Wednesday, July 30, 2014

FROGGIES AND SNAKIES AND TURTLES, OH MY!

Some Local Friends For You To Meet


We are in the throes of summer and the leaves and plants grow thickly, hiding many creatures as they go about their daily routines.  Every so often I find one, though, and I'm sure you'll enjoy meeting them.

The first picture is of a corn snake (late spring) and you'll need to look hard to find it.  Their camouflage is almost perfect among the leaves and twigs.  I was walking up the driveway and heard a rattling sound.  First thought was - WOW, a rattlesnake!  Haven't seen one of them around here in 35 years or so!  Then the sheer weight of probability hit home and I knew it was a only remote chance it could be a rattlesnake.  Closer (but careful) inspection revealed this common, lovely snake - a Corn Snake.

These pretty snakes are prized as pets because of their non-aggressive personalities.  I hesitate to call them "friendly" or "gentle" because that is misleading.  They are not prone to bite, although they can and sometimes do.  They become accustomed to handling by people - best I can say:>)  Snakes do not "love", have "affection", or look forward to cuddling.  Before making a snake a pet, think long and hard about it.  How big will it get?  What does it eat?  How does it get water?  Can I spend the time needed to keep it clean and healthy?  Can I commit to caring for it for a lifetime (up to 25 years in the case of Corn Snakes).

NEVER RELEASE ANY EXOTIC PET INTO THE WILD!

Corn snakes have an adult size of four to six feet, live up to eight years in the wild (25 years in captivity), and are constrictors.  They hold their meals in their teeth and constrict their prey.

The name "Corn Snake" probably came from farmers who used to store their corn crops in cribs (bins) which drew mice and rats.  Those are the favorite foods of corn snakes so, you guess it, the snakes came for dinner and got their name.

Because Corn Snakes are so popular in the pet trade, the colors available are legion.

They are very similar to Milksnakes (and I could be wrong on this ID - it could be a Milksnake). You can read about them here:  http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Wildlife/Nongame/snakes/profile_milk_snake.htm

More info here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_snake

This is a baby - find the head at the lower left just short of half way up and in front of the stick.  Some of the rest of it is to the right of the stick.  This little guy was about two feet long.
 Our most common toad is the Eastern American Toad.  We've had every size from teeny weeny to big, fat, grandpa toads that were every bit of 3 inches long or better just in the body.  Of course they are completely harmless and are even kept as pets.  I don't advocate for that because the terrariums must be kept immaculate if the toads are to be healthy.  Like any pet, they require care and feeding.

This toad was sitting in a small pool of rainwater in a depression in a rock in our vegetable garden.  See the lovely algae.

The eggs are laid in a reliable pool of water and hatch in a week or two.  The little ones are tiny and black and swim in schools.  They have also developed a "mutualistic relationship with Chlorogonium alga, which makes tadpoles develop faster than normal".  That quote from the Wikipedia article linked below.

They eat spiders, bugs, worms, slugs (what else eats slugs, may I ask!) - all the things you'd want them to eat:>)  Welcome them into your yard or garden:>)


They can't and won't hurt you, but if you pick one up and it gets scared, it will pee all over your hand - effective defense mechanism, don't you think!

Learn more here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_toad

Happy toad:>)
This little one was under a paving stone next to a raised garden bed.  Slugs can be a problem so we were pleased to find this one right in prime slug territory!
Box Turtles are not rare but you'll be lucky to see one in the wild.  We've seen a couple walking through the yard, but the vast majority we see are crossing the road.  If at all possible we stop and put them on the other side (in the direction they are traveling).  People run them over and that's sad.

These turtles are long-lived and are slow to become mature and propagate.  Humans are their worst enemy and although their numbers are okay right now, they are vulnerable.

