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 Post subject: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: June 1st, 2012, 12:56 pm 
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Joined: July 8th, 2011, 1:04 pm
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Location: King County, WA
Hello Fellow Field Herpers!
I wanted to post an update on the progress of the Herp Tracking Book.

For those of you who may have not heard of this project, I am co-authoring a book on Tracks & Sign of Reptiles and Amphibians of the USA. Salamanderhunter, aka Joe Letsche had started this project, then handed the torch to me. So I am continuing the work along with one other person. We have a contract with StackPole Books and have been working on this project officially for over a year, and unofficially for several more. This book bring light to the tracks and sign left by herps, to help others use these signs to study and find herps, and … my personal goal is to help encourage a more positive understanding of and relationship with herps in general.

I think that reptiles and amphibians are often the least cared about when it comes to conservation, and I want to see that change.
Also, I am a big fan of using the skills of tracking to understand the world around me. So, naturally, this is an extension of that practice for me. Herp tracking is a very little studied and little understood arena in the tracking world. This book will hopeful begin to change that.

As for the hard facts of where we are in the project, this should give you a sense of things. Below is a list of all the herps we have track data for thus far.

The numbers are:

Turtles/Tortoises=14
Snakes = 23,
Salamanders = 9
Lizards = 33
Frogs/Toads = 19
Crocodilians = 1

A current total of 99 species!

Tracks

Crocodilians
American Alligator

Frogs and Toads
American Toad
Blanchard’s Cricket Frog
Boreal Toad
Bullfrog
Canyon Treefrog
Cope’s Gray Treefrog
Couch’s Spadefoot
Cuban Treefrog
Eastern Spadefoot
Florida Cricket Frog
Fowler’s Toad
Giant Toad
Great Plains Toad
Greenhouse Frog
Northern Red-legged Frog
Pacific Chorus Frog
Pig Frog
Red-spotted toad
Southern Toad

Lizards

Blainville’s Horned Lizard
Bleached Earless Lizard (Common Lesser Earless Lizard)
CA Legless Lizard
Coachella Valley Fringe-Toed Lizard
Common Chuckwalla
Colorado Desert Fringe-toed lizard
Desert Banded Gecko
Desert Iguana
Desert Night Lizard
Desert Spiny Lizard
Flat-tailed Horned Lizard
Gila Monster
Green Anole
Green Iguana
Greater Earless Lizard
Ground Skink
Little White Whiptail
Long-nosed Leopard Lizard
Long-Tailed Brush Lizard
Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard
Northern Keeled Earless Lizard
Prairie Lizard
Pygmy Short-horned Lizard
Sand Skink
Schott’s Tree Lizard
Side-blotched Lizard
Skilton’s Skink
Southern Alligator Lizard
Texas Horned Lizard
Tiger Whiptail
Western Fence Lizard
Yellow-backed Spiny Lizard
Zebra-Tailed Lizard

Salamanders

Arboreal Salamander
Black-spotted Newt
CA Slender Salamander
Coast Range Newt
Ensatina
Rough-skinned Newt
Tiger Salmander
Western Long-Toed Salamander
Western Red- Backed Salamander

Snakes

Banded Sand Snake
Burmese Python
California Kingsnake
Common Gartersnake
Corn Snake
Desert Striped Whipsnake
Coachwhip
Eastern Milksnake
Glossy Snake
Gopher Snake
Mexican Hognose Snake
Northwestern Gartersnake
Ring-Necked Snake
Red Diamond Rattlesnake
Rosy Boa
Scarlet Kingsnake
Scarlet Snake
Night Snake
Sharp-tailed Snake
Sidewinder
Speckled Rattlesnake
Spotted Leaf-Nosed Snake
Western Shovel-Nosed Snake

Turtles and Tortoises

Desert Tortoise
Florida Box Turtle
Florida Mud Turtle
Gopher Tortoise
Ornate Box Turtle
Striped Mud Turtle
Western Painted Turtle
Yellow Mud Turtle
Spiny Softshell Turtle
Common Musk Turtle
Red-eared Slider
Spotted Turtle
Common Map Turtle
Pacific Pond Turtle

On top of just tracks, there is also sign. That includes scat, digs, burrows, nests, trails, feeding sign, carcasses and sheds. I am still compiling and organizing data for these categories.

I have been really impressed and inspired by how much help we have received with this project. Much of it has come directly or indirectly through this website. So thank you everyone who has helped us move forward and find herps!

Joe has done a huge amount of work on the turtles and I own him a debt not easily paid for his knowledge and continuing support and contributions. His knowledge of track and sign of turtles continues to be staggering to me. :thumb:

Please let me know if you are interested in contributing photos, measurements, or even suggesting scientific papers to read in support of this project. This is all being funded out of pocket, and so we don't have any money to offer you, but we would certainly credit you for anything you wish to contribute.

No location or specific regional information will be shared through this project nor in this book. Those of you have have already contributed know that any places you have shown me or shared with me have and will be kept confidential. ;)

And... whats a post without some pictures, anyway...

So here is a few herps making tracks...

Texas Horned Lizard

Image

Skilton's Skink

Image

Rocky Mountain Toad

Image

Desert Striped Whipsnake

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: June 3rd, 2012, 3:41 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:30 pm
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Location: St Louis, MO / Hartford, CT
Nice book. Mammal tracking is really gaining popularity in the Northeast. There are a number of classes and monitoring projects. We have found some herp tracks but I didn't think to take any photos. I can see some utility in tracks. Sometimes just knowing something is there, once piece of evidence, gives one the stamina to continue the search and leads to the find. It's a hard lesson to learn, but my biggest downfall as a herper has been giving up too soon on a site. Might be worth including sheds and eggs in your book as that's the signs of snakes I most often find other than the actual snake


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: June 4th, 2012, 9:52 am 
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Location: chillicothe, ohio
Once I became proficient at turtle tracking...I prolly increased actual turtle encounters by 2 or 3 times. Once my brain was trained to see the tracks I suddenly started finding hatchling snappers in mud puddles, soft shells buried in drainage channels, etc... Yes, you can look at a track and differentiate snappers from softies from kinosternids from emydids. You start to see behavioral patterns and seasonal patterns of movement... I could go on and on...but suffice it to say that herp tracking (as well as any other type of tracking) is ridiculous... :beer: and thanks for the shout Filip!


