If you need to identify a snake, try the Snake Identification Facebook group.
For professional, respectful, and non-lethal snake removal and consultation services in your town, try Wildlife Removal USA.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

50,000 Hits & Snakes from Florida

Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei)
The purpose of my trip
This week I am in northeast Florida collecting lizards for my PhD research (don't tell anybody who still thinks I only work on snakes). This is a special place for me because it is where I started writing this blog a year and a half ago. Since that time Life is Short but Snakes are Long has received thousands of visitors: almost 100,000 if you go by the stats included with Blogger, but probably closer to 48,000 using stats from the more conservative Google Analytics, which doesn't count bots and other non-human visitors. The true number is probably somewhere in the middle. With many thanks to Alvaro Pemartin and Estefania Carrillo, all posts are available in English and Spanish (the links to the Spanish versions are at the top of each post), and I am working on converting the format of the Spanish pages from PDF to HTML to more closely resemble the English pages. Readers from the USA make up the majority of visitors, but the UK, Canada, Australia, and India are also well-represented, and readers from 177 countries or territories have visited. 

Map of visits to this blog
I am proud to have been able to disseminate knowledge about snakes to so many people. The first post on snake sheds is still the most popular, garnering between 44 and 100 hits a day and appearing in the top 10 hits for Google searches for 'snake shed' and 'snake sheds'. Its popularity prompted me to write another article that was less storytelling and more detail about the processes used in snake shed identification. As proof positive that it works, last week I received images of a snake shed from Jean in Lawrence, Kansas, who wrote:

The first photo
I happened across your blog while searching for a way to identify a snake species by it's shedded skin.

We found this [snake shed] in our barn near Lawrence Kansas. I had this extreme fear of snakes so I became proficient in identifying them, if I see them. We have only seen 3 types of venomous snakes in our area, the timber rattler, the western massasauga, and the osage copperhead. Unfortunately, I find that I am truly inept at identifying them by their skins.

We have seen more poisonous snakes this year than usual and we found this skin inside our barn. It very easily could have been trapped inside as we close it up every other evening. We primarily use the barn for storage and workshop. Hopefully, we have allowed plenty of opportunity for the snake to escape.

I mainly want to know if you can help me to identify whether this is a poisonous snake. After reading your blog I am concerned is that it is possibly a copperhead and that it could be hiding. There are numerous places for a creature to stay hidden in our 70 ft barn and I fear that I will open a bin or cabinet and find it, dead or alive.

We love our wildlife and try to be protective and careful, but it seems we have failed at this lately as we recently had to scare an endangered skink out of the barn.

I would appreciate your assistance in possibly identifying this snake. I don't think we have the tail end of the skin. We do have the fairly intact head portion of the skin and can send more pics if needed.

Your blog is very informative and I learned a great deal from it. I thank you in advance for your assistance.

Although the first photo wasn't detailed enough, she was able to find the tail and I was able to help her identify it as a harmless ratsnake, after which she wrote:

The second photo,
showing divided subcaudals
Thank you so much! I checked your blog to take a double look at your pics there and was still unsure, so thank you so much! We did see a few rat snakes earlier this year so my guess is you are spot on!

It is still scary that we didn't see it! We live in a rural area very near to public hunting and fishing but don't have a lot of traffic. It makes my blood boil at the number of snakes we see dead on the SIDES of the roads!

Please keep up the great work! Yours was the first site when I googled snake skin id and by far the most informative i found! I learned so much by reading your blog and I really feel that people need more education about snakes!

Identifying snake sheds has been a new challenge for me. I probably wouldn't have gotten so much practice at it if I hadn't started this blog. I am working on a lot of new content, but I particularly want to develop content that people will find useful and interesting. With that in mind, here are a couple upcoming articles that I've planned:

  • Basics of snakebite
  • Venomous bites from "non-venomous" snakes
  • Common urban snakes
  • Snake predators
  • Invasive snakes
  • Some personal stories about how I became interested in herpetology
  • Several taxon-specific posts
I'm open to suggestions about how to prioritize these and I'm especially open to ideas from readers about new posts that aren't on this list. Some of the best ones I've written so far are ones people have suggested to me. I'm also open to hosting guest posts if there are any interested guest authors out there. Feel free to leave a comment or to contact me by email.

Cornsnake from the island
I also wanted to share a couple of stories from this week. Yesterday we found a young Cornsnake on one of our islands when one of us chased a lizard into the tree hollow where it was hiding. That snake had eaten one of the Brown Anoles in our study, a large male that we marked back in 2011. Young cornsnakes are particularly fond of lizards and ambush them from hiding spots under bark and within decaying trees. My former student David Delaney, now in the Warner lab at UAB, will be conducting research on the effects of cornsnake predation on anole sleeping site selection. I thought this would be the coolest find of the whole trip, but today some folks alerted us to the presence of an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake on a public beach right near where we were collecting mainland lizards for David & Dan's lab experiments. This snake was in the surf, which was really foamy due to the wind. The lady who found it said she almost stepped on it. Usually when someone tells you they saw a rattlesnake nearby it's either not a rattlesnake or not there or both, but this time it was for real! I have read about EDBs entering the ocean occasionally, but apparently it is fairly rare. My friend Kerry Nelson, who worked as a naturalist on Little St. Simons Island in Georgia for almost two years and saw diamondbacks in the sand dunes daily, said to me that he never saw one in the surf.

Me with Diamondback

Thanks to Hans Hillewaert, Dan Warner, and Jean Ostrander for their photos and to Jean Ostrander for allowing me to reprint her email.

Creative Commons License

Life is Short, but Snakes are Long by Andrew M. Durso is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.