Kansas in late August or mid September?

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Jefferson
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Location: Southwest Missouri
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Kansas in late August or mid September?

Post by Jefferson »

Good afternoon everyone,

Bethany and I have some locales nailed down for Long-nosed snake, Prairie Rattler, W. Massasauga, Great Plains Toad, Red-spotted Toad, Glass Lizard, and Horned Lizard in West-central Kansas, along with Great Plains skink and Lined snake a little further east in the Flint Hills region. Since we've never done any non-spring salamander cruises in that state and are generally unfamiliar with the Great Plains region overall, we're just wondering if anyone might have some insight as to whether we should go the last weekend in August or wait until mid-September? My gut tells me the rattlers are probably both gimmes either way, except in a freak cold snap, and that the toads would be better in August (and maybe the lizards would be visible just after sunrise even on a hot August weekend) but that the lizards, glass lizards, and long-nosed snakes would be better in September. Thoughts? Any seasonality advice or local anecdotal evidence welcome, and thank you!

Jefferson

Jimi
Posts: 1930
Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: Kansas in late August or mid September?

Post by Jimi »

Thanks for the posts & pics, I enjoy seeing you two getting out and just getting along in life. (Unsolicited thus possibly hated advice - rack 'em up before you have kids, if you're so inclined! You will have no time or money for anything but the yard apes, once you go there.)

So - I have zero actual knowledge of the area, and little High Plains experience that far north (just a little in SE & NE Colorado, from when I was at grad school in CSU - a supremely busy time with very little herping).

All that said, my intuition - or, the integrated totality of all my experiences - says "September, hell yeah". Some of your critters are flippers; I'd think having it cooler would make it less likely to have upper soil moisture all cooked out by heat.

I think you're mostly right on the rattlesnakes - basically gimmes. But I still maintain that September would probably be a better bet. Amazing how often a gimme, ain't, actually. Also I think the daylight cruising could be a little better - more not-too-hot early/mid, AM & maybe later PM, hours for the glass & horned lizards.

Most anywhere in N America is going to be decent or good in mid September. As a general rule of thumb. If you have free time at both times, and if this area could be quite good in late August - that might also inform your thinking (nail two spots not just one - the other being a spot that's definitely more likely to be good a few weeks later; I would guess that as probably something further south / hotter).

Anyway - maybe somebody who actually knows something about those critters in that area first-hand will chime in.

Good hunting!

stlouisdude
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Re: Kansas in late August or mid September?

Post by stlouisdude »

Never been to Kansas so can't help you there. I have herped all over MO though.

July and August are hot and dry generally. Those months I mostly look for pit vipers in rock crevices mid morning or on the crawl around dusk.

late april, May and September are good for flipping. June things start to heat and dry up.

Jefferson
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Joined: March 2nd, 2014, 6:50 am
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Re: Kansas in late August or mid September?

Post by Jefferson »

Thanks for the replies guys!

Jimi, I'm glad you enjoy our posts on the forum (and videos? If not, you should check them out), and yes, we're hitting herping hard early in our lives in anticipation of slowing down the pace when we have kids--we'll still herp, but nowhere near the intensity, duration, and danger levels we do now once that happens until they're out of the house and we get going again in a big way during early retirement. Thank you for the advice on leaning toward September for the daylight cruising and flipping. I hope someone from KS responds to this too (but when your state has only 5 residents, what's the odds of that?)! Hopefully we do well, and I'll seriously think about your suggestion to maybe just go twice/hit two areas.

To stlouisdude: Yeah, the one thing that's kept us from going so far is that we haven't seen many snakes on the roads even in twilight-10pm timeframe here in SW MO--we just got our first cruised Copperhead two nights ago after four straight cruises of nothing but toads--here's hoping the Pigmies and other snakes start moving around in the next week or two. It's so odd being from Michigan, and being more of a salamander person (honestly, if not for Bethany, I don't know if I could call myself a "herper." Historically, I'm more like a "salamanderer" who occasionally took subpar photos of turtles and snakes he bumped into while looking for salamanders) generally who spent so much time at high elevation in Appalachia that here in the rest of the continental US, July-August are dead as a doornail. In Michigan, except in the southern two rows of counties along the OH/IN border, you could still find Ambystoma under logs in July and August for crying out loud (downside was that from Oct. 15-March you'd see literally nothing, so I'll take the alternative I now live in any day).

Jimi
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Re: Kansas in late August or mid September?

Post by Jimi »

here's hoping the Pigmies
I've never really looked for pigs west of the Mississippi, and the little I've done there was just unrequited walking & flipping, but knowing them just a little in GA & SC (where they are also very spotty & can be tough, like they seem further west) they seemed more reliably cruisable in Sept (and even Oct) than Aug.

In FL they're sort of vermin, and seem to pop up "any time, any where" more or less. But I would say hotter than hell is not a great condition for seeing them, except maybe on dirt roads, getting close to dark. They also seem a more moisture-sensitive than most other native vipers - they may be "leakier" than most. Dry as hell never was great for me, with them. Actually raining, I seriously doubt they like, but muggy, yeah. They like. Seems to me anyway. I've seen way more near water, than far from it. Honestly, I've also seen them out on the roads in surprisingly cool conditions - mid-high 60s. Lotta SE USA snakes don't love chilly. Pigs seem a little more tolerant; not as much as a copperhead or a milk, but more than most. Seems to me.

Anyway - give it a shot, no matter what. As they say "you don't know if you don't go" and also "snakes don't read the field guides". And, "a few anecdotes don't make a real data set".

Good hunting!