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: June 4th, 2012, 2:11 pm 
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Joined: July 8th, 2011, 1:04 pm
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Location: King County, WA
stlouisdude,

Quote:
Nice book. Mammal tracking is really gaining popularity in the Northeast. There are a number of classes and monitoring projects. We have found some herp tracks but I didn't think to take any photos. I can see some utility in tracks. Sometimes just knowing something is there, once piece of evidence, gives one the stamina to continue the search and leads to the find. It's a hard lesson to learn, but my biggest downfall as a herper has been giving up too soon on a site. Might be worth including sheds and eggs in your book as that's the signs of snakes I most often find other than the actual snake


Its great to hear that mammal tracking is gaining popularity in the NE.

I like what you said regarding seeing even one piece of evidence can give you the stamina to continue a search.

This exact thing has happened to me many times. I see a fresh scat, shed or set of tracks as I walk along and then I know there is an animal nearby. I have found tortoises, lizards,frogs, toads, salamanders and many snakes this way. Infact, I would say the I now find 2 to 3 times more snakes than I use to because of these little pieces of "evidence."

Yes, I am planning to include sheds in the book. Eggs are much more challenging to gather, mostly because herp nest are often hidden and hard to find. I would love to add more nests and eggs to the book.

Joe,

Quote:
Once I became proficient at turtle tracking...I prolly increased actual turtle encounters by 2 or 3 times. Once my brain was trained to see the tracks I suddenly started finding hatchling snappers in mud puddles, soft shells buried in drainage channels, etc... Yes, you can look at a track and differentiate snappers from softies from kinosternids from emydids. You start to see behavioral patterns and seasonal patterns of movement... I could go on and on...but suffice it to say that herp tracking (as well as any other type of tracking) is ridiculous... :beer: and thanks for the shout Filip!


I am very impressed with your knowledge of turtle tracks and sign. :beer:

I agree with you that as you learn tracking, your ability to find the actual animal goes up exponentially. Tracking is ridiculous... ridiculously awesome! :thumb:

And, it is attainable for anyone who has the interest. I think many field herpers can be good trackers with some practice. You all are already out there looking closely at the landscape for subtle clues to help you find herps. These skills just add more tools to your nature awareness arsenal. Challenging species such as Gila Monsters and many others can be so much easier to observe in the wild if you can learn to recognize their tracks, scat and sheds.

I hope that more and more herpers begin to see the amazing opportunity that tracking presents them as they are out field herping.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: June 4th, 2012, 2:40 pm 
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I wish I had photographed the tracks of a few herps in Nevada recently. I do have a picture of snake battle/courtship in sand from the Pyramid Lake area. If it's useful I'd gladly let you have it for the book.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: June 4th, 2012, 2:55 pm 
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Andy,

Thanks for the thought. That sounds really cool. Any chance you can post it here?

Even if I don't use the photo directly, I will certainly use it as reference to learn more about the tracks. Either way, I would love to see the photos!


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: June 5th, 2012, 6:29 am 
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Sure, I've posted them before. My guess was either gopher or coachwhip as those were the most commonly seen species in the area and they seemed to thin for lutosus.

Image

Image

We also found a half-swallowed, then regurgitated mouse and you could see the struggle and the coils of the constriction in the sand, but with the mouse still being sticky we tried to find the snake and forgot to photograph the scene.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: June 7th, 2012, 11:50 am 
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Andy,

Thanks for sharing your photos! That is a very unusual set of trails. I found similar stuff out in dunes in JTNP and was not sure about it. Were those tracks on a slope?

Here is what puzzles me about this trail...

What a snake moves forwards, it pushed against whatever substrate or object it makes contact with. But, the force is generally pushing straight behind the animal, not out to the sides. Here is a photo of a typical snake trail, this one probably from a common garter snake.

Image

The sand is getting displaced at an angle, but you can still see the force is coming in and pushing backwards as the animal flexes against the substrate to go forwards. What is puzzling about the pics you posted is that the sand is getting displaced directly to the side (parallel) to the trail. So, the force has to be pushing that way as the animal moves forward. So, what does that mean? I am not sure, but its peculiar and I am still working on this one. I will forward this on to some other really experienced tracks to get their opinions.

Joe? Jeremy Westerman? Others, any thoughts on this?


Too bad about photographing the regurgitated mouse! That sounds like a cool find.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: June 7th, 2012, 1:34 pm 
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If I remember correctly it was in a fairly flat spot in the sandy dunes. It was not the only set we found like this but was certainly the most clear. You could clearly see out of the frame the two tracks coming from opposite locations toward eachother, paralleling eachother, then the intertwining you see, and then a separation. I am not sure if it could be breeding, male combat, fighting, a predation attempt, but certainly was two snakes interacting and their tracks crossing over in a uniform pattern. Individually the tracks were similar to other tracks that led us to gopher snakes but these particular tracks were longer more "gliding" style tracks that made me think coachwhip.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: June 7th, 2012, 6:12 pm 
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Location: chillicothe, ohio
My first response without studying the photo too much... when one trail is on top of another...the pressure against the substrate can get tricky to read...often hopelessly confused. Parts are destroyed and other parts are modified. So i wouldn't look too much at the section of the trail where one track is super imposed on the other. My other thought is that...if you look at the separate tracks only... the gait is different than what it is in your 'garter' track. In the garter track...apparently a single wave was used to propel the snake forward, hence the significant mounding in a backwards direction. In the double track the snakes were using multiple waves simultaneously...hence the backward pressure was spread out among several waves...so the resulting mounding is less...appearing to almost be equal to the lateral pressure. If that makes any sense. :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: July 2nd, 2012, 1:03 pm 
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I am still looking into these trails. Here are photos from similar trails I found in some sandy areas in the southern Mojave desert.

