny for details.  “I was going to flip this,” he begins, pointing to the remains of an ancient tailgate.  Well, it seems he was so focused on that perfect-looking piece in front of him that he never noticed this 4' Rattlesnake right behind him!  She was basking against a rusty appliance, and when he stepped backwards in her direction  within two feet!  her rattle went crazy.  Danny spun around, jumped about 20 feet in the air, caught his breath, then took in the sight of his first Eastern Diamondback in the field.      So Danny is on a streak.  This is his first time herping the South, and he’s doing quite well with the snakes.  The roads, however, are another story. First Danny gets caught in a speed trap, and then he gets caught in a real trap (where did that ditch come from?).   Fortunately, we’re able to get out from one of those and continue with our trip.  Unfortunately, the cool weather seems to be suppressing herp activity, and most of the remaining sites today prove to be unproductive.   That’s not to say our time is wasted.  For example, we learn from Ron that once there was a surprising number of Jews in rural Carolina communities.  He had been studying the subject for a class he was teaching, and so we hear a bunch of good stories.  And then while driving around, as if to prove his point, we spot this sign in the middle of nowhere, South Carolina:       Wonder if Cohen liked snakes?  Perhaps the Grunwald brothers aren’t the first Jewish herpers to ride that road.   We finish the day amidst oaks and Spanish moss, exploring the ruins of an abandoned house.  I turn a long piece of half-buried tin, and underneath lies a Copperhead, all coiled and composed.           Find one more snake, then call it a day as falling temps tell us no more for now.       
Southern Ringneck Snake Diadophis punctatus punctatus
 Danny Mendez
Green Anole Anolis carolinensis
Eastern Fence Lizard Scelporus undulatus
Southern Copperhead Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Crotalus adamenteus
 Danny Mendez  Danny Mendez  Danny Mendez