We have already observed many, many more snakes than at this point in 2013. This may be due to the increased precipitation so far in 2014. There has been flooding in some drainages in the past week, and that may push snakes into higher ground... we've unfortunately seen a lot of snakes dead on roads (DOR). We've picked up a few new species for the project this week, including 2 Glossy Snakes (both DOR) and a Great Plains Ratsnake. We also observed our first Western Ground Snake of 2014 (only the 2nd observed on the project, although we have found many shed skins for this species). The rapid-inventory, Visual Encounter Surveys we use may not be ideal for fossorial (ground-dwelling) species, so it's always a delight when we do see them! We also found 2 Round-tailed Horned Lizards - fewer than 30 individuals of this species have been reported in Colorado.
From the Crew...
Celina - "This week found us split into our crews for the summer, and I enjoyed showing Devin Comanche National Grassland. We found a species that wasn't recorded during surveys last year- a Great Plains Rat Snake! This individual was found in the evening after the sun was going down, warming up on the road. So far there appears to have been a lot more rain than last year and we're seeing more individuals moving around- it gives me high hopes for what we'll see this summer! We also got to see Round-tailed Horned Lizards, which are even harder to find than their other cryptic cousins."
Beth - "Back on Pawnee National Grassland this week, impressive blooms of white Evening Primrose made the fields look like they were tucked under a thin sheet of snow. The 80 degree weather told us differently, however, as we drove through the eastern side of the grasslands past hundreds of wind turbines. On our last morning in the field, Jake and I finally found some time to hike around the Pawnee Buttes. The trail meandered around the stunning structures and through some carved-out sandstone where we found two memorable Short-horned Lizards; one about the size of a quarter and the other a particularly vivid adult. After being introduced to horned lizards this summer and seeing dozens of individuals for weeks already, they’re spiked grumpy faces still make me laugh."
Jake - "One of the most memorable experiences from this week came in the form of an afternoon surprise on the dirt roads of Pawnee: a nice, healthy Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis). On the way to one of our survey sites, we happened to see the large snake making his way across the road. He was a little startled as we pulled up, but after determining that we were no immediate threat, he quickly moved off the road into the tall grass; I've never seen a rattlesnake move so fast! All he wanted to do was leave us alone, but I’m glad we got the opportunity to see him, even as briefly as we did- he was one of the finest examples of rattlesnake I've ever seen in this state, and if the size of his rattle was any indication, had been around those grasslands for a while. It’s always an incredible experience to see something so dangerously beautiful."
Devin - "This week I really enjoyed spending time at Picture Canyon, and even found an Ornate Box Turtle crawling across one of the hiking paths there. I’d never seen a box turtle before, so that was a really exciting moment for me. We also got a chance to see some Round-tailed Horned Lizards, which was a really unique experience. I’m looking forward to seeing some cool Texas herps next week!"