1)
Image

2)
Image

3)
Image

4)
Image

5)
Image

The challenge of tracking is there are always mysteries out there that you may not know for some time or may never figure out. This project is delving into an area that is mostly unstudied by serious wildlife trackers, so there are many mysteries! No doubt, some of those mysteries will remain mysteries well beyond the publishing date of this book! ;)

I am still waiting to get some more experienced wildlife trackers to chime (I sent an email to several).

What we can do for now is talk about what we see.

To me, the 5 photos I shared show trails that are rather suspicious. They are inconsistently registering in an area that would have left some decent snake trails, the pressure and impact left by this animals movements does not show the same kind of effect on the substrate I would expect to see from a snake. I think what is intriguing to me about this is, many of these mystery trails included sites where the animal in question dug down into the soil. You can see evidence of digs in photos 2,3,4 & 5. Also, in photo 4 I can see faint kangaroo rat rats around the dig which could be part of the trail.

Andy, the trail you shared could still be a snake moving at very slow speed. But, something about it is not sitting right with me. It is so similar to the trails in the photos I just posted, so I dunno what to make of it. I suspect if it is a snake, its a small species and its doing something very odd behaviorally.

I guess I am struggling to describe what else isn't quite right about it, because part of my sense around that is based on having looked at the trails of many snakes at this point and having that burned into my brain. It just does not quite match the patterns I have stored in there. But, does that mean that it is not a snake? Or does that mean that I still have a lot of learn about the variety of snake trails? Hopefully, time will tell.

You don't really grow in the arena of tracking skills if you aren't willing to say, "I don't know." And with this, I am definitely still in a place of not knowing.

Joe,

Quote:
My first response without studying the photo too much... when one trail is on top of another...the pressure against the substrate can get tricky to read...often hopelessly confused. Parts are destroyed and other parts are modified. So i wouldn't look too much at the section of the trail where one track is super imposed on the other. My other thought is that...if you look at the separate tracks only... the gait is different than what it is in your 'garter' track. In the garter track...apparently a single wave was used to propel the snake forward, hence the significant mounding in a backwards direction. In the double track the snakes were using multiple waves simultaneously...hence the backward pressure was spread out among several waves...so the resulting mounding is less...appearing to almost be equal to the lateral pressure. If that makes any sense. :lol:


I see what you mean. It is possible that 2 snakes moved along the same stretch and left this odd looking trail. Perhaps, if was a male courting a female? Could it be a patch-nosed snake, or some other very long and thin species? Snake locomotion on sand can get pretty weird, no doubt.

Here are some examples of weird and interesting gaits from gartersnakes:

NW Gartersnake

Weird combo of lateral undulation and slide-pushing...
Image

Sidewinding...
Image

Common Gartersnake

Odd uphill gait...
Image

Typical Lateral Undulation
Image


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: July 2nd, 2012, 5:15 pm 
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Fil,
Quote:
My first response without studying the photo too much... when one trail is on top of another...the pressure against the substrate can get tricky to read...often hopelessly confused. Parts are destroyed and other parts are modified. So i wouldn't look too much at the section of the trail where one track is super imposed on the other. My other thought is that...if you look at the separate tracks only... the gait is different than what it is in your 'garter' track. In the garter track...apparently a single wave was used to propel the snake forward, hence the significant mounding in a backwards direction. In the double track the snakes were using multiple waves simultaneously...hence the backward pressure was spread out among several waves...so the resulting mounding is less...appearing to almost be equal to the lateral pressure. If that makes any sense. :lol:

...This comment was referring to Andy O'Conners photos. In regards to your photos...I guess I don't have much to add. I see these trails occasionally and have watched a snake leave these 'lateral pressure' trails. There wasn't anything particularly unusual about the gait that I could discern...and I could only scratch my head. If memory serves me correctly...I believe I see this most with smaller snakes...either young snakes or smaller species such as ringnecks. Snake locomotion is it's own beast I guess and it's difficult to imagine all the little nuances of muscle flexion and pressure that propel a snake in the varieties of locomotion they exhibit. I didn't help much but keep us updated on any progress in figuring it out!


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: July 2nd, 2012, 5:36 pm 
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Further information for my photo... Possible species in this area include western coachwhip, striped whipsnake, patchnose snake, GB gopher snake, longnose snake, GB rattlesnake, ground snake, and common kingsnake. (I might be leaving something out). Snakes visually confirmed in the area were rattlesnakes (these were obviously not crotalus tracks), gopher snakes, and coachwhips. The area of these tracks was very flat so there would be little resistance to a slow moving snake and we found multiple tracks of single snakes that were similar in "faintness" in the sand that led to gopher snakes in bushes. There were two other occurrences of two tracks coming together and either spiraling or overlapping each other, but the picture I posted was the most obvious and easiest to capture on camera. There is no doubt in my mind that these were snakes causing these tracks, I just don't know what species or what behavior caused this. What I meant earlier is that you could follow either individual track before they came together for quite some distance and there were obvious variances when the substrate became more/less coarse, and when there were dips and hills, locomotion changed.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: July 3rd, 2012, 2:47 pm 
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Andy,

Quote:
Further information for my photo... Possible species in this area include western coachwhip, striped whipsnake, patchnose snake, GB gopher snake, longnose snake, GB rattlesnake, ground snake, and common kingsnake. (I might be leaving something out). Snakes visually confirmed in the area were rattlesnakes (these were obviously not crotalus tracks), gopher snakes, and coachwhips. The area of these tracks was very flat so there would be little resistance to a slow moving snake and we found multiple tracks of single snakes that were similar in "faintness" in the sand that led to gopher snakes in bushes. There were two other occurrences of two tracks coming together and either spiraling or overlapping each other, but the picture I posted was the most obvious and easiest to capture on camera. There is no doubt in my mind that these were snakes causing these tracks, I just don't know what species or what behavior caused this. What I meant earlier is that you could follow either individual track before they came together for quite some distance and there were obvious variances when the substrate became more/less coarse, and when there were dips and hills, locomotion changed.


