Page 1 of 1

If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 17th, 2019, 2:39 pm
by Kelly Mc
FHF has a strong and incredible photography aspect with that talent being a great force of impetus for what members share, but I often wonder if those here have stories to share that they havent, at least on Board, because they didn't get a photo, for one reason or another.

I'm not making this thread to tell any, that would appear to be an unbecoming ploy.

No, I just wanted to open a thread in a welcoming antithesis to the No Photo No Proof philosophy.

Its a chilly day, dreary outside let's have a kind of online campfire. Where people tell their stories like in times when stories are believed because of honor and good will.

I'll believe you, and others will too.

Please share about the One That Got Away, or a remarkable afternoon. A confounding behavior or brain tingling sight. An act of compassion, fast thinking, guts. Your story untold.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 18th, 2019, 10:08 am
by Bryan Hamilton
Twenty five years ago, early May in southern Ohio I found my first timber rattlesnake. It was on steep rocky point overlooking the Ohio river.

I’d looked on my own for a couple years and had never found one. Timber rattlesnakes were kind of the “big game” of the area. Commercial collecting had just ended a few years ago and timbers were still rare but recovering.

Our group hiked up a steep ridge to a rocky point overlooking the Ohio river. I tapped a largish rock with my golf club style snake hook and like magic a rattlesnake crawled out from under the rock, coiled up and started rattling!

Timber rattlesnakes are still the most handsome of rattlesnakes for me. They are such a large and almost out of place animal for the rugged, southern ohio hill country. This one was medium sized and freshly shed, like a splash of velvet on the landscape. I must have had a huge smile for days after that.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 18th, 2019, 10:50 am
by Jimi
I tapped a largish rock with my golf club style snake hook and like magic a rattlesnake crawled out from under the rock
That's an interesting reaction. Never once seen it, myself. Usually they go deeper!

If I can't safely flip (and replace) the rock, I don't tap it. I just go in for a peek, if possible. In a legion of flippable rocks, oh yeah, tap away.

Bryan we need to get out and flip a few (hundred) this spring.

a welcoming antithesis to the No Photo No Proof philosophy.
Exactly. I understand the intent of the subject line, and also reject the concept.

"If there were no photos of me, would I have ever existed? If I don't curate my life on antiSocial Media, will I die a lonely outcast?"

Amusing. Silly. Absurd. Preposterous.

There will be no photos. There will be no curation. I will die, alone, unless it's in a plane crash or train wreck. Ha ha ha.


Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 18th, 2019, 1:09 pm
by Bryan Hamilton
Its never happened to me since.... I still tap rocks and occasionally I'll get a snake to rattle.

We do need to flip some rocks.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 18th, 2019, 1:46 pm
by BillMcGighan
Bryan, you are the Timber Whisperer! :lol:
Good story.

Jimi, chill, my perception is that Kelly was just trying to have a non-traditional post "Where people tell their stories like in times when stories are believed because of honor and good will."

ps We did this on the Fishing forum years ago with great success.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 18th, 2019, 4:28 pm
by El Garia
Great topic Kelly! This is one that strikes a certain nerve with me, as I've had a knucklehead, a few years back, say "Photo, or it didn't happen." There's a lot of people that simply don't realize how much it cost to get film developed, or how a ten year old kid doesn't want to carry several pounds of camera gear.
Back to warmer weather and herping. And for this story, back to the days when we called 'herping' "hiking", as I don't think a singular word for the practice existed.

