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Focusing on Reptile and Amphibian Nature Study

Last week’s Focus on Reptiles and Amphibians challenge was to start a focus study of reptiles and amphibians in our local area whether that was actually going out and finding a subject to investigate or to use this week’s challenge as a preparation for a future outing. We were fortunate enough to have two different snakes cross our trail (literally) last week and for my nature journal I used the printable reptile notebook page from the Reptile and Amphibian Grid Study entry earlier this month.

I pulled out our field guides and did some research into our two snakes and recorded the information and a couple of quick sketches for my journal. Snakes are not my favorite nature study subject but it is helpful to know a little bit about these two common snakes that live in our area.

I started a “reptile and amphibian” section in my nature notebook and I plan on adding to it as subjects arise. I have a short list of things to research and record as I have time over the next few weeks.

Nature Journal Organization - tabs
You can read more about how we organize our nature notebook pages in a binder in this entry:
How to Organize Your Nature Notebook Pages.

Have you seen any reptiles this month?

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Today’s Teachable Moment: Gopher Snake

So who said they rarely see snakes in the wild? Me? Yikes, I should have know better than that.

Today on our hike I took a little side trail because I could see some delphiniums blooming on the hillside. I was by myself and down about 20 yards from where I left Mr. A and our dog sitting in the shade.

I was busy taking photos when I looked to my left and just a few feet away was this huge snake laying half on the trail and half in the dry grass.
Gopher Snake 1

He was so still that I thought maybe he was dead and at first I couldn’t see his head. I hollered up to my son not to come down with the dog because there was a really big snake. He wanted to know what kind because immediately we think rattlesnake when we see a big snake.

Gopher Snake 2
I checked his tail and didn’t see a rattle and then I moved ever so slightly closer to see if I could locate his head. Wow! He was a big snake but I did manage to see the head and it was round and not diamond shaped so I felt fairly comfortable identifying it as something other than a rattler. I am guessing that he was at least 5 feet long. I snapped a few photos so we could take a closer look once we got home and make a positive identification. I didn’t get the whole snake in the photo and I did not take a photo of his head since I did not want to get that close to a live snake.

We had done the preparation work (you can read our entry HERE) for all the snakes on our list last week so I thought it was either a kingsnake or a gopher snake. We came home and pulled out the field guide and sure enough….gopher snake or Pituophis melanoleucus. The guide says gopher snakes can be up to 7 feet long. They eat small animals such as gophers, mice, ground squirrels, and small rabbits. They squeeze their prey until movement stops and then it swallows it whole.

I found this graphic online for our future reference:
Know Your Snakes: Differences Between Gopher Snake and Rattlesnake

I knew we wanted to do more snake study but I never dreamed a subject would come our way so quickly.