I have given your photo and post a lot of time and thought. Also, had some new insight from others and suspect that your trails may be from a pair of courting patch-nosed snakes. I am not 100% certain, but that is what my gut says on this one. Not to mention, process of elimination takes out rattlesnakes, coachwhip, gopher out just on trail width. Long-nosed snakes have shorter bodies and would likely leave deeper s-curves when using this form of locomotion (lateral undulation). Ground snakes also would leave a different pattern, being very small and rather short bodied also.

Because I have not seen patch-nosed snake trails before, I was not really sure. I did, however, find that Gary Nafis has some pics of a patch-nosed snake trail on his website, which is actually very similar in appearance to your photo! I wonder if anyone else has patch-nosed snake tracks photographed?? I will start a thread and request photos, see if we can do some more comparisons. Not to mention, would be a great one to add to the book! I asked Gary to contribute some pics, but he was not really interested. Perhaps, I can try him again sometime.

I can see what Joe was talking about with the 2 trails overlapping and altering each other. I realize that at slow speeds, and exhibiting courting behavior, these snakes could leave trails just like the one you photographed. So, I had to studied that pic pretty hard and get some good feedback to see it differently.

The photos I posted on the other hand are still a mystery!


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: July 3rd, 2012, 3:54 pm 
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PNWHerper wrote:
Hello Fellow Field Herpers!
I think that reptiles and amphibians are often the least cared about when it comes to conservation, and I want to see that change.



Sorry this is off topic from reptile tracking, but your comment reminded today of a conversation I had with my boss. She is TERRIFIED of snakes and was asking me today how close I get to snakes when I'm photographing them and how I find them. Then the topic turned to the snakes she and her family frequently encounters when they go 4-wheeling in Ocala National Forest. Typically these stories include all the gory details about how her husband shoots the rattlesnakes, so I seized the opportunity to tell her the Eastern Diamondback is about to receive federal protection due to loss of habitat and man destroying them at every opportunity.

"Well, aren't they dangerous?" she asks me.
"Oh yes, they're dangerous," I acknowledge.
"So why do they want to protect them I wonder," she says.
To which I answer, "They're still an important part of the ecosystem!"
And she says, "Oh yeah, I forgot you're into that."

Uhhh, yeah, I guess I am "into the ecosystem." :crazyeyes:


I'm going road cruising tomorrow morning. I'll try to get some good track photos of whatever I may find, PNW!


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: July 3rd, 2012, 5:25 pm 
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I usually take that conversation and ask, "do you like rats and mice?" Whether they say yes or no, then ask "would you like hoards of rats and mice destroying crops?" Although snakes aren't the only thing keeping this from happening, most average people wouldn't know enough to argue it as a possibility if all snakes were killed.

PNW, that is great to hear as this is at the northern limit of patchnose snake range, and they are a bit difficult to find there, and I was thinking they were a something we weren't seeing (gophers, coachies, other common species) We thought maybe kings but they didn't look big enough. Based on size and what has been mentioned by others who have witnessed it first hand, I think that is the most likely culprit.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: July 4th, 2012, 9:32 am 
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Quote:
Sorry this is off topic from reptile tracking, but your comment reminded today of a conversation I had with my boss. She is TERRIFIED of snakes and was asking me today how close I get to snakes when I'm photographing them and how I find them. Then the topic turned to the snakes she and her family frequently encounters when they go 4-wheeling in Ocala National Forest. Typically these stories include all the gory details about how her husband shoots the rattlesnakes, so I seized the opportunity to tell her the Eastern Diamondback is about to receive federal protection due to loss of habitat and man destroying them at every opportunity.

"Well, aren't they dangerous?" she asks me.
"Oh yes, they're dangerous," I acknowledge.
"So why do they want to protect them I wonder," she says.
To which I answer, "They're still an important part of the ecosystem!"
And she says, "Oh yeah, I forgot you're into that."

Uhhh, yeah, I guess I am "into the ecosystem." :crazyeyes:


Soulsurvivor,

That sort of conversation makes my heart sink. I don't understand the mentality of people being "heroic" and killing the rattlesnakes with guns. I think there might be a subconscious aspect to it that might be based in the religious view of snakes as an embodiment of evil. The story of the garden of Eden did not exactly set snakes up for success!


Quote:
I usually take that conversation and ask, "do you like rats and mice?" Whether they say yes or no, then ask "would you like hoards of rats and mice destroying crops?" Although snakes aren't the only thing keeping this from happening, most average people wouldn't know enough to argue it as a possibility if all snakes were killed.


Andy,

Yeah I like that response. I like asking them questions and getting them to answer and put in some thought. "What role do you think rattlesnakes play in the pine forests?" "Why do you think they might be important?" If the opportunity arises, its great to ask questions like that. Sometimes though, they just don't give you any room to do that.

Quote:
PNW, that is great to hear as this is at the northern limit of patchnose snake range, and they are a bit difficult to find there, and I was thinking they were a something we weren't seeing (gophers, coachies, other common species) We thought maybe kings but they didn't look big enough. Based on size and what has been mentioned by others who have witnessed it first hand, I think that is the most likely culprit.


