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On September 22, 2012 forty-seven competitors ages 12-60 showed up for The Orianne Society’s first ever “Places You’ve Never Herped” Field Herping Competition which encompassed numerous Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) within the Altamaha River Corridor in South Georgia. To describe it in one word – awesome!
The event started off with a presentation by Orianne Society CEO, Chris Jenkins who welcomed everyone to the event and continued with Matt Elliot from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources who gave a description and history of the WMAs we were about to explore. Competitors spent the day in vast bottomland cypress swamps, sandridges, and hickory and oak forests covered in Spanish moss while they searched out reptiles and amphibians like pirates hunting jewels.

After the welcome, the competitors broke into groups and were led out to the WMA of their choice. Though the event was supposed to be an individual competition, we found it was much more fun to stick together in groups and share our finds amongst each other! “Team Kevin’s Dream”, with Orianne Society Research Technician Kevin Stohlgren, took the winning seat for the number of individual herps found. The team that went as “Dirk’s Kids”, with our Director of Inventory and Monitoring Dirk Stevenson, won for the highest number of species.

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This being the first of these events we will be holding, we learned a few things for the next time. For instance, we need more time and the next event will be two days to allow for early morning herping and evening road cruising. Secondly, we need to encourage more young herpers to join us. This was a wonderful family event and those parents that brought their kids should be commended, as these youngsters herped harder than anyone! Lastly, we need to scout out the camping area a bit better. Though nestled amongst numerous WMAs the train going through the campsite was a bit of a downer!

In the end, “who won” didn’t really matter. What did matter is that like-minded people, people who care about reptiles and amphibians, got together and enjoyed a wonderful day in a beautiful place doing something they love – looking for herps! We will be announcing the next one soon. We can’t wait to do it again and hope to see you all there!

A few notable items, Ms. Kelsie Kincaid got to handle her first Eastern Diamondback (with her dad’s permission) under the tutelage of Chris Jenkins; Mr. Eli Thomas, a first time herper, found the snake of the day – a pretty Southern Hognose; and Mr. Noah Fields, no amateur when it comes to herping, put together an awesome photo blog about his day on the North American Field Herper Association’s Field Herper Forum – you can see it here:

Here is a list of what we found:

Eastern Five lined skink (Eumeces fasciatus),
Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus),
Six-lined race runner (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus),
Green anole (Anolis carolinensis),
Ground skink (Scincella lateralis),
Eastern Narrowmouthed toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis),
Southern toad (Bufo terrestris),
Green Frog (Rana clamitans),
American Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea),
Southern cricket frog (Acris gryllus),
River frog (Rana heckscheri),
Leopard frog (Rana sphenocephala),
Black racer (Coluber constrictor),
Southern hognose (Heterodon simus),
Brown watersnake (Nerodia taxispilota),
Ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus),
Eastern diamondback (Crotalus adamanteus)
Redbelly watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster),
Eastern coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum),
Brown snake (Storeria dekayi),
Yellow ratsnake (Elaphe obsolete quadrivittata),
Plain bellied watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster),
Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix),
Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius),
Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus),
Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina),
Spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera),
Mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum),
Eastern River Cooter (Pseudemys concinna),
Pond slider (Trachemys scripta),
Loggerhead musk turtle (Sternotherus minor),
Florida softshell (Apalone ferox),
Ocmulgee Slimy salamander (Plethodon ocmulgee),
Dwarf salamander (Eurycea quadridigitata),
Eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens),
Marble salamander (Ambystoma opacum),
American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

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