Winter is Coming: What is an ectotherm to do?

As 2017 rapidly draws to a close, the nights have gotten cooler in southern Georgia, with some semblance of winter arriving in the not so distant future.  For reptiles and amphibians, shortening day lengths and the arrival of cooler weather signal a shift in behavior and a need to find winter refugia.  Reptiles and amphibians […]

First Finds of Indigo Survey Season

Dirk Stevenson, Director of our Longleaf Savannas Initiative (LSI), and Ben Stegenga, LSI Field Technician, found the very first Eastern Indigo Snake of the survey season earlier this week. Cool nights have Indigos and Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes moving back to Gopher Tortoise burrow dens in Longleaf Pine–Wiregrass sandhill habitats. As an added, and most unusual […]

Little Indigo

Ben Stegenga of The Orianne Society, photographed here with Matt Elliott, Nongame Biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, recently captured a small male Eastern Indigo Snake (4 feet long) at a private land in South Georgia. The snake—found prowling the shadows of a dark, now dry, creek swamp at high noon—was probably foraging. […]

Migratory Snakes

The changing seasons have the snakes on the move, heading for cover, returning to dens where they will overwinter (this is called “ingress”, i.e., the act of going in). Of our Coastal Plain snakes, adult Eastern Indigo Snakes disperse around April to May, up to one to three or more miles from Gopher Tortoise colonies […]

What’s on the Menu? The Diet of the Alligator Snapper

Alligator snapping turtles are the only turtles in the world to have evolved an oral predatory lure. These turtles have a forked, vermiform (“worm-like”) fishing lure on the upper surface of their tongues. When a gator snapper detects nearby fish, the red-wigglerish bait, engorged with blood and buoyant in water, becomes erect and starts to […]

Alligator Snappers vs. Common Snappers

Although most folks are familiar with the Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina), few except experienced fisherman and river rats have encountered alligator snappers (Macrochelys spp.). By comparison, Common Snappers, although growing very large (up to 15 inches and 40 pounds) are nowhere near as big as larger gator snappers. They also lack the three prominent […]

The Author’s Bite

Although it is extremely difficult to get bitten by an alligator snapping turtle or Common Snapping Turtle, I managed to pull it off. At the peak of a multi-year drought, I noodled by hand—searching ostensibly, and successfully, for sirens—in the soupy muck of large, heretofore never dry (but now newly, but still juicy, dry) sphagnum […]

Spotting Spotted Turtles

As you may know, the southeastern United States is recognized for its extraordinarily high species diversity of turtles—a number of muds and stinkpots, snappers, softshells, cooters and sliders, to name a few, inhabit this region. Complementing our efforts specific to protect the Gopher Tortoise, Orianne Society staff are now directing some serious energy toward the […]

Monitoring Eastern Indigo Snakes – I Have Only Been Bitten Once

  From six feet I zoomed in on the head of the 87 inch Eastern Indigo Snake, attempting to focus on his clear bright eye. A new and still damp shed skin stretched across the sand just outside my frame. I got closer. The snake had not moved from his looped position, but he was […]

Team Shady Triumphs

  The bright eyes of the hundreds of recently transformed Eastern Spadefoot toadlets that greeted us seemed to say, “Welcome to the low country of North Carolina, if you enjoy interesting herps, you’ll be happy here.” Soon after arriving at the motel in Elizabethtown, NC, on Friday afternoon we began finding specimens. Blitz participant Matt […]