Pine snake in non-piney area

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soulsurvivor
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Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by soulsurvivor » June 13th, 2014, 1:03 pm

I was conversing with my ex today, requesting photos of the pine snake I road cruised back in 2001, when he told me that he caught a pine in his rat barn last year. When he found it, it was in the process of devouring one of his breeder rats. This kind of blows my mind, because I used to live there, I know the area, and it's not exactly where I would expect pine snakes to be inhabiting. It's pretty well populated with humans, but consists of a lot of horse pastures. I have always felt like they needed more "wildernessy" areas, for lack of a better word. Here's the pic he sent me of when he discovered the snake. Notice the orphaned pinkies on the sidelines.

Image

~Bree

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BillMcGighan
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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by BillMcGighan » June 13th, 2014, 6:10 pm

Bree,
In Marion County, when I lived there, the most productive Pine habitat was horse farms (with a good share of pocket gophers) that had been fallow for 3+ years.

One guy I worked with bought a 5 acre slice of an old horse farm that had not been disced for 4 or 5 years. Soon after he was living there, I had to tell him not to bring me any more Pines. I finally convinced him we all would be better off if he let them live on his land.

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by soulsurvivor » June 13th, 2014, 6:36 pm

Wow! Thanks for that info! That is very interesting. That gives me hope for certain areas close to where he lives, as well as hope for the area I cruised one so long ago.....

~Bree

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Noah M
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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by Noah M » June 14th, 2014, 11:08 am

Yeah me too. I've never found a pine and I would like to cross that lifer off of my list this year.

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by Coluber Constrictor » June 14th, 2014, 6:01 pm

I have seen the Black Pines in degraded habitat here in southwest AL, and have heard of them being found on pine plantations, etc. They seem to do ok in less than pristine habitat (until it gets bulldozed and turned to strip malls, that is :evil: ).

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by Greg Theos » June 15th, 2014, 6:49 pm

I have seen plenty of pics of rat snakes sneaking into outdoor rodent/chicken pens, but never a pine snake. Very, very cool. Some of the best areas in Florida to find pine snakes are miles away from the nearest pine tree, or any other tree for that matter.

Right now is the best time to find them in the panhandle. Anyone that wants to go roadcruising and tracking, please get in touch with me. This is one time where I really prefer to have a partner. Only about 2 or 3 good weeks left, then their activity drops sharply. They are moving really good this year.

-Greg

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by soulsurvivor » June 16th, 2014, 6:47 pm

I wish ANF was closer to me. Herping there means I have to get a hotel room or sleep in my car, so unfortunately I have to keep my pine snake search within my county. That's OK though, because I feel the law of probability is on my side, and the more I run a road, the better chance I have of seeing something cool! :thumb:

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by simus343 » June 17th, 2014, 9:06 am

I have noticed at work that pines tend to be more productive in open areas with tall grass (such as a foot or taller) and very few to no trees with moderately loose soil in which they and the gophers and mice/rats on which they feed will burrow. An area I have had some luck finding pines not against drift fences or road cruising is under isolated oak stands in the middle of large fields of grass, both natural and planted such as livestock farms. Most of the pines that I see are in the late morning and early evening. Also last I heard Florida FWC was asking for a GPS location and a photo confirmation of all Florida Pine Snakes to determine habitat fragmentation and population density in areas where they occur. Good luck finding pines, they are a really nice snake to find :).

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by soulsurvivor » June 17th, 2014, 12:26 pm

Thanks for the insight! The one I cruised several years ago was crossing a paved road through logging property. The land had been clear cut and vegetation was just starting to come back. It was in the morning but I can't remember the month.

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by umop apisdn » June 17th, 2014, 3:04 pm

When I hear about weird places to find pine snakes, all I wonder about are those few supposed records that came from areas around the mountains. Of course, I can't remember where, exactly...but somewhere around Tennessee, maybe? Was there one weird record from West Virginia, or was that a different species? Anyone know?

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by Greg Theos » June 17th, 2014, 4:14 pm

Simus, I have found at least 15 pine snakes in Okaloosa county alone. It's interesting how different our experiences are. I always find them in mixed oak/pine habitat with plenty of canopy. Never found one in a real open area. Despite spending a similar amount of time searching for them during all periods of the daylight hours, I have not observed a strong morning vs. midday vs. late day preference for movement. The only daytime period I have not found one is ~7am-9am. I may have seen some tracks during that time, but that happened only one or two times.

They are a peculiar and beautifully adapted snake. Anyone who is well-versed in finding Florida Pines would be astonished to see the habitats they utilize in mountain regions. I would have never believed it myself had I not seen one with my own eyes.

Their activity is strangely cyclic, too. Some years they are VERY active. Other years, they seem to never come above ground. One year, I spent most of May and June looking for them in my #1 area and did not find so much as a single track. Not one. That was over an intensive 2 month period. The following year, I would find 15-20+ tracks a day, multiple times. I actually caught two of them about an hour a part that same year. Just strange.

