Some Florida nemesis species

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tomharten
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Some Florida nemesis species

Post by tomharten » March 5th, 2020, 10:28 am

I'm sure that we all have these. Species that we should encounter when herping within their range, yet they continue to elude us. I've herped up and down the Florida peninsula, yet for some reason have never been able to connect with a coral snake or a mud snake. I don't think of either species as exceptionally rare, but I've never had any luck with them. I'm actually making two family visits in the next month, one trip on the east coast and another one to the Gulf coast and then south to the Glades. I hope to squeeze in a little herping while down there.

I'm not looking for locations, but I'm curious about how folks that have found these species have had their success. Any tips would be appreciated.

Jimi
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Re: Some Florida nemesis species

Post by Jimi » March 5th, 2020, 1:43 pm

Hi Tom,

I lived in St Auggie 4 years and got out quite a bit. Mostly for work all over NE FL (St Johns to Brevard, west to Marion Co), some just for play too though. With that background:

I've seen loads of mud snakes as "cruising bycatch" on the Osceola NF. Rainy nights, or just hot muggy nights, seem best. Osceola has loads of ponds and lakes, ditches, creeks and rivers - I doubt you're ever far from a mud snake there. I found it hard to encounter a live large mud snake; most were DOR. Live babies were easier to come by (harder to run over, I guess).

I also spent some time shining and dip-netting vegetated shallows. Saw quite a few baby muds that way too. Day or night, but night is better.

I think you could make a special project of figuring out mud snakes and do pretty well, pretty quick.

Coral snakes are something else entirely. I never could just go get me a coral snake. Many that I saw were accidentally cruised too - but unlike the muds, not when I was cruising, just when I was cutting across some woods trying to get somewhere. The ones I saw actively road cruising were when I was looking for pine snakes. Mornings, early summer, high sandy country. Sometimes well-burned ground, usually not. A coral snake under such conditions is a fast-moving muther. Peppy, peppy, peppy.

I will say I developed the impression that corals are most abundant in a habitat I call "junk hammock". Junk hammock is what you get when you don't burn your flatwoods or sandhills for a few decades. The midstory hardwoods - especially water oak - come in hard, the herbaceous ground layer is replaced by oak leaves and kind of sparse woody shrubs. Perfect ground skink habitat; or maybe perfect ground skink hunting ground.

I also flipped some corals in spring; right about now into maybe mid April. Any old herper's dream garbage will do - shingles, tar paper, cardboard, plywood. Actually - stuff that stays wet is best. There's not much tin in FL but I can't remember flipping a coral under tin. I have the distinct impression that coral snakes are "leaky" - that they would dry out and die without a lot of ambient moisture. I think that's why the junk hammock seems to suit them - the deep oak leaf litter is a humidity buffer. And, it fairly well excludes fire - it is HARD to run fire through evergreen-oak litter, unless it's a dry winter day with a good breeze.

Florida has loads of junk hammock. That is not your limiting factor! Most of my corals were seen not too far from the St John's river, for what it's worth. A lot of that is grass, just find some palmy ridge-top hammocks with good litter of oak leaves and palm fronds, and I think you've got a decent shot. You will also see loads of pigmy rattlers, so watch your fingers and toes. Coral snakes are very busy, so when afoot, listen for crawling. If it's not a racer or a glass lizard you hear in the leaf litter, it might well be a coral snake. Skinks sound unique, you won't confuse anything with a skink.

Also - one thing I never did much of in FL was leaf-raking. That might also be worth some effort. You never know.

Good hunting!

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tomharten
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Re: Some Florida nemesis species

Post by tomharten » March 5th, 2020, 3:46 pm

Thanks so much for your comprehensive reply, Jimi! I did a long weekend trip to Osceola two years ago. No muds, but lots of other good stuff. It’s probably worth another shot. I will keep plugging away for those and for Corals. I’ll be in the Ft. Pierce area early next week. I’ll keep my eyes out for some decent junk piles. I think it’s supposed to cool off a bit over the nest couple of days. Thanks again for your reply!

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tomharten
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Re: Some Florida nemesis species

Post by tomharten » March 17th, 2020, 10:03 am

My plans changed a bit. Will be going in and out of Tampa-will also shoot across the state to Ft. Pierce. Sounds like state park campground across Florida are now closed. I’m thinking about camping for a couple of days in Ocala NF (last I checked these campgrounds were still open). Has anyone in the group herped there this time of year? I hit that area about 30 years ago, but struck out....

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BillMcGighan
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Re: Some Florida nemesis species

Post by BillMcGighan » March 18th, 2020, 5:54 am

Hey, Tom,
PM sent.

I the area in the PM most Corals were found on the crawl in Oct / Nov; males hunting females (about 70%), and about 30% in spring under cover and crawling early AM.

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

Re: Some Florida nemesis species

Post by Jimi » March 18th, 2020, 11:30 am

I don't know about getting your 2 nemesis species in/around the Ocala in March, but as long as there isn't a cold front blowing through you should be able to find some decent sport-herping. I'd probably put all my time into wet/dry ecotones, mostly working near sandhill ponds, but also investing some time into spots where creeks or small rivers (Orange Creek, Juniper Run, etc) flow near some decent topography. (There's just something about a sunny woodsy slope, running down to water, in March or April in the southeastern coastal plain.) Mostly just stalking and listening, some flipping. The ground will be colder than the air so before afternoon, most everything will want to come out and sun. And, if you've got the room, take some waders and a dipnet. You'll waste all sorts of time wondering what the hell kind of tadpole you're looking at! Ha ha ha. Plus grub up the odd siren, turtle, aquatic snake, etc. Might just get that mudsnake...

Good hunting!

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tomharten
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Location: Southern Maryland

Re: Some Florida nemesis species

Post by tomharten » March 19th, 2020, 4:46 am

This sounds like a great plan. I’m hopeful for my targets but will be happy just to be out in the field and seeing some activity of any FL herpetofauna! Thanks so much for the suggestions.

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