You'll enjoy this write up.  It's comprehensive and nicely done!  http://www.bio.davidson.edu/people/midorcas/research/contribute/box%20turtle/boxinfo.htm

I found this female on a back road.
 Black rat snakes are a boon to our natural environment.  They eat small mammals, their favorite foods being mice and rats, but they will also dine on lizards, frogs, and bird eggs.  Although they have teeth, rat snakes are non-venomous constrictors.

There are a number of sub-species of rat snake, and they have a wide range.  Some are more passive than others, and we find our population is generally calm with the occasional cranky individual.

We have a "teachable moment".  My husband found a young rat snake in the woods behind our house.  It had some sort of plastic mesh around it's body which was cutting badly into the snake's flesh.  My husband caught it, I held it, and he "operated" by delicately cutting and removing the embedded mesh.  When I let it go, the snake crawled into a stone pile.  Although the wound looked mean, it was clean.  We hope to see it next year and confirm it healed and is living a healthy life.





PLASTIC TRASH HURTS WILDLIFE!
 
The black snakes in our locale regularly reach five to six feet in length, will climb trees, and come into our cellar to shed their skin.  They are our "genius loci" (spirit of the place) - here when we moved in over 40 years ago and are still here.

For an interesting write up on Black Rat Snakes, take a look at

http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/ReptilesAmphibians/Facts/FactSheets/Blackratsnake.cfm


These photos are from a day ago.  A youngster, about 2 feet long, was curled up on top of the phone battery box in a dark corner of the cellar.  There's a small shed skin up in the rafters that could be his/hers - not sure:>).

This picture was taken with my little point & shoot camera because my big girl camera was in the shop for the annual clean and check.  Sorry about these not-so-hot pics but you get the idea of what they look like.

I think this was his/her best side:>)
 Pennsylvania has a number of different kinds of frogs - some live in water, some live on land.  It's no surprise that there are color variations to each kind, and it can be hard make a good ID if you're an amateur like me.  The below images have my best guess, and I encourage you to visit the web sites shown for more information:>)  Frogs are AWESOME!

http://www.paherps.com/herps/frogs-toads/ 

http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/bullfrog.htm

http://www.paherps.com/herps/frogs-toads/green_frog/

http://www.paherps.com/herps/frogs-toads/pickerel_frog/

http://www.paherps.com/herps/frogs-toads/northern_leopard_frog/

Green Frog

Green Frog

Either a Pickerel Frog or a Leopard Frog

Bullfrog
One of the most common and beloved of our wild turtles, the Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) can be found in almost every pond, lake, and wetland habitat.  They are often kept as pets, although I gently would say this is not the best idea.  Adults living in the wild can reach more than 40 years of age; maybe this is because they sleep at night and sunbathe most of the day - LOL.

Their food is mostly aquatic vegetation, insects, and maybe a small fish.  The eggs and very young are eaten by snakes, and raccoons and other predators, but as adults their main source of trouble is cars.

To quote Wikipedia on the range of these turtles,
"The most widespread North American turtle,[57] the painted turtle is the only turtle whose native range extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific.[nb 4] It is native to eight of Canada's ten provinces, forty-five of the fifty United States, and one of Mexico's thirty-one states. On the East Coast, it lives from the Canadian Maritimes to the U.S. state of Georgia. On the West Coast, it lives in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon and offshore on southeast Vancouver Island.[nb 5] The northernmost American turtle,[59] its range includes much of southern Canada. To the south, its range reaches the U.S. Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Alabama. In the southwestern United States there are only dispersed populations. It is found in one river in extreme northern Mexico. It is absent in a part of southwestern Virginia and the adjacent states as well as in north-central Alabama."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painted_turtle

Painted Turtles are actually found as fossils, the oldest going back 15 million years in Nebraska.

You can also visit:
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Chrysemys_picta.html





A bit of sun, a bit of gossip - what more could a Painted Turtle ask of life?
I hope you are all enjoying time outside; keep those eyes, ears, and even noses open and have fun finding some marvelous critters of your own!