Lightning can strike twice.... (GA simus)

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Kerry Nelson
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Lightning can strike twice.... (GA simus)

Post by Kerry Nelson » June 12th, 2010, 3:59 pm

Last weekend I drove up to eastern Tennessee for a camping trip with some friends. On my way back to Savannah, I decided to detour through an area where a few other herpers have been having insane luck with southern hognose snakes (Heterodon simus) and pines (Pituophis melanoleucus). I had a feeling I'd be getting lucky, because I'd left my camera at home.

Sure enough, at the start of my second pass, I saw a huge female simus in the road. The incredible rush from finding my first simus in Georgia, first adult, and first of the species solo (my only other had come in Florida, while a friend drove and I slept in the backseat - not really the most satisfying find) was somewhat tempered by my complete inability to record the find. I stood over the critter, debating what to do. Risk a fine/overstressing the snake/getting blacklisted for any future jobs in my chosen career field by bagging a protected species? Even without the legal issues, there was still the matter of a 100+ mile drive each way to get my camera and return the animal. Bag it and drive to Wal-Mart for a disposable camera? Leave it, buy a camera, and hope for another, sacrificing an hour of prime cruising in the meantime? Buy a real camera and hope Wal-Mart's return policy is lenient?

While I pondered this dilemma, a truck came crawling to a stop. From the logo on the side, at first I thought it was the DNR (a major point for not bagging the snake), but it turned out to be a couple guys from an environmental services firm who were driving to a jobsite and thought I needed help with my car. One of them really liked hognoses, saying he saw them a lot when he was younger and liked encountering them, but hadn't seen any in ages. He was nice enough to snap a couple photos on his Blackberry and email them to me then and there. Not the greatest shots, but it somewhat satiated my desire for a souvenir:

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These shots were very useful for confirming that this was a new individual for the area, bringing the total up to something like six in two weeks.

Feeling optimistic, I kept driving. Within ten minutes, I was standing over yet another giant adult simus! This one I left undisturbed, placing my foot alongside it for a second to gauge its length (an impressive 20", minimum). About an hour passed without anything of interest, and then I cruised a juvenile simus! Three in one day, a feat I previously considered impossible outside of a few areas in North Carolina. I swear they can smell cameras and change their behavior accordingly.

Fast forward to today, which I had off from work. I decided to head back to the area hoping lightning would strike twice. I was worried by the day's heat, not sure if snakes would be active for long. I arrived at 9, and found a drag from a small pine snake already cutting through the road. I was worried I should have shown up an hour earlier to have a hope of finding anything.

I didn't have to worry for long, though, as this sight greeted me on my second pass:

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Victory! In retrospect, I wish I'd spent more time getting really good shots, but I was too excited to focus at the time and got greedy, hoping for a pine snake.

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(note the uncharacteristically straight drag in this photo)

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The rest of the day's cruise produced several drags, but no live snakes other than racers. Anyone have an idea what species could have made this?

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At the end of my last pass, I got out to hike some swamps for a while. As I walked down a boat ramp, I noticed that what I'd written off as a piece of trash on an earlier pass was in fact something much more interesting:

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Also found this enormous DOR rat snake on the way home. I think I've seen one or two rats that were larger, and some diamondbacks and an indigo that were thicker, but nothing close to this combination of length and girth:

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This pine was found in South Carolina earlier this year, after oversleeping and missing out on a successful simus hunt. Sometimes sleeping in can pay off. This guy was out at around 4 PM.

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I'll end with an edb from a trip back in May, originally posted by Zach on the old boards:

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Gibson
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Re: Lightning can strike twice.... (GA simus)

Post by Gibson » June 12th, 2010, 4:47 pm

Great finds! I've always wanted to find a Hog-nosed Snake... :roll:
Thanks!

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Berkeley Boone
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Re: Lightning can strike twice.... (GA simus)

Post by Berkeley Boone » June 12th, 2010, 5:00 pm

Kerry-
Nice job, though I hate you. Ha! That place has THE most activity I have ever seen. Anywhere. Matt and Cary and I were floored! And the simus are the biggest around! You can't beat that with a stick.

