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 […]

Winter Hideouts

Winter in the Great Northern Forests is not the best time to find reptiles and amphibians in the northeast, to say the least. Many of us who are fond of looking for these animals find other hobbies for the winter, in places where there is a thick cover of snow for months on end. Every […]

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 […]