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Osceola National Forest

Editor's Note: This article was accompanied by a few photos. I added some more and just placed them on the side, instead of in the order they were sent to me. This outing was a GREAT time for all who attended. Thank you for all who went and we hope to see the rest of you when we do it again.

Article by Karl Betz.

The Boss and I were participated in the recent field trip to the Osceola National Forest to go herping with the understanding that whatever we found could be held for a group gathering and photographed as long as it was released where we found it. Nothing was to leave the forest.

What an amazing opportunity! At lunchtime we all were stopped beside the road eating sandwiches and making plans when F & G drove up. Two officers were in the vehicle and they chatted with us for a while. One of the officers said he knew of me by reputation! He made it sound positive and was very pleasant to both The Boss and I. WOW! What a difference their pleasant demeanor made in our trip! They were engaging and friendly and gave balloons and a whistle and even a Smokey The Bear pencil topper to the youngest member of our group who is about 6. I was impressed at the way they interacted with us. It made the trip for me.

Quite a few herps were found by the group and to the best of my knowledge, everything was returned to where it was found.
I have a few pictures of some of the animals found.

This is a medium sized Eastern Mud Snake Farancia abacura abacura that was found at about 2 in the afternoon crossing a paved road. There were six cars in a row as we came up on it on our way to the next area to hunt. It was like a train wreck as the first car (actually a pickemup truck) swerved to miss it and at least twelve people scrambled from assorted vehicles to get to the snake before it disappeared into the swampy underbrush that bordered the road.

At 5 in the afternoon, we were all supposed to meet back at the campgrounds to share our experiences and to have a chance to photograph what had been found. On the way back to the campground, we came across this subadult Florida Cottonmouth Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti coiled beside the road. As usual, he did not strike and was barely interested in gaping. He just wanted to be left alone. After an extended picture taking session, we left him where we found him. King of the swamplands, a fine symbol of the American south.

Once back at the campground, we found that we were not the only ones to have made a venomous discovery. There were two juvenile Canebrake Rattlesnakes Crotalus horridus that had been found crossing paved roads. One was particularly beautiful with its bright cinnamon stripe and pink background.

To me, some Canebrakes are prettier than others with all of them being wonderful animals. They were much smaller than captive born ones I have seen. These appeared to be yearlings with about three rattles each.

Lizards were a significant part of our day.
Several of us were able to run down, corner, trap or otherwise take possession of the wily scelorpus lizards that abounded in the immediate area.
There were a few Broadheaded Skinks found as well as some 5-lined Skinks. Ground Skinks seemed to be just about everywhere as did the incredibly swift Six-lined Racerunners.
Due to my limited photographic ability, I have only this picture of a Southern Fence Lizard Sceloporus undulatus undulatus to show for all the lizards we saw.

Many other snakes were found and seen. Several turtles were also found. We came across two large Florida Softshell Turtles Apalone ferox that were crossing the roads in the midday heat. We also found an adult Florida Redbelly Turtle Pseudemys nelsoni in a dry ditch. Unfortunately, my turtle pictures are not that good. I have only portrayed the animals that I managed decent photographs of, myself. Our last find of the day was half an hour after sunset on a paved road. Another fine looking Eastern Mud Snake which The Boss photographed and released. This find was punctuated by two DORs. One was a very nice looking three foot long Canebrake and the other a young Florida Water Snake Nerodia fasciata pictiventris. I couldn't help but notice that the Canebrakes of this particular area seemed to have disproportionately small heads compared to others I have observed. Oh well.

We left the forest with our photographs, memories, and a very pleasant herping experience but no animals. I hope that you have enjoyed it too.

Editor's Note (part II) Other species that were found and caught and/or photographed included the Corn Snake, Elaphe g. guttata, Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake, Sistrurus miliarius barbouri, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Crotalus adamanteus.


 

One of the typical roads in the park.

Photo: Mike Monlezun

Mud snake

Photo: Karl Betz

Karl & Cyndi Betz

Photo: Mike Monlezun

Canebrake Rattlesnake

Photo: Karl Betz

Cottonmouth

Photo: Karl Betz

Fence Lizard

Photo: Karl Betz

Corn Snake

Photo: Shawn Dunn

Danielle Dunn

Photo: Mike Monlezun

Karl catches a cottonmouth

Photo: Mike Monlezun

Laurie & Lynn cookin' it up

Photo: Mike Monlezun

Dr. Rossi trying to save a hognose

Photo: Mike Monlezun

Dr. Rossi with a corn snake

Photo: Mike Monlezun

Shawn Dunn, Dave & Jennifer Meadors

Photo: Mike Monlezun

 

 

 

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