Yeah, that is the species I am putting my bet on. Its too bad you didn't see them being made! Snake tracks are really tough, and I am still learning a lot about how to figure out what species left what. Because of - in very general terms - snakes have very similar body plans, it can be very hard to distinguish 1 species from another just based on tracks.

Things that help are to look at details of what is different for each species that includes body type (including overall length/thickness/head size/tail length & shape/etc.), behavior, baseline gait (comfortable form of locomotion the snake uses most frequently, i.e. rectilinear locomotion for large crotes), temp, time of year, time of day, habitat, location, outer & inner trail width (including the overall inner and true belly width), tail drag width & type, and more.

It would be amazing to have a big field herper get-together that included bring all the snakes every keeps, and then putting them down on some nice flat sandy areas and comparing their tracks. We could learn tons in just 1 day! The trick would be to allow the animals to calm and move around at the rate/style they are most comfortable (baseline) and see how their tracks changed as they interacted with different elements in their environment. Ah, one can dream... :D


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: July 4th, 2012, 12:22 pm 
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Here's the track of a Sonoran Whipsnake:

Image

I was able to locate the animal nearby:

Image

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: July 4th, 2012, 12:22 pm 
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Looking forward to the book-can't wait to get a copy. I was admiring some frog tracks a few weeks ago...
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...and I noticed these other tracks that I couldn't identify leaving winding trails. Any ideas?
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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: July 4th, 2012, 12:51 pm 
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PNWHerper wrote:
Soulsurvivor,

That sort of conversation makes my heart sink. I don't understand the mentality of people being "heroic" and killing the rattlesnakes with guns. I think there might be a subconscious aspect to it that might be based in the religious view of snakes as an embodiment of evil. The story of the garden of Eden did not exactly set snakes up for success!



It is funny, it seems to be the biggest "Christians" at my job that relay the most snake killing stories to me. While I am not convinced of a higher power, perhaps I should start using the argument - "Do you think God made a mistake putting them here?"


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: July 4th, 2012, 2:10 pm 
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soulsurvivor wrote:
PNWHerper wrote:
Soulsurvivor,

That sort of conversation makes my heart sink. I don't understand the mentality of people being "heroic" and killing the rattlesnakes with guns. I think there might be a subconscious aspect to it that might be based in the religious view of snakes as an embodiment of evil. The story of the garden of Eden did not exactly set snakes up for success!



It is funny, it seems to be the biggest "Christians" at my job that relay the most snake killing stories to me. While I am not convinced of a higher power, perhaps I should start using the argument - "Do you think God made a mistake putting them here?"


Getting off topic from the original post, but figured I'd put my .02cents in here.

I'm a Christian, and I really don't understand the mentality of a lot of other Christians when it comes to them villifying snakes and claiming they are evil. I'm sure the original intent behind God's purpose in using a snake in the Garden of Eden was to ensure an eternal reminder through the generations that if you trust a venomous snake (Satan) you're going to get bit. That was it, end of story, lesson learned, but for some reason a lot of folks seem to think that it goes beyond purely a lesson in morality, and that snakes are in fact truly evil. This blows my mind, but okay.
I see this attitude most when encountering more "backwoods country-type" folks who already share a lot of ignorances in regards to snakes. They generally do not know the importance of their role in the environment, and seem to believe that snakes are generally out to get them and that by taking a shovel to them, they believe they are truly doing the world a favor. This, coupled with misconceptions based on biblical stories, villifies snakes and makes them feel accomplished, heroic, and as though they've really helped their family and neighbors when they kill a snake. It takes a lot of work to convince these people of the good snakes can do and that they really aren't an instrument of the devil. I wouldn't call these people stupid or Bible thumping idiots, but I would say they are ignorant and if they would allow themselves to look at a different perspective, they may see the error of their ways. The story of original sin was meant to change how we behave toward other people, not toward animals that are here to help keep the world turning around.

That's the end of my rant on this. :lol:



PNW, as far as herp tracks, I've been out to get the cottonmouth photos I promised you and every time the dirt road has recently been rained on, thus ruining the chance of seeing nice impressions in the sand. I can't say I hope it stops raining out there, because we need it, but hopefully at some point in the near future the road will be dry enough so that our scaly friends can leave us evidence of their passing.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: July 6th, 2012, 9:08 am 
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Reptilist,

Those are nice photos. I like your Sonoran whipsnake trail. Looks like the lizard trail above it is probably a greater earless lizard. I can't make it out clearly though, so it could also be a whiptail species.

That's great that you found the maker of the trail. If you wish contribute this photo, or any other track or sign photos, let me know.

KevinS,

Quote:
Looking forward to the book-can't wait to get a copy. I was admiring some frog tracks a few weeks ago...


That is a really interesting looking set of frog tracks. The mud must have been super gushy to leave that kind of set.

Your mysterious dotted line looks like the trail of some kind of insect. If it was on dry land, I would guess a beetle grub, but that looks like it was made while there was still water in that spot. So, I am not really sure what kind of insect.

If you get really into tracking insects, there is a book out there that can help:

http://www.amazon.com/Tracks-Sign-Insects-Other-Invertebrates/dp/0811736245/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341592991&sr=1-1&keywords=insect+tracks

That is actually the same company we are going to be published with, which is Stackpole Books.

Soulsurvivor,

Quote:
It is funny, it seems to be the biggest "Christians" at my job that relay the most snake killing stories to me. While I am not convinced of a higher power, perhaps I should start using the argument - "Do you think God made a mistake putting them here?"


I often find that those who profess to be most ardent followers of one faith or another are often the hardest people to talk to about conservation. I think your question is a good one. I would be curious to hear the reply.