On to the story... One day, after school, some 40 years ago, a friend and I visited one of my regular herping areas. After we locked our bikes up to the gate we would hit what were then, seldom used trails. We had our own names for various 'hot spots'. After a short, rather level walk, we passed by what Owen and Jeff had earlier dubbed 'Ringneck Trail'. But there was no spring from which to drink, in that direction, so we headed up to 'Skink Hill', which I had later dubbed 'Blackheaded Hill'. On the way up to the hill, we caught a small Yellow-bellied Racer, found under a small piece of concrete. It was my first YBR I had found at this park; a park which I visited regularly. Shortly thereafter, as we hiked on, my buddy said "Garter!". I would have preferred a garter, but it was a striped racer; something which I had seen a lot of as a kid, but not so, as an adult. Then, we began our 'shortcut' to Skink Hill, which was a deer trail through the thickets. It was steep, so if we lost our footing, we ended up a few feet or yards back down. It was worth it though, as the main trail which hugged the countours of the hills took more time and offered little to no herping opportunity. I don't recall if we stopped at Skink Hill that day. If we had it escapes me. Just past Skink Hill are the 'Tiger Ponds' which were vernal and often teeming with several variety of amphibian larvae. Again, I don't remember what we saw at the ponds that day: I must not have found anything I deemed as being a special find.
Next, we would pass by the rattlesnake dens. I didn't pay attention to it as my friend and I passed by, as my friends wanted hides for their cowboy hats. I managed to keep my trap shut about the dens for another couple of years, but that's another story; not a cheerful one.
So, just as we made our way past the den area, I spotted my first adult Ca. Kingsnake (without my mentors present). It was a biggie; a dark brown and white individual of about 40 in. I was excited, really excited! This was my first Cali King without an older person with me. I felt like Navin Johnson from "The Jerk", when he discovered his name in the white pages.
That was only a small part of the highlight, though. About forty to fifty yards down the trail, I found my second Kingsnake. It was unlike any I had ever seen, at that time. It was really big; longer than the first, but unlike any I had previously seen. This one was leucistic! I had a rudemantary understanding of genetics, so I knew there was no such thing as partial albinism, or albinism-lite if you will. I didn't know what to make of it, at the time. Leucistic individuals were uncommon in my area, so it remains one of, if not the most thrilling find of my life!


Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 18th, 2019, 6:32 pm
by the_cw1
Great topic!

My first time in Australia I was walking back from the grocery store and didn't bring my camera. It was a 10 minute walk in the suburbs. What could I hope to see? Well, as it so happened, there was a tree monitor resting on the sidewalk on my way back. And, I sweat up and down, it was blue. Very rare color for near Darwin in Australia. It wasn't running, but it was very alert and just watched me as I walked by. I ran back to my living quarters, grabbed my camera, and ran back. Of course, it was gone then. Haha. It was too real.


Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 18th, 2019, 9:20 pm
by Bob McKeever
Decades ago, my three grade-school age children & I were on our way into a New Mexico mountain range for a day hike to find whatever herps that might come our way, but especially hoping to find rattlesnakes. We were in a VW Beetle driving upslope on a gravel road, so we had the engine noise & gravel crunching sound from the tires joining us through the car's open windows.

At about mile five into the drive the three kids, virtually in unison, sounded out with either "rattlesnake Dad!" or "Dad, rattlesnake!" After a sliding stop in the gravel and several demands to know just where this snake was, they managed to get me to understand that they hadn't seen a rattlesnake, they had heard one rattling and, in fact could still hear it. At the time I had no appreciation of the hearing loss I'd been living with, and it took some effort on their part to get me to back up a dozen or so feet to a point where they agreed that the snake was still rattling just outside my open window.

Still aware of no rattling sound, I stepped out & to the road's edge where about 3 feet below I could see a Banded Rock Rattlesnake coiled & rattling from its perch atop a small pile of rocks. Unfortunately, both the snake & its rocky perch were beneath the canopy of a relatively dense catclaw acacia. If you were to dream an ideal C. l. klauberi, you would likely imagine something like this snake. Large as the species goes, and truly heavy-bodied, it was a beautiful olive-green (emphasis on the green side) with crisp, sooty black bands.

With kids and camera still in the car, I realized that using a hook was out of the question but that my trusty old Pilstrom tongs might be used to reach beneath the catclaw & bring the snake up to road level where we could admire & photograph it. I hadn't counted on the futility of bringing the tongs to bear through the dense catclaw. After several inept attempts at capture, the still rattling snake uncoiled & crawled, in what seemed a leisurely fashion, off of its rocky perch and out of reach into a much larger rock pile. It was only the second of the species I'd yet seen. I still marvel that the kids heard it as we drove by.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 19th, 2019, 9:45 am
by BillMcGighan
Good stuff so far! :thumb:

What might have been! (even without a voucher.)

When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to live where my back yard butted up against thousands of acres of protected land.
Virtually spending all my time in the forest, I would encounter a couple dozen Wood Turtles (Glyptemys insculpta), with around 10 or so showing up literally in my back yard all within the course of a typical year.

One time I found a female that I recognized just from experience as unusually huge, returning from an abandoned gravel pit where many turtles of several species laid their eggs. She had already laid her eggs.