Jefferson
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Re: Kansas in late August or mid September?

Post by Jefferson »

We've actually only seen Pigs west of the Mississippi so far. Last August 15, we saw two Pigs and a DOR Copperhead in one night on a road only about a 20-minute drive from our front door but didn't have time to re-visit in Sept. last year.

Now, we've been using that road since about July 20 to just break the monotony of lockdown every week or so, and also to gauge whether pit vipers in general are moving yet, logic being that if Pigs aren't moving yet in Southwest MO, their Massasauga cousins 250 miles west in Kansas probably aren't either. We'll see about when they're most active here in MO, but judging from our results so far this year, seeing two of them on Aug. 15 last year may have been a fluke.

Jimi
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Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: Kansas in late August or mid September?

Post by Jimi »

to gauge whether pit vipers in general are moving yet, logic being that if Pigs aren't moving yet in Southwest MO, their Massasauga cousins 250 miles west in Kansas probably aren't either
I think maintaining some monitoring effort on that "home road" is very wise, simply to get to know it and your local animals. What you might do is, just set up a schedule and go do a minimum number of passes or hours. E.g., at least 3 hours, from an hour before sundown to two hours after. Something like that. Forget the moon phase, forget the weather, just go, steady-Freddie, every week or two or whatever you can manage, all through the herping season. Even go when you think it's gonna suck - just keep to that schedule. Take good notes - what you see, when, plus covariates like weather variables, and then analyze your data. Moon phase you can get online, after the fact, or before. I bet you learn something! I guarantee your mental model of when's good enough to be worth the time will change. For me, the change has largely been to stay out in colder conditions than I used to. I cannot tell you how many times I have gotten one good animal, and no other animals at all or just one real common one, under what I thought were marginal or even crap conditions. It's crazy, but true.

Another fun project might be to 1) figure out the activity patterns of your local pigs, at your known locality, and then 2) use that knowledge to try and put more dots on the map, in an expanding ring, to better-define their distribution in the region. Reason being, far-western pigs seem super-spotty to me. They in no way appear to be +/- continuously-distributed, like many upland snakes in mixed woodland/pasture/cropland/riparian landscapes like SW MO. Seems to me, anyway.

However, I doubt the applicability to central or western KS though - the environments and climates are so different. More, I doubt the applicability to 'saugas. The animals are so different. Or seem it, anyway. 'Saugas out west seem less spotty, more just tied to available habitat (if it's still there, they probably are too), and also less behaviorally-cryptic. It could probably be expressed in terms of how many outings in "ideal conditions" might it take, on average, to detect them at a site, given their actual presence. With C KS 'saugas it might be as few as three or four, with SW MO pigs, man, I have no idea. It might be more like 12 or 15.

I'd sure love to be snake-omniscient, and just know all this stuff. Ha ha. Wouldn't we all?

Jefferson
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Re: Kansas in late August or mid September?

Post by Jefferson »

Jimi,

Thank you for the words of encouragement on our "home road" efforts and general advice on the road-cruising schedule. I agree that it's probably not as applicable to Central KS as I originally thought, but sometimes a placebo effect or talisman-type ritual puts the mind at ease when taking longer trips. We'd all love to be "snake-omniscient" wouldn't we?! That's an awesome turn of phrase, by the way.

We're probably not going to KS this weekend, as the chances for rain keep dropping, which means that as of Sat., it'll be 13-14 days since last rain if the forecast holds. I suppose that, combined with moon phase difference and the good advice offered here will put us going to KS in mid-Sept. instead. Maybe we'll venture to the bootheel instead this weekend.

In any case, we were out on the "home road" last night, and guess what finally turned up....

Image
Image

This guy was sprawled out across the road dead-center at about 15 minutes past sunset last night. A nice way to close out the dog-days herping, and a good sign that September is fast approaching.

Jimi
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Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: Kansas in late August or mid September?

Post by Jimi »

Hey, congrats!!! Classic little streckeri. What was he, maybe 12" long?

"If you can hear the rattle, your ear is too close!" Ha ha ha. Cute little toe-stabbers, huh?

Jefferson
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Re: Kansas in late August or mid September?

Post by Jefferson »

This one was larger than I expected, probably somewhere in the 20-25" range. He was roughly twice as long as my shoes from snout to rattle, and I have large feet. My first thought when we saw him stretched out across the road was, "That's about 6" too big to be a Pigmy--here comes my 983rd Copperhead...." Nope! You're not kidding about the rattle either. When we coaxed him off the road with Bethany's walking stick, he coiled defensively, struck once or twice, and rattled. The rattle was barely audible--I've heard louder house flies!

Jimi
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Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: Kansas in late August or mid September?

Post by Jimi »

probably somewhere in the 20-25" range
Wow - that's a monster! I think streckeri is the smallest subspecies. I used to keep two adult pairs, and got a few litters out of them. All four of my adults were in the 16-20" range. Pretty stout, could happily eat full-grown adult domestic mice. But they did not exceed 20", I am certain.

Most FHF-reported ones have been more like 10-14" i think. The forum is pretty dead nowadays, but we had a decent little run of these reported from TX, OK, and I think AR in the ~2005-2010 era.

(My neonates only wanted to eat red-back salamanders. They were a nightmare. I cannot recommend culturing this taxon!)

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fringe
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Re: Kansas in late August or mid September?

Post by fringe »

Jefferson wrote:
August 17th, 2020, 6:11 am
wait until mid-September?
I know you already made a trip, but KS in Sept or even Oct can be good. Weather permitting. Mid Sept with the new moon in western KS, decent temps. Badda bing! Badda boom!

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