Soopaman,

Quote:
Getting off topic from the original post, but figured I'd put my .02cents in here.

I'm a Christian, and I really don't understand the mentality of a lot of other Christians when it comes to them villifying snakes and claiming they are evil. I'm sure the original intent behind God's purpose in using a snake in the Garden of Eden was to ensure an eternal reminder through the generations that if you trust a venomous snake (Satan) you're going to get bit. That was it, end of story, lesson learned, but for some reason a lot of folks seem to think that it goes beyond purely a lesson in morality, and that snakes are in fact truly evil. This blows my mind, but okay.

I see this attitude most when encountering more "backwoods country-type" folks who already share a lot of ignorances in regards to snakes. They generally do not know the importance of their role in the environment, and seem to believe that snakes are generally out to get them and that by taking a shovel to them, they believe they are truly doing the world a favor. This, coupled with misconceptions based on biblical stories, villifies snakes and makes them feel accomplished, heroic, and as though they've really helped their family and neighbors when they kill a snake. It takes a lot of work to convince these people of the good snakes can do and that they really aren't an instrument of the devil. I wouldn't call these people stupid or Bible thumping idiots, but I would say they are ignorant and if they would allow themselves to look at a different perspective, they may see the error of their ways. The story of original sin was meant to change how we behave toward other people, not toward animals that are here to help keep the world turning around.

That's the end of my rant on this. :lol:


Thanks for sharing that, Soopaman. I know there are probably plenty of folks on this forum that are both Christians and love & understanding herps. I know a few personally. I don't think they are mutually exclusive, it seems to be more a matter of personal conviction and interpretation of the Bible.

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PNW, as far as herp tracks, I've been out to get the cottonmouth photos I promised you and every time the dirt road has recently been rained on, thus ruining the chance of seeing nice impressions in the sand. I can't say I hope it stops raining out there, because we need it, but hopefully at some point in the near future the road will be dry enough so that our scaly friends can leave us evidence of their passing.


Thanks, I look forward to seeing them. Rain definitely can put a damper on tracks, but the nice thing about it is it can be much easier to tell fresh tracks from old once the rain has passed. I am glad you guys are getting rain, it is a real blessing from the skies and I don't doubt the herps are grateful for it as well. :D

Fil


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: July 6th, 2012, 9:33 pm 
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You're mystery insect track is from a mussel. That trail stumped me for many months until I finally saw one making it. It's been quite awhile so I can't remember much about it...other than its from a bi-valve. :crazyeyes:


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 13th, 2012, 1:44 pm 
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Just wanted to share a quick update. I went out for a quick trip to study some snake locomotion in eastern WA.

Here are 2 trails I got to record while out there..

This is the trail of a Northern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus oreganus). This is a type of lateral undulation trail really common for crotalus species.

Image

This is from a Great Basin gophersnake (Pitouphis catenifer deserticola). In this case, using a slow rectilinear undulation.

Image

Also, here is a video of that gopher snake using rectilinear locomotion and making that same trail:



The gopher snake was about 2 feet long.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 13th, 2012, 2:04 pm 
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I see C. atrox tracks all the time. We've got a particular wash where we keep tabs on a few dens. I'm kinda surprised I didn't see it on your list. I have to work tonight, and I'm hiking for specks tomorrow night, so I'll try to photograph some on Wednesday for you.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 13th, 2012, 3:31 pm 
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Joshua,

Please photograph the atrox trails for me!! :thumb: :beer:

Also, if you find the lay spots of the specks or other crotes, photograph those as well. They look a bit like this:


Here is a helleri lay spot:
Image

Here is a sidewinder lay spot:
Image

Any herp scat you find is also great to photograph!


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 13th, 2012, 6:13 pm 
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Box Turtle forms:

Image

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 14th, 2012, 9:25 am 
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John, those are awesome! :shock: So those forms are made my box turtles that are soaking, correct?

Are these eastern box turtles? Do you have location, habitat, season info on them?

Do you want to contribute these to the book? ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 14th, 2012, 1:21 pm 
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PNWHerper wrote:
John, those are awesome! :shock: So those forms are made my box turtles that are soaking, correct?

Are these eastern box turtles? Do you have location, habitat, season info on them?

Do you want to contribute these to the book? ;)


Correct, they made those forms. They are easterns, and I have all that information. I sure would ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 15th, 2012, 1:00 pm 
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John, this is really good stuff. Wanna email me a high res copy of the photo of the forms?

[email protected]

Thank you for your contributions!


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 15th, 2012, 1:10 pm 
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I have been drooling at the very thought of this book for a while and now I am out of spit. I simply cannot wait anymore I must rush out and buy it the very second it becomes available. Any idea on an ETA Flip? I know it is a big project and still in the works...I would love to see it as complete as possible too and if forced to wait longer I will suffer that in good spirit.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 15th, 2012, 2:00 pm 
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Jeremy,

Thanks for the enthusiasm! :beer: There is still more to go on this project, as the sheer scale of it is rather staggering.

I PMed you some more details. :D


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 15th, 2012, 11:08 pm 
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I went out tonight and found two C. atrox tracks. Unfortunately, last nights rain has left the sand in the washes crusted over. To make things even more difficult, it's been overcast all day, and the clouds didn't break until the sun had dropped below the horizon, so there's no shadows to accent the tracks. I took some photos, but they may not be the quality you're looking for. If you need better photos, let me know. I'll be back out there soon.

This first one I found on my second pass down the wash. I checked around, but the soil conditions didn't hold even a slight track outside of the wash. I'm not sure if this first set is of any use, due to lack of an actual snake, but given the shape, width, and location, I can assure you it's an atrox track.