She seemed so unusually large that I measured her carapace with a tape measure. I entered her data in my records on 3X5 cards: 12 inches exactly.

I didn’t think about it much again for about two years, when I got my first Conant Field Guide which put the world record for then Clemys insculpta at 9” (1958 edition).

Certainly it could not have been that much larger (unless the 1950’s syfy movies were true! Go Godzilla!) ;)

Of course, because of my teenage ignorance, I had measured incorrectly. I had measured from the forward edge of the cervical scale to the rear of the carapace (probably M11 or so), but I measured along the curve.

Still, in retrospect, using an average ratio of 0.82, the curved carapace to the linear length, it is very possible that this animal could have been about 9.8 inches!

Who knows?
And I’d like to think she and/or her offspring are still out there, since that protected forest is still there with very little disturbance.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 25th, 2019, 9:48 am
by Jimi
Jimi, chill, my perception is that Kelly was just trying to have a non-traditional post
Oh, I understood both aspects - the sentiment and the solicitation. I concurred with the sentiment, just didn't bite on the solicitation. I'm frosty, bud.


Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 25th, 2019, 10:46 am
by Kelly Mc
The timing may have been less then tidy, but dont over think it.

Its been something I've been meaning to ask for a long time.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 25th, 2019, 6:38 pm
by Kelly Mc
I enjoyed word for word everybody's story. Its a different experience and I think its good, thanks and hopefully we can pick up on this again sometime.

It was really good.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 26th, 2019, 12:27 pm
by csalemi731
I was out hiking in the Bear Mountain/Harriman NY area. At that time I had never done much herping. I was wearing a black shirt with a big yellow snake on the back. It stuck out like a sore thumb and was the logo of a reptile forum i belonged to back then. I was ascending a steep rocky area of the trail and took a rest at the top. A short time later a hiker caught up to me and asked if I liked snakes, since all she saw from behind was the bright yellow snake on my shirt. I said yes, why? Apparently i had stepped right over a rattlesnake on the trail. My hiking partner wanted nothing to do with returning to that area of the trail. I never got to see what i had stepped over and still regret not walking back down the trail.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 27th, 2019, 6:55 am
by Carl Brune
One day in the 1980s I made a long hike from the floor of CA's Owen's Valley up to a lake to do some fishing. The start of hike was in that magical hour of the morning when there is a lot of lizard activity. Mostly whiptails, western fence, and sideblotches, but I recall a few zebratails, one leopard, and one southern alligator. And farther up sagebrush lizards. So for about the 100th time a whiptail ran off the trail as I approached. Except this time it turned around and ran back on to the trail. And then it went into convulsions and died. I picked it up and looked at it. It had a pair of tell-tale puncture wounds in its chest. I deduced that a rattlesnake must have got it. I looked up off the trail and was eventually able to spot a very cryptic rattlesnake. I flipped the dead lizard up near the rattlesnake and was on my way. At the time I was not sure what species of rattlesnake it was, as it seemed panamint and some sort of "viridis" would be possible. Now I know it had to be a panamint.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 27th, 2019, 11:51 am
by Lloyd Heilbrunn
A number of years back I took my first and so far only trip to West Texas. It was the year Texas instituted a herping ban, but there was some doubt concerning when the effective date was starting. As a result, when I saw a snake on the road, I would not jump out with a hook or camera, in case there was some kind of sting, but would generally just grab the snake, and go back for my camera.

I was at I think what was called Boy Scout Rd., saw what I thought was an alterna, and jumped out. Instead, it was a rock rattlesnake, and I had no hook. I ran back for the camera, but he got off the road in the interim and I got no pics of the only rock rattlesnake of the trip.

Literally five minutes later, I got pulled over by a warden inquiring as to what I was doing. If I had had a hook, and was able to catch the snake, I would've been busted and arguing about effective dates. :D The sacrifice was the photo.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 27th, 2019, 1:28 pm
by Porter
I remember this one time on Cinco de Mayo… I saw this beautiful little rattlesnake partially tucked inside a nook.I examined the area as I began planning the safest way to remove the rattlesnake without harming the individual or putting myself in a position where I can get bit. Reminded of my God-given talents (Or DNA passed down from my grandfather who was a fighter pilot in World War II, during which he was given the opportunity to strengthen his skills in Percision, For the science people out there who don’t believe in God as The Bibles explains) and thought to myself… How can I put those skills to use in a situation like this. If the snake drops onto this large sloping Boulder, covered with sandpaper like texture, he's sure to scuff himself up, and if he lands on his face could damage a fang or eye… So then I looked over at the soft powdery dirt where my buddy Was standing. His feet sunken in past the shoes. And I was reminded… I’m in the Sierra Nevada’s. This dirt is covered in snow for part of the year. Because of that, because of the ice freezing and melting… It creates is very loose airy dirt that is softer than what people are used to experiencing in the Bay Area. It’s lightweight and breaks away from the surface similar to sawdust. Let’s keep this little snake Safe and I can even have a little bit of fun while doing it…