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by Noah M » June 17th, 2014, 9:22 pm

From the conversation it seems to me like there are regional differences as well. What times they move, habitats they use, probably even prey they eat varies with location. What works in pensinuslar florida may not work in the panhandle or South Carolina.

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by Carl D. May » June 18th, 2014, 3:27 am

soulsurvivor wrote:I wish ANF was closer to me. Herping there means I have to get a hotel room or sleep in my car, so unfortunately I have to keep my pine snake search within my county. That's OK though, because I feel the law of probability is on my side, and the more I run a road, the better chance I have of seeing something cool! :thumb:

YOU wish you lived closer to the ANF? It takes me 7 hours just to get to the eastern outskirts of the forest from my home in Lake Worth. My only pine snake from that region was a DOR animal found on Hwy 20 between Blountstown and Hosford in 1993. It was a nearly patternless adult.

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by Matt S. » June 18th, 2014, 3:24 pm

This is an interesting topic and it definitely seems that there are some regional differences in behavior and habitat preferences.

I work in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties in Florida and finding a live pine snake was a huge goal for me this year. Since April, I have seen three AOR and three DOR pines, including one AOR and one DOR in a single day (actually about 10 minutes apart). Greg, while I don't have the experience you have, the cyclical pattern really seems accurate and this year has definitely felt like an up year here.

With their huge home ranges and overall ranges, it is not surprising that people are noticing things that are more locale specific. In my area, I have seen them in both upland pine and sandhill habitats with oaks and canopy in varying degrees. It seems like there are always pocket gophers nearby though. I should also mention that I found all the pines before 10 am.

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by soulsurvivor » June 18th, 2014, 3:35 pm

Matt, I was going to ask what time of day you found yours! Before 10am, huh? That fits with the single individual I once found. It would have been around 9:30am when I cruised mine. Seems like others find them at later times though. But I still try to cruise early for them in my area just because that's when I have evidence that they move.

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by BillMcGighan » June 19th, 2014, 6:51 am

CJ-zero:
From the conversation it seems to me like there are regional differences as well.
There definitely are, but there are some habitat characteristics that are common to most Pits across the country: physiographic features that provide soft substrate, plenty of well drained open areas and expanses that are not disced.

A factor for different herper experiences and perceptions is the seasonal movement of the animals coupled with herping techniques.
For example, if you walk or drive you may see most of your moving adults in the late spring/early summer, dependant on latitude and altitude, the preponderance of specimens (easily >90%) are males cruising for females. Likewise, fall hatchlings and juveniles are a mix of sexes.
Moving animals may be crossing habitats that they would never live in.


Several radio telemetry studies indicate that Pines often “bask” just under the surface of the substrate, so you can walk by them all day long and never know you were close. (This is also why discing the land is a factor and pushes the to edge habitats in farming districts.)


If you put out a board line in the right habitat (with one end of the board raised about 2”), you may find a better mix of sexes and ages.

The different experiences here are not mutually exclusive; just locality/temporal/temperature anecdotes.



Matt
With their huge home ranges and overall ranges, it is not surprising that people are noticing things that are more locale specific. In my area, I have seen them in both upland pine and sandhill habitats with oaks and canopy in varying degrees. It seems like there are always pocket gophers nearby though.
That says it all.



umop apisdn
When I hear about weird places to find pine snakes, all I wonder about are those few supposed records that came from areas around the mountains.
Just looking at Northerns here, Mike, this has been a fascination to me, since I’ve lived in the northern Appalachians (NJ), the middle Appalachians (northern VA), and here now the southern Appalachians (NE TN).

In NJ, it was easy. The “Pine Barrens”, of course, are coastal plain and provide soft soil, plenty of open areas, especially after burns, and expanses that are not disced; well drained and verging on xeric.

In VA they seem to be mostly in the ridge and valley of the eastern versant of the Alleghany plateau. The ridges can be amazingly open along with the dryness demonstrated by the “pine” presence. There can be sections with natural mulch.

Here in TN, Northern Pinesnakes seem to be predominantly in 3 Physiographic features: the Coastal Plain Uplands in west TN, the Cumberland Plateau in middle TN, and the Blueridge mountains in SE TN; all have sections of habitat that provide soft substrate, plenty of well drained open areas and expanses that are not disced.

My experience with Northerns has been mostly with NJ Pines, 1 VA pine, and NC sand hill animals, so I was impressed with middle TN animals where it is hardly xeric. Talking to researchers, these animals do seem to be always close to soft substrate, plenty of well drained open areas and expanses that are not disced.


That said, it was interesting to me to find this fresh Pine DOR:


Image


Only 0.8 miles from this Rat DOR (normally you think of these two species preferring different homes.)


Image




soulsurvivor
It would have been around 9:30am when I cruised mine. Seems like others find them at later times though.
The time is generally a function of temp, humidity, and cloud cover, so try what you think is best and establishes an experience base.