Image

Image

Image

A couple hundred yards or so further down, I saw this:


Image

Image

Image

A short walk around the bushes the track disappeared into revealed the culprit:

Image

Image

After my photo session with the snake, I was out of time, so those are the only two tracks I could get. Hope that helps. If you need better photos with some shadow to accent them better, just let me know. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 16th, 2012, 8:37 am 
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Joshua,

That is an great example of rectilinear locomotion! How cool that you trailed the snake and found it. :thumb:

Yes, it definitely helps! Several of those photos are usable. If you end up seeing more atrox trails in more high contrast light, that would be excellent as well. If you go back and want to get the tracks photographed in the best light, I recommend the "golden hour" or "golden hours." The very early morning sunlight and very early evening sunlight are best due to their angle (which creates the best shadows).

What is the measurement of the end of your snake hook? Also, what age do you think this snake was (I can not see the rattle enough to get even a vague impression)? Judging by the size of the eye relative to the head, I would guess a sub-adult??

Thank you so much for sharing your finds! Please contribute more if you feel inspired too.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 16th, 2012, 9:08 am 
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Good guess on the age of the snake. He was a subadult, albeit with a much more impressive string than I would have expected for his size (roughly 2 1/2'). If you draw a straight line extending straight down the shaft of my hook, the opening measures 3 1/2". Most atrox trails I see run between 1"-2" in width.

Tracking snakes is by no means a new thing to me or my brother. We were hunters long before we were herpers. We always follow fresh tracks and actually have a fair amount of success in doing so. It is for that reason that I eagerly await the publishing of your book and have no problem helping you in any way possible to get it published and into my library. :D

There weren't any lay spots visible last night, but we see them all the time. I'll shoot you some photos as soon as I can get them. Good luck with your book and keep up the good work.:beer:


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 22nd, 2012, 5:23 pm 
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Good guess on the age of the snake. He was a subadult, albeit with a much more impressive string than I would have expected for his size (roughly 2 1/2'). If you draw a straight line extending straight down the shaft of my hook, the opening measures 3 1/2". Most atrox trails I see run between 1"-2" in width.


That's great info. A 2 inch wide snake trail is pretty impressive when its a rectilinear trail. :thumb: The only trail I have ever personally seen that was wider was from a Burmese python in the 'glades.

Quote:
Tracking snakes is by no means a new thing to me or my brother. We were hunters long before we were herpers. We always follow fresh tracks and actually have a fair amount of success in doing so. It is for that reason that I eagerly await the publishing of your book and have no problem helping you in any way possible to get it published and into my library. :D


Excellent! I love knowing there are people like you out there, using tracking to help their field herping... and especially when they are willing to contribute to this project, as well! :beer: Thank you!

Quote:
There weren't any lay spots visible last night, but we see them all the time. I'll shoot you some photos as soon as I can get them. Good luck with your book and keep up the good work.:beer:


Would love to see what you find. Thank you. I am so excited for this book to be a resource for field herpers and trackers alike. I am trying to include as much behavior as possible via the tracks and sign. The more diversity of species I can include, the more interesting behavior I can include.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 28th, 2012, 11:34 am 
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Here is a recent up date, with some local finds around Seattle.

I took part in a BioBlitz on the Upper Skagit Indian Reservation, and during that experience found some interesting herp related stuff. In a dessicated pond, we found the tracks of many frog-eating predators in the cracking mud. Jumping away at our foot steps were many healthy metamorph Northern Pacific Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris regilla). It was impressive to see them on a warm day, jumping across baked mud.

Unfortunately, nearby in the last hold overs of the pond where hundreds of ones that did not transform in time...

Image

Here is a close up with the characteristic spiral digestive tracts showing...

Image


It was a sad, sad sight. :cry: But seeing the metamorphs hopping around gave us hope. And then, we found this guy under one of the few large rocks that still held some significant moisture from the pond. He was under there with a metamorph Northern red-legged frog (Lithobates aurora).

Image

This little Northwestern Salamander (Ambystoma gracile) was a very exciting find for me, personally, as I have been looking for them for some time and this is the first one I have found this year. That is odd, since they are suppose to be common in this area in the appropriate habitat. *shrugs*

I still need to find an adults to get some nice, clear tracks. But, this little guy was heartening anyway.

The next day, I visited one of my favorite tracking spots and found a couple of cool things. Along the river, where the tracks of this huge bullfrog (Lithobates catesbieanus).

Image

And, perhaps the coolest thing was these perfect tracks of Northwestern alligator lizard (Elagria coerulea principis).

Image

Look close, and you can see the scales inside the large tracks (those from the hind feet)! :D

Anyway, I post more as I find the time to get out again. This fall, I will be doing some serious salamander hunting during my free time... Perhaps I will get lucky while in the Portland area...?


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: August 28th, 2012, 11:43 pm 
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awesome. love the 'gator lizard trail!


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: September 3rd, 2012, 2:54 pm 
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Thanks, brother. Looking forward to the return of the fall rains, for some salamanderin'!

During family visits to Portland, I will try and find some additional species. Any people have good recommendations for places to go in the Portland area or nearby Columbia Gorge? PM me with suggestions.

Here is a really cool set of frog tracks from yesterday:

Image

There is only 1 species in the Pacific Northwest with tracks of this size (or even bigger sometimes!). These measured about 6 inches across from outer toe of 1 hind foot to the outer toe of the other hind foot.

Funny how this book has transformed my ideas about herp tracks. I use to think they were rare or hard to find... but now, I realize when looking in the right place... they can be quiet common. In some situations and certain times of year, herp tracks are the most common thing you see. And, that has really changed the way I see land use and relative animal abundance of herps via the tracks and sign. It has been really eye opening.

Learn more about the "small majority"...


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: September 4th, 2012, 8:15 am 
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Algodones sand dunes and the dunes in Borrego are two of the best places I've ever seen for tracks.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: September 4th, 2012, 8:34 am 
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Tracking - one of the original human sciences . .