So I hook the snake at this perfect angle similar to the English on a cue ball when you’ve got to get position on that following nine ball combo... it was beautiful the way that I hooked it. I was able to scoop the snake right out without him hitting his head on the top of the nook, or scrape across the bottom of the nook as I pulled him out… Gentle as lifting a baby from the cradle. Very slow at first and then once I had em secured in the hook and in motion, moving more swiftly, but not to jolt or cause any whiplash. Handling it with the care of an infant.It was such a rewarding feeling considering we had checked every nook and cranny for a mountain king snake however they had already been taken out of their natural habitat by generations of field herpers who had raped that land before us. I mean some people may be bitter that they couldn’t find what they were out looking for… However me and my partner, we finished our day with enjoying field herping simply for the love of it. It didn’t matter that we didn’t find the worlds most popular or rare snake. The beautiful blonde with big tits. No no...It was just really cool to observe this natural breeding area that my friend had found on his own before taking me there. And what a beautiful site, with his family of rattlesnakes comfortably laying in peace. Majestic. But although the flakes and nuggets of gold were laid out before me,I knew all I really wanted was a photograph of this Jewel and then I would let it go back to his family. Not taking it home to encage it or strip it of its skin and place it upon the barbecue with a nice teriyaki marinade. . Then salting the inside of its skin as I Tack it to a board outside my house letting the bees feast on the remainder of meat factor attached to the inside of its skin. Depriving the meat bees of a free feast. And then hanging the trophy upon my wall with a dangling little rattle of one button. Instead I decided to treat this animal with the upmost respect And release it to freedom.

So I gently tossed it through the air and over to this soft powdery sawdust-like dirt that the snow had made especially for this situation and this situation only… And the little snake landed in a comfortable beautiful soft area, Before it even knew what was going on. I felt proud of myself! Execution of perfection. Just like my grandfather slightly lifting his wing up to the right to avoid ground fire as he can see the angle of the bullets approaching him. That slightest touch making the world of difference. And then slightly maneuvering avoiding fire from the other aircraft approaching him. Silly what I was using these talented skills on… Playing with snakes. As my grandfather was saving lives and fighting off enemies to ensure I have the freedom to give respect to a highly dangerous venomous creature. The irony Is mesmerizing in itself… Child’s play compared to my snipering of those little grapes off of the fish hooks.

The snake then began crawling back to his nook. However he stopped and coiled with intentions of protecting himself from the onlookers who had no means of harming him to begin with. He coiled up and looked at me as I stuck a giant camera in his face, he’s looking at the camera lens and he’s wondering, is this thing going to eat me. What is this strange thing being stuck in my face. And although the little snake had no memory of being hooked from the nook in his sleep. I think he probably was experiencing fear for the first time as he looked at this lens of the camera staring him down not knowing why I was there to begin with. Although he had heard stories from his ancestors of such alien encounters. Today he was experiencing his own.

I photographed it and let the little thing crawl away. The end

Unfortunately, I do not have a photo or video of hooking the snake

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: January 28th, 2019, 11:54 pm
by Kelly Mc
Ordinarily, I dont give a dang how a thread wilds out, but this was for real a nice place to share our uncaptured memories in plain faith and enjoyment. Not a platform for more of your Staged Games.