I’ll do a “Captain Obvious” here. Even north Florida temps and seasons are different from south Florida, so whatever you think is best time to improve PROBABILITIES, in your area is the best place to start. Trust the force.


Again, down in Marion county, morning, dusk (magic hour), and cloudy days were the most productive target times. I have never found an eastern pit after dark, but out west it is common.



Carl
It takes me 7 hours just to get to the eastern outskirts of the forest from my home in Lake Worth.
:lol: It takes 7 hrs to get out of Palm Beach County, Carl, with the traffic in that madness of humanity! :mrgreen: ;)

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by simus343 » June 19th, 2014, 8:35 am

To Greg, I have found a few in such areas as well. I just see mine while working is all, mostly in Gopher Tortoise relocation sites that are open with very little canopy cover except the isolated spots. I don't get to herp in Okaloosa county much because when I'm not taking classes, I'm at work in a different county :P .

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by JakeScott » June 20th, 2014, 7:16 am

I always thought the life history of pine snakes was very interesting. They will primarily east pocket gophers and even live in pocket gopher tunnels for very long periods of time. But in areas where pocket gophers are not present, like in southern Florida, they have a whole different behavior. I could study them for years and not get bored.

-Jake

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by Stohlgren » June 20th, 2014, 7:37 am

A telemetry study conducted at a property I used to work at in SW Georgia found pines to use pocket gopher runs a majority of the time, but the property The Orianne Society owns in south central GA has a good pine snake population but no pocket gophers. I hope one day we can do something with them locally and figure out what they're doing. We don't ever find them in tortoise burrows and reports from others that have scoped a lot of tortoise burrows indicate they use them very infrequently. Lots of old field mice burrows around but they would be too small for a large pine. Guess they could be digging their own burrows. Such a cool species and still so much to learn about them.

This thread needs more eye candy (though the photo of the pine raiding the barn is cool).

Image

Image

Image

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by Nshepard » June 20th, 2014, 8:09 pm

Here in NC they will also use mole runs. Loose soil and open areas - really open, 10 pine trees per hectre sort of canopy structure.
umop apisdn wrote:When I hear about weird places to find pine snakes, all I wonder about are those few supposed records that came from areas around the mountains. Of course, I can't remember where, exactly...but somewhere around Tennessee, maybe? Was there one weird record from West Virginia, or was that a different species? Anyone know?
So, one individual found in WV was just outside of where they are found in VA - those Ridge and Valley populations. And yes, Nothern Pine Snakes.

They are found in TN and historically, the mountains of NC. But I do not recall any recent records of its occurrence there. But I'll check for ya Monday.

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by BillMcGighan » June 23rd, 2014, 1:41 pm

This whole discussion brought to mind a west Texas Sonoran gopher snake that I was lucky enough to watch escavate a rodent burrow. It was about 4 feet. It would push it nose into the soft soil burrow plug, turn its head to one side making a "J" shape, and pull straight back about 1 foot.


So the question is, have any of you fine folks seen a Pine (or other pit) do similar?

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by Greg Theos » June 23rd, 2014, 8:26 pm

Matt, Simus...very interesting observations. Interesting to me because of how different they are from my own.

Bill, the excavation thing is on my bucket list. The one time I had that opportunity was when I hiked a pine that was looking interested in a burrow, but it was just so damn hot that I lost my patience and moved on after ~15 minutes. I have found two freshly excavated pocket gopher burrows and I did watch another one crawl down a stump hole. Just finding one on the road is not that thrilling to me anymore. Whether it is an observation of a pair of combating males, a burrow being excavated, etc., I think at this point, I need to see them doing their "thing" to feel truly rewarded.

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by BillMcGighan » June 24th, 2014, 3:22 am

Greg
Bill, the excavation thing is on my bucket list. The one time I had that opportunity was when I hiked a pine that was looking interested in a burrow, but
Good luck, and share it with us if when you succeed.

The many facets of herping, herper and ologist alike, too often, make us "grab the animal" to examine it closely before it can escape. Very often, a posed picture, scale counting, gross anatomy exam, and genetic sampling, all very important, leave no time for behavior observation of animals that are not the most demonstrative creatures anyway.





Being a lay person, I love going to symposiums and presentations, by ologists and future ologists who are doing the organized research on herpetology, but these papers are inherently a sliver of the overall picture, so I was very happy to discover this info by the Fish and Wildlife Service that looks like a synopses of some of the research. I thought this paper adds to this discussion nicely and is inclusive of all here who shared their experiences.


http://www.fws.gov/southeastfire/docume ... e-Mgmt.pdf

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Re: Pine snake in non-piney area

Post by Fundad » June 30th, 2014, 2:07 pm

So the question is, have any of you fine folks seen a Pine (or other pit) do similar?
Yes sir, I have seen our Gopher Snakes in Cali do it.. Impressive to say the least.


Beautiful Pine snakes posted in this thread..

Fundad

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