When something is Truly Awesome it is Awesome in many ways and I cannot help but even feel a poetic, aesthetic, tingle when I have seen tracks and even nicely photographed ones.

Im excited about your book :beer: :thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: September 14th, 2012, 3:28 pm 
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EJ,

What dunes are you talking about in Borrego area? I am familiar with Algodones Dunes to the SE of Borrego, and they are certianly a fantastic landscape to herp and track (and track herps) in.


Quote:
Tracking - one of the original human sciences . .

When something is Truly Awesome it is Awesome in many ways and I cannot help but even feel a poetic, aesthetic, tingle when I have seen tracks and even nicely photographed ones.

Im excited about your book :beer: :thumb:


Thank you, Kelly!

Yes, tracking is arguable the first human science and a vital piece of our development into the creatures were are now.

I definitely agree that beautiful set of tracks or even photos of tracks touches something in me that makes me feel alive, and in conversation with the landscape.

There is so much opportunity for growth in the herp tracking field, and so much opportunity to work together and help each other learn. I hope this book starts things rolling more solidly in that direction.


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PostPosted: September 14th, 2012, 3:43 pm 
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The dunes adjacent to the city dump and the airport. It's a relatively small dune field.

Algadones is a good distance from AB.

PNWHerper wrote:
EJ,

What dunes are you talking about in Borrego area? I am familiar with Algodones Dunes to the SE of Borrego, and they are certianly a fantastic landscape to herp and track (and track herps) in.


Quote:
Tracking - one of the original human sciences . .

When something is Truly Awesome it is Awesome in many ways and I cannot help but even feel a poetic, aesthetic, tingle when I have seen tracks and even nicely photographed ones.

Im excited about your book :beer: :thumb:


Thank you, Kelly!

Yes, tracking is arguable the first human science and a vital piece of our development into the creatures were are now.

I definitely agree that beautiful set of tracks or even photos of tracks touches something in me that makes me feel alive, and in conversation with the landscape.

There is so much opportunity for growth in the herp tracking field, and so much opportunity to work together and help each other learn. I hope this book starts things rolling more solidly in that direction.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: September 14th, 2012, 4:20 pm 
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I'm very interested in this book also. I've taken a few photos of some fairly standard tracks, but one in particular has always confused me. It was along the banks of a creek in NW Georgia. Perhaps someone here can shed light on it?

The four markings were consistently grouped like this pic, and ranged from about 1 inch to 1.5 inches. This was a larger one but the pic is roughly 4 times actual size. The tracks seemed to be haphazardly distributed, such that it seemed impossible to figure out a direction of travel, or even a consistent orientation or particular direction. Many were spaced enough to exceed a human stride, but the haphazard distribution made guessing suspect.
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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: September 15th, 2012, 12:13 am 
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PNWHerper wrote:

beautiful set of tracks or even photos of tracks touches something in me that makes me feel alive, and in conversation with the landscape.




oh my . . Once reading this, I do not think I can ever think of it another way,

:)


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: September 21st, 2012, 11:14 am 
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Mywan,

I can't say with certainty from that photo alone who made your mystery track. But, it does look similar to me like the partial track of a feral hog, which I know are found throughout parts of the SE. Do you have other photos of the tracks, especially of the overall pattern left by multiple tracks (a trail)?

Kelly,

Perhaps I wax too poetic... but tracking is awesome! :D

If you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend getting a hold of the documentary THE GREAT DANCE. It is about the bushmen trackers in South Africa, and how they use tracking for subsistence hunting. Its fantastic. Watching them track makes me feel like a baby just learning to crawl in comparison. ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: September 21st, 2012, 4:29 pm 
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I have one other photo in which the lighting made it difficult to see the track at all. I'll be on the lookout for some more. The spacing and pattern was the most confusing thing about these tracks. I could neither tell a direction of travel, or even which tracks belonged to the same set. It just seemed like a random splattering of tracks with random orientations, and the tracks weren't even very dense at all. many of them seemed spaced farther apart than my own stride, an no recognizable pattern to say for sure they were 4 legged. Plenty of deer track in the same general region.

I would have been happy to identify them as feral hog myself, except that they all consistently looked like the one in the photo, as if lacking a main hoof that was distinctively larger than the heel bulbs. Perhaps piglets? There was some variation in sizes, but they all seemed to share the same asymmetrical four shapes like the pic. Hogs do live very few miles north of this area, and they could quiet easily followed the river up these tributaries to this location.

There are also some exotic farm animals kept less than 10 miles away, including giraffe, buffalo, emu, ostrich, camel, and a few others. But none of these I have checked fits even as well as feral hogs.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: September 23rd, 2012, 10:45 pm 
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If reality and matter were a hardened dream I would wish more to be a bushman than a king.


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: October 1st, 2012, 8:30 am 
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Image

Finally got to the bottom of my mystery tracks. They are, believe or not, the slide marks of kangaroo rats. They often make these slide marks near areas they frequent, such as near their burrow entrance. This is a form of scent marking, though I bet they have fun doing it too. :D

Quote:
If reality and matter were a hardened dream I would wish more to be a bushman than a king.


Beautiful. :thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: Herp Tracking Book Progress Report
PostPosted: November 16th, 2012, 3:02 pm 
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Joined: July 8th, 2011, 1:04 pm
Posts: 667
Location: King County, WA
Working away on the project, and no new photos to share for now. But, did come across something I thought was worth posting...

For those still wondering what the heck tracking is all about anyway, this is a good podcast to check out:

http://audio.kvmr.org/podhawk/index.php?id=1036

Mark is the guy who encouraged me to get started on this project in the first place. I really appreciate what he has to share in this podcast regarding tracking.


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