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Every spring my dad, my brother, our friend Adam, and myself make a trip to find herps. Lately we have gone to southern Illinois to witness the massive snake migration from their winter dens to the swamps at Pine Hills. This has been the focal point of our trips the past few years, but this year we decided to try something different. Last spring, we had been introduced to glade herping in Missouri. We found a lot of snakes in a short amount of time by flipping rocks on one glade, and we liked the experience so much we planned a whole trip around visiting various glades in the central and southern Ozarks. Wayne Brekhus was kind enough to point me in the direction of some locations he has had luck at, and by doing some research I discovered some “hot spots” as well. We had four days, 500 miles to cover each way from Chicago, and acres of open rocky hillsides to explore. These ingredients sounded exciting, and I was very anxious to get out in the field after being dormant for several months, at least as far as herping goes. I had a few species that I really wanted to see. Topping the list was the Western Pygmy Rattlesnake, (Sistrurus miliarius streckeri.) I really wanted to take some photos of this beautiful snake, and though it was early in the season, I was hopeful that we would be able to locate one of these elusive rattlers. After all, we were in prime habitat… Other species I hoped to find were the Eastern Coachwhip, (Masticophis flagellum flagellum) Great Plains Rat Snake, (Elaphe emoryi) Collared Lizard, (Crotaphytus collaris collaris) and the Flat Headed Snake, (Tantilla gracilis.) What would we find in the depths of the Ozarks? Only time would tell…

Our trip began when we left Chicago at 2:30 am. The plan was to drive 8 hours to Central Missouri, and a glade that Wayne had told me about. We arrived there shortly after 10:00am and began the hike to the glade area. After a pleasant walk through a forested area, we came to a clearing and saw the habitat we had traveled all this way to see:

Wayne had taken Eitan Grunwald to this very glade a year earlier, and they turned up a beautiful black phase coachwhip, so I was hopeful that our group would have similar fortune. After about 10 minutes of flipping rocks, and trying to get back into our midseason form, Adam yelled, “Snake!... Coachwhip!” Just like that one of the targets for the trip was found.

Eastern Coachwhip, (Masticophis flagellum flagellum)
Camden County, Missouri

Just seconds after turning up the Coachwhip, my dad found a nice Great Plains Ratsnake, which was the second of our targets that was found. Unfortunately it was opaque and I opted not to take pictures of it, in hopes and expectations of finding more individuals. Not much later, Tim unearthed a juvenile Yellowbellied racer. After these three finds, things slowed down and all we found were tarantulas and scorpions.

After leaving the glade we drove to a nearby lake to kill time, and we turned up a few “accidental herps” including a Rough Green Snake, a very large Snapping Turtle, and a Northern Water Snake.

This Green Snake was found near that spectacular view.

Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys a. aestivus)
Camden County, Missouri

From here, we headed south and found a place to stay for the night, and scouted a couple of glades that we planned to go to the next day. Right near the road at one of the glades we were able to find several ringneck snakes, earth snakes, and a speckled Kingsnake. It was getting dark so we decided to return in the morning, and see what these glades had to offer.

We ate a quick dinner at a KFC. On our way back to the motel we heard the familiar sound of Spring Peepers calling from nearby. I’ve been wanting to get photos of several different species of frogs while calling, so we decided to locate the chorus of peepers. Adam and I figured out they were calling from a small pool in a backyard. I figured we would get permission and be able to photograph them. I went to the front door while Adam went right for the pond. I guess I startled the homeowner, and when explaining what I wanted to do she quickly responded with, “Get off my porch right now or I’m calling the police.” I was sort of surprised by this, so we got out of there, and we discovered another area where frogs were calling from, only this time they were Gray Treefrogs.

Gray Treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis)
Douglas County, Missouri

Following a solid nights sleep, we awoke to do it all over again. We were soon back in the field, and now within the range of the Pygmy Rattlesnake. The group returned to the glades we had looked over the night before with high hopes for a productive day of herping. Before long, I found two speckled kingsnakes, one juvenile and one subadult.

Speckled Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula holbrooki)
Ozark County, Missouri

We also found several more Rough Earth Snakes on the very scenic hillside.

Ozark County Glade

Rough Earth Snakes (Virginia striatula)
Ozark County, Missouri

A little later on, Tim spotted two mating box turtles. I knelt beside the pair and took a few pictures, and when I got up I was none to pleased to realize I had been kneeling in a patch of seed ticks. My legs were covered in them, but I quickly brushed them away, thus fixing my little problem.

Three Toed Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina triunguis)
Ozark County, Missouri

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