Something your Grandpa knew that you stupendously don't .. before aiming at a weak spot, you better be sure its really there.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: February 1st, 2019, 6:08 pm
by Kfen
One day several years ago (like everyone else's story starts) I was hiking up a mountain side in northern NJ looking for prospective timber rattlesnake dens. I was in an area with some open canopy so there was a good amount of grasses growing on the forest floor. I caught some movement waving around on the vegetation and as I got closer I realized it was snake. I couldn't figure out what it was doing until I bent down. There was an eastern worm snake coiled around and up some thick grass with the front half or third of its body waving around vertically in the air like it was trying to climb higher. I sat there for a few seconds trying to figure out why this mostly fossorial species was acting so strangely, and then I noticed a little rodent face popping up through the dead dried veg just below the snake. I guess the snake was trying to evade its would be predator. Any time I tell a very good friend of mine about something cool that happens or I find, he brings this story up as a way to say he doesn't believe me, because to this day he doesn't believe this one.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: February 10th, 2019, 7:14 pm
by jonathan
Pretty much all my best no-photo stories involve mammals.

I was doing field work in Bangladesh trying to collect data on frogs alone in a flooded fallow field at night. The area was devoid of large predators so my only safety concern was wild boar, with which I'd already had several uncomfortable encounters. As I stood ankle-deep in water, a grunt and some rustling emanated from the nearby brush.

Thinking for sure that I was about to get a wild boar charge, I pulled off my backpack to block with in one hand and got my walking/defensive stick ready in the other.

Suddenly a Golden Jackal that burst out of the bushes...with a Small Indian Civet right on its heels. They were nearly oblivious to my presence, passing only about 5 meters away as the civet chased the jackal across the field and eventually back into the bushes on the other side.

My friend and I were backpacking in the Mineral King Valley area of Sequoia National Park, where we reached a 11,000+ foot valley isolated enough that we didn't see another human in the three days we were there. During some day hiking, we crested a hill which overlooked a boulder field, in which several marmots were doing marmot things. I was absorbed with watching them play when a large shape fled at about 100 yards. We only got quick glances of it as it passed between boulders in the boulderfield - maybe 3-4 shots of less than a second each before it disappeared behind a ridge. But no doubt that it was the one and only cougar that either of us had ever seen. It looked like it disappeared into a draw behind the ridge and I tried to recruit my friend to help me flush it out so we could get a better look, but he wasn't game.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: February 10th, 2019, 7:22 pm
by jonathan
But here's my best one...from Mount Abu in southern Rajasthan. Here's the account of the encounter which I wrote up the very night it happened.

I head out at 8:15pm to herp a trail which I’d already scouted/herped from 4-7:30pm earlier in the day. Though the trailhead starts right on the edge of a mountain town, it feels remote almost immediately. The next day I will hear that a foreign tourist headed out on this trail last year and was never seen again, and that the trail had been completely removed from the area maps handed out to tourists. Even before I heard that story, I had the distinct feeling it could happen, with landscapes that look like they could hide a lot and a “main trail” which appeared not to have been used for weeks, perhaps months.

My uneasy feelings about the scantiness of the trail and the possible dangers that lurked there led me to make a much less ambitious plan for night herping than I had in the evening scout. Instead, I would just focus on the first section of trail, scanning bushes for cat snakes, the ground for green keelbacks, and streams for stream frogs.

As I hike up the road in the dark to my target area, I’m stopped at least three times.

“Aage mat jao, katernak hai.” (Don’t go further, it’s dangerous.)

“Kuu?” (Why?)

“Janwar bahut hai.” (There are many animals.)
Or just a minute later from another guy.
“Roko, mat jao.” (Stop, don’t go.)

“Kuu nahi?” (Why not?)

“Baloo bahut hai.” (There are many bears.)

“Accha!” (Good!)
The thing that was killing me about these warnings is that they came while I was still in town. Was it really so dangerous that even walking in town alone at night on the wrong road was risky? Or did my headlamp lead them to assume I was hitting a trail?

Confidently, arrogantly, I brushed off the warnings like I had the myriad previous warnings I had gotten the previous night and earlier this day. This time, however, when I got to the trail all the fear in their voices began to get to me. Last night’s hike had been on a paved road with a temple at the end, and a motorcycle passed me every 15-20 minutes. The morning’s hike, where I had seen my first sloth bear, was on a berry bush-covered trail like this one, but that trail was 5 meters wide and that had been in broad daylight. Today’s trail is not only through berry bushes in the dark, but at many points the bushes are brushing my shoulders at either side or even touching. Occasionally playing in my mind is the video I saw earlier this year of a sloth bear eating an Indian man’s face while he was still alive.

