On Myths and Milksnakes

One of the most common, yet misidentified, snakes in Northern New England is the Eastern Milksnake. Unlike species such as Northern Watersnakes, which are often confused for similarly-patterned Copperheads or Cottonmouths, the Milksnake is mistaken not only for Timber Rattlesnakes, but also another venomous species that doesn’t actually exist: the “checkered” or “spotted adder”. Early […]

Smooth Turtle Leeches

Few aquatic organisms in freshwater environments elicit such strong negative reactions as a leech. They are gross, slimy, bloodsuckers and they creep people out. For those willing to dig a little deeper into their biology, however, leeches are very fascinating animals. For starters, leeches are hermaphroditic and some provide parental care to their young. Then […]

Varied Habitats Key to Wood Turtle Success

Looking down into many river valleys in Northern New England you’ll see forested mountains, rolling hills with patches of woods and dotted hay fields and pasture, and extensive floodplain wetlands with a clear, gravel bottom stream meandering through the middle. Wood Turtles don’t necessarily need access to absolutely everything such a view (apart from the […]

Tracking Scarce Turtles

One of the more challenging aspects of surveying for Wood Turtles is that they are so darn good at hiding, and they hide most of the time. Couple that with the fact that they roam thousands of feet from water to forage and are an uncommon species with a patchy distribution and it’s no surprise […]

Miranda’s Second Chance

Roads are bad news for turtles, especially during the late spring when most turtles leave the water to lay their eggs. For species that forage on land, such as Wood Turtles, the problem is far worse. During the summer, Wood Turtles roam fertile floodplains in search of food, sometimes ending up more than several thousand […]

A Declining Species

Amphibians are among the most imperiled animals on earth, with almost half of all species declining, and, according to a new UN report, about 40% are now at risk of extinction. Some estimates are that the current rate of amphibian extinctions range anywhere from 211 to over 45,000 times faster than what is considered “normal” […]

Species Spotlight: Eastern Musk Turtle

Eastern Musk Turtles go by a few different names, but they all mean the same thing. Some folk call them stinkpots, and among academic circles their scientific name, Sternotherus odoratus, is just as common. The clear sense you should be getting from all three of these names is that musk turtles are pretty smelly, but […]

Why Do Species Live Where They Do and Not Where They Don’t?

Growing up in the southern Champlain Valley of Vermont, I knew there were Spring Salamanders in the state, and always hoped to find one in the one of the many small streams scattered across the landscape. Topping off around 7 inches in length and with bright salmon-orange skin, you’d think they’d be easy to find, […]

A Gardener’s Friend: The Secretive Red-bellied Snake

Northern New England is not known for having high reptile and amphibian diversity, yet most people here are amazed to learn how many species we actually have. I’d wager that if you approached someone on the street and asked them to name all the local frogs, salamanders, snakes, and turtles in the area they can […]

Combating Misinformation with Identification Tips and Resources

Like so many other people, I grew up falsely thinking brown recluse spiders are common in Vermont. In actuality, brown recluses don’t live here, and if you look at range maps they don’t even get close. Yet common wisdom here contradicts fact; everybody knows you have to watch out for the brown recluse and you […]