The Snake of the North

Basking along the edge of some random driveway in north Georgia, a Common Gartersnake was the first reptile I saw after moving away from Vermont for the first time. Gartersnakes, being the most abundant reptile in the state of Vermont, weren’t a species I was excited to see. Having been in Georgia for a grand […]

Fall Peepers – A Seasonal Aberration

Up here in the often frigid Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, seasons are very clear-cut. We have mud season, spring, summer, fall, second mud season, and winter. That is a stark contrast from what I experienced in South Texas where it’s either hot and dry, hot and wet, or cool and wet (hot and dry being […]

A How-to on Proper Use of a Field Guide

Field guides are a gateway to understanding the natural world. Indeed, many herpers I know treasure their very first field guide, which opened their eyes to the diversity around them, keeping its tattered remains up on a shelf next to newer editions as a memento. My first was copy Peterson’s “Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern […]

Hatchling snapping turtle moments after emerging from its nest in Shelburne VT - Photo by Patrick Perry

Snappers: The myth vs the turtle

“Yeah, I’m never swimming here again”. This is a common reaction from people upon seeing a particularly large Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) in any body of water. I am beginning to lose count of how many people have expressed such sentiment to me over the years. As if on cue, as I began to…

Tripod Turtles

  Last month during a Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) survey I stumbled upon one of the most vibrantly colored turtles I have ever seen. Easily recognized by their brown shells, black heads, and distinctly orange necks and limbs, even the more drably-colored Wood Turtles are quite striking, but this particular animal really stood out to […]

Hiding in Plain Site: Southern Dusky Salamanders

Last year on a warm sticky day in June, we ventured into a large perennial seep at the base of a small sandhill.  There are similar seeps all over the southeast where groundwater trickles out onto the surface and forms small mucky swamps that are rarely more than a few inches deep.  Seeps provide important […]

Egg Mass Identification in the Great Northern Forests

Spring Egg Mass Identification in the Great Northern Forests With winter concluding in Northern New England and already past farther south, amphibians in the northeast are migrating to their breeding habitat and beginning to lay eggs. Many of the species that breed in the early spring seek temporary bodies of water to lay their eggs, […]

Porcupines: Bark-eating Beasties of the Northern Woods

A few years ago a visitor from South Carolina told me they saw a beaver climbing a tree in the woods behind my house. As much as I’d love to believe arboreal beavers inhabit woodlands around my house in central Vermont, it was highly unlikely. North American porcupines, which are similar in size and shape […]

Mink Fogs: The Frog of the North

Ever since my first introduction to the Northeast Kingdom (NEK) of Vermont back in high school I was hooked. Boreal forests, sphagnum wetlands, carnivorous plants, bubbling brooks, and moose-infested swamps all drew me back to the NEK time after time. It’s an area where the air even smells nice in a gas station parking lot! […]

Beavers

While kayaking in a town wetland a couple months ago I noticed a slow-moving trail of bubbles ahead of me. As a herpetologist, I recognized the bubbles as a sign there was a Common Snapping Turtle walking through the debris at the wetland bottom, so I decided to follow the bubble trail toward shallower water […]