I began a search pattern – three steps forward focused on looking for snakes on the ground, then peer ahead as far as possible for eyeshine of dangerous game, slowly scan the brush for cat snakes, then take three steps forward again. Often I added an extra check behind me, and a repeat look ahead before I took more steps. I kept reconsidering the bravado with which I had answered the last naysayer – do I even want to see a bear right now? Daytime bears are great. In the dark on this narrow trail? I realize that I hadn’t seen any bear sign yet (while my earlier sighting had followed copious sign) and thought a good test would be what I would do if I found fresh sign now. And I knew for certain that I would turn around and head back straight the way I’d came.

So those were the thoughts in my mind that led me through the next hour of somewhat adrenaline-heavy/heartbeat-accelerated herping. With my slow pace I covered less than a kilometer. I managed to find a stream frog I hadn’t gotten yet, but no snakes to compliment the Ptyas mucosa and blind snake I’d found on my evening run-through. Just past 9pm, as the trail continued to wind further up into the mountains, I decided there would be no snakes ahead and practically ran back down.

At the trailhead I encountered three Indian guys having a drink next to their parked motorcycle. They were shocked to see me come down.
“Bahut katernak janwar hai – aapko dar nahi lagte hai?” (There are many dangerous animals – aren’t you scared?”

“Nahi, yh mere addat hai, mere papa chiriya ghar me caam karte te or mere puri zindigi ye cheez kiya he.” (No, it’s my habit, my dad worked in a zoo and I’ve been doing this my whole life.)

Safely off the trail, my bravado is back. One of the men tells me that he is a guide, and we make a little small talk. I tell them about the sloth bear this morning, and they were surprised I was alone.

“Aapko dar nahi laga ta?” (Weren’t you scared?)

“Nahi, veh mujhse dar lagte hai, na?” (No, they’re scared of me, aren’t they?)
At their skeptical laughter I push further.
“Jab humko dekte hai veh humse baag jate hai, na?” (They run from us when they see us, no?)

I don’t think I’ve made a good enough case in their eyes. I bid farewell and head back to my hotel.

As I walk back those outskirt streets I came in on, I scan my lights on every tree I find. I can’t believe that I haven’t seen a civet or flying squirrel at least on this trip – all the tree scanning I’ve done has resulted in nothing bigger than a dove. Sure enough, I soon spot a Common Palm Civet well up in a tree. Despite my new camera and a powerful headlamp, I can barely reach him for a good shot. I back up to the edge of the road, my back to the dark hill behind me, and take shot after shot trying to get a decent pic. My headlamp isn’t hitting full power anymore, so I sit cross-legged on the side of the road and switch out the batteries. My camera dies from all the flashes, so I switch out that battery as well.

All on the ground, my back to the bushes on the dark hill behind me.

My camera shows that I spent a good ten minutes photographing that civet. As I photograph it, I notice four wild hogs gathering in a marsh on the side of the road to my back, about 50 meters or so further down the road. Once I ID them I pay them no more mind. The more relevant thing is the 10+ minutes it took me to get it.

Ten minutes with my back to the dark brush behind me.

I finally stop photographing the civet, pack my camera, and head on. But I’ve barely gone 25 meters when I see more eyeshine on the pig-side of the road. It’s something little, on the ground, just behind the bushes less than 20 meters off the road right where the marsh begins. I can’t see anything but eyeshine but I get the impression it might be a small cat (perhaps biased from having seen a jungle cat in the dark on a hike in another city just four days earlier). I can’t see anything but eyeshine though. I step off the road and head towards it. It moves, but I pick up the eyes again just a bit further away. The brush in front of it is still keeping me from seeing anything but eyeshine. I cut the original distance in half, and am now only 10 meters away, but I still can’t see what it is. I consider taking a shot with the flash just to see if it shows anything.

Suddenly a second set of eyes appear, 2-3 meters to the left of the first and slightly closer to me.

There’s two! I pan from the first to the second, and the second set of eyes bursts into action with far more noise than I expected. It goes to the left and slightly towards me, and with no time to think I instinctively track its motion with my headlamp. A fraction of a second after it started moving, it passes through a gap in the brush, and for a fraction of a second I see the gorgeous coat of a full-grown adult leopard less than 10 meters in front of me.

The only sensible thing to do at this moment was to walk backwards carefully until I was back on the road, keeping the headlamp in front of me. I get back to the middle of the road, and am surprised to see that the cub’s eyes (for I am now certain that’s what it must be) haven’t moved. Those little eyes continue to look at me, 25 meters away. I scan up, and find mom’s eyes about 30 meters away, a few meters higher up on the hill than before and at least 10-15 meters away from the cub now.