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Greg Theos
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Re: Lightning can strike twice.... (GA simus)

Post by Greg Theos » June 12th, 2010, 6:26 pm

Dear god...3 southern hogs? Amazing. Next time you come to the Florida panhandle, show me how to find some hogs and pines. How long was the grey rat?

cherper
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Re: Lightning can strike twice.... (GA simus)

Post by cherper » June 13th, 2010, 8:17 am

Kerry,

After seeing the photos of the female with the "kinked tail" I believe she was definitely a different individual. Great find before we got there yesterday! All we found at the Swamp were three racers (one was being eaten by a cottonmouth from under a boardwalk we were standing on, weird stuff), and a redbellied watersnake. I love the picture of your pine.

Cary

BradB
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Re: Lightning can strike twice.... (GA simus)

Post by BradB » June 13th, 2010, 9:58 am

Ahhh, the miracle mile! Nice snakes Kerry, I will be down near you in a couple of weeks and I want to hunt that SC ridge one of the nights.

Also, to the Ga. crew, I think its about warm enough for a hellbender trip, maybe the last Sunday in June? Let me know.

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Kerry Nelson
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Re: Lightning can strike twice.... (GA simus)

Post by Kerry Nelson » June 13th, 2010, 10:30 am

Berkeley - I know! What blows my mind is the sheer number of drags you see out there. We must miss a good 75% of the stuff that crosses on that tiny little stretch. The sand there is great for showing tracks, too. I was never any good at spotting drags, but out there they really stand out to me for some reason.

Greg - that gray rat was about 6' 6". I'll let you know when I'm down that way again. Pines and hogs are surprisingly not terribly difficult once you get them figured out. Finding good habitat is the hard part. For this time of year, early mornings are the right time for simus. Lately it seems like even 9 AM may be too late - get out as the dew burns off the ground and cruise sand ridge like mad. Pines like it a little hotter, and I see them primarily in late afternoons and even after dark in midsummer. October is a great month for both species, though it'll mainly be neonates. (I should qualify that by saying it's the summary of friend's experiences, most of my luck has come in completely different situations).

Cary - I looked up cottonmouth diet, and the number of species they've been recorded feeding on is phenomenal! I had no idea they were so ophiphagous, but racers are a definite prey item so I imagine that is what went down with those guys.

I'm down for hellbenders. I was actually thinking maybe fourth of July weekend? I guess a lot of people may be out of town then, but I'm still wavering between throwing a party in Savannah and going up to Athens/Atlanta to visit people.

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Ryan Thies
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Re: Lightning can strike twice.... (GA simus)

Post by Ryan Thies » June 13th, 2010, 11:16 am

You really lucked out on those hog-nosed snakes. Those are some great snakes. I have seen a few eastern hog-nosed snakes, but I would kill to see a southern hog-nosed snake. Well done!

Ryan

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The Real Snake Man
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Re: Lightning can strike twice.... (GA simus)

Post by The Real Snake Man » June 13th, 2010, 11:53 am

Man, talk about luck. Two southern hogs that quick, that's just amazing. The EDB is very neat as well.

Zach Veal
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Re: Lightning can strike twice.... (GA simus)

Post by Zach Veal » June 13th, 2010, 1:11 pm

Outstanding post, Three simus!! Thats crazy.. way to go !!! Keep em coming.

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FloridaSerpent
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Re: Lightning can strike twice.... (GA simus)

Post by FloridaSerpent » November 29th, 2014, 10:28 pm

Wow that ratsnake is gigantic.

HerpMan ATL
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Re: Lightning can strike twice.... (GA simus)

Post by HerpMan ATL » November 30th, 2014, 6:11 pm

Awesome finds. Amazing you found 2 is such a short time. I did that with Eastern Kingsnakes this spring. I was telling a friend of mine it was my target snake and a week later I find one. Next morning I find another. Oh and I NEVER go without my camera. I need to come to Savannah herping but I wouldn't not where to start if I did.


Rich

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