I had been stalking a leopard cub with mom nearby.

I had just spent 10 minutes photographing a civet with a leopard family behind me.

But I don’t have a photo of the leopard. I consider what to do, and decide quickly that you don’t fool around too much with leopard families. So I retreat to the nearest house, about 100 meters further down the road on the opposite side. A man is walking around to the front of the house and I shout,

“Hey, leopard vahe hai!” (There’s a leopard over there!)
He doesn’t seem to believe me, so I give more details.
“Look, there are pigs down over there, and there is a leopard over there,”
I shine my headlamp to lay out the scene. From about a hundred meters away though, I can’t make out the eyeshine anymore.

He calls some people out, and soon the whole extended family is standing outside the house. In my mind the men were going to come down and join me on the road, and with safety in numbers I would be able to get close enough to at least attempt a photo. But despite their skepticism, no one is even stepping away from the house to come down to the road, much less getting any closer to the potential leopard. They keep asking questions, and I keep laying out what I saw (omitting the cub detail for now because I’m afraid it will make them even more incredulous) and pointing out where I think the leopard is right now.
“No, no, look to the right.”
I pan my headlamp to the right.
“Look, it’s just pigs.”

“No, I told you about the pigs already. The pigs are there, the leopard is there. I saw its spots and everything.”

“No, no, it’s just pigs.”
I’m now standing on a half-meter retaining wall that defines the edge of their side of the road. I walk along the wall another 20 meters back the way I’d come (slight additional feeling of security on it because it makes me bigger) and soon enough can catch the eyeshine again, a bit higher up than before. I rush back.
“Look, it’s right there! You see that tree? 10 meters higher up and 10 meters to the left! I see the eyes right now!”

“No, it’s just pigs.”

“No, the pigs are down there, the leopard is up there!”

“No, it’s pigs.”

“Look at how all the pigs are looking over there! They’re not looking at us even though we’re right here, they’re looking over at the leopard!”

In fact, the pigs are rigidly standing all in identical positions, facing the leopard a good 60-70 meters away from them.

An SUV comes down the road with a family inside, the first car to pass since the incident began. They stop (much closer to the leopard than the house) to ask what I am looking at.
“There’s a leopard up there, I just saw it.”

“You saw it now?”

The driver gets out. The car’s presence makes me bold enough to step back down onto the road. The driver stands next to his door on what happens to be on the leopard-side of the road, while I step in front of the car’s headlights. I scan the hill and find the eyes again, 40 meters away. The moment my light hits them, the leopard bursts through the brush with a loud growl.

I have no idea which direction it went.

The driver flees back into the car with a speed I have never seen a middle-aged Indian man reach. I quick-step to put the SUV between the leopard and myself. I have no idea where it’s gone. I wait hopefully for an invitation to join the family in the car. It doesn’t come. At this moment fear has nearly caught exhilaration – maybe I’m only 60-40 in favor of being happy about being out there at this moment. I grew up reading Man is the Prey over and over again, and have plenty of statistics about leopard attacks and man-eating leopards memorized.
“Was that a bear?” the driver’s wife asks.

“No, that was a leopard, that was a leopard,” he repeats with a shakiness in his voice.
I scan the hill but can’t find the eyes. I get up on the retaining wall again and rush back to the house.
“Did you hear that? Did you hear that? I told you it was a leopard!”


“The leopard growled just now! They heard it too!”

“What did he say?”
At first I thought they were making fun of me and asking what the leopard said. Then I realize they’re asking what the driver said. I understand that not knowing my background, they don’t trust the crazy foreigner, and would rather know what the local had to say about the whole thing.
“He said it was a leopard. Pakka (for certain), it was a leopard.”
The SUV goes up and down the road, turning its headlights to try to spot the leopard again. Eventually he comes back.
“It’s gone. It ran away.”
He urges me to go home. He’s right. I walk back in total disbelief over what has happened. As I get back to my hotel, I think of both my early-morning hike tomorrow, but more importantly my planned 7km night-hike for herping through a remote area where I’m certain to see no one.

Can I do that?

Maybe not a good idea.

Re: If There Isnt A Photo, It Didnt Happen

Posted: February 11th, 2019, 5:17 am
by BillMcGighan
All these stories are great!