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News Briefs

ALERT: Wildlife-Borne Disease Prevention Act (Federal
Cindy Steinle - Friday, May 15, 2020

In the most recent Covid-19 Relief package is a potential reversal of the USARK federal lawsuit victory by reinstating the ban on interstate transportation of species listed as injurious under the Lacey Act. That victory allowed for captive bred animals to be transported across state lines. This impacts the so called "Big 5" but also several Salamander species. We have added the USARK public notice after the bump.
Continue reading "ALERT: Wildlife-Borne Disease Prevention Act (Federal"

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Featured Contributors

Canefield Kings
Richard Bartlett - Thursday, May 28, 2020

This is a typically colored Canefield Kingsnake.

There was a time when because of a more than ample food supply (garter snakes, water snakes, leopard frogs and rodents) drawn by the always full irrigation ditches these big busily patterned kingsnakes were actually fairly common. In the canefields they were so abundant that market hunters collected and made them a staple of the pet industry.

Canefields? What exactly are canefields. Well without overexpounding on the subject, I’ll simply say that over vast acres, actually miles, of southcentral Florida, where the Everglades once existed, thanks to King Sugar and an often uncaring government, there are now fields of sugarcane, and sugarcane = canefields.

And the kingsnakes that once thrived there are known by the vernacular of “Canefield kings.” Their actual name is Florida Kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula floridana, and their range now extends far southward from the canefields to the tip of the Florida peninsula. But herewith we are discussing only those kings from the canefields that surround Lake Okeechobee and extend a bit southward from there.

Today (2020), due to habitat polluted by the rampant use of insecticides and pesticides, as well as major alterations of the topography that has resulted in a huge reduction of the snake’s prey species and cover in the canefields, it would seem that these beneficial snakes have gone from common to rare. This is an abrupt change in only a 3 or 4 decade time span.

As hatchlings these kingsnakes are quite dark in overall color, with often barely discernable crossbands and even more difficult to see light speckles on some of the dark scales. Colors lighten and patterns become more visible as this kingsnake grows. Adults have a light brown ground color with many scales edged in black, and with irregular off-white dorsal banding. Lateral markings are varied. Some are merely extensions of a dorsal band, some appear like a rough edged triangle, others are just whitish scales scattered haphazardly over the snake’s side. The venter is usually yellowish with yellowish checkers. The average length of predominantly terrestrial, primarily diurnal, snake is 3 ½ to 4 ½ feet. However they occasionally exceed 5 feet.

Clutch size for this kingsnake is usually between 5 and 20 eggs. Hatchlings measure between 9 and 12 inches in length.

Currently difficult to find, I must wonder whether the next decade or two will bring extirpation or renewed abundance to this iconic kingsnake. We’ll hope for the best, of course.
Continue reading "Canefield Kings"

The Search for a King
Richard Bartlett - Monday, May 25, 2020

Hatchling Eastern Kingsnakes often have a bit of orange laterally.

Jake and I wanted to see eastern kingsnakes, Lampropeltis g. getula, There are a few places where this subspecies can be found in northern Florida but Jake insisted that we’d have a better chance in Georgia. I’m easily swayed, so on a Sunday morning, about the time the midwinter sun was thinking about rising so we piled camera and us into the car and headed northward. Once there we rendezvoused with Noah and his dad, Dave, who knew this area far better than we, and began the hunt.

Noah and Dave really did know the area. They guided us to one abandoned ramshackle shack, and the fallen roofing tins associated with such locales, after another. Many harbored rodent nests but none sheltered snakes—of any kind. Until, sometime about midday a flipped sheet of tin divulged—SNAKE!—but darn, it was only a hatchling southern black racer, Coluber constrictor priapus. The racer home was carefully replaced and we moved on.

We moved from tin pile after tin pile (called flip spots) but no other snakes. We moved on to a tangle of fallen and a few still standing dead pines. We searched high and we searched low. Just as we were about to abandon efforts, Dave called out SNAKE! He had chanced upon a juvenile gray rat snake, Pantherophis obsoletus spiloides. We actually took pix of this one. In our minds it wasn’t as good as a king, but it WAS better than a baby racer (we never told the racer this).

Time was moving on but Noah suggested one more spot. He had never found a king at the suggested spot but he felt it had potential. Off we went and 30 minutes later we stopped beside 3 pieces of plastic. Jake, Noah, and Dave piled out. I’m a lot slower these days—I watched. Beneath the first piece of plastic, nothing. Ditto on plastic number 2. But plastic piece number 3? It held in its folds the prize of the trip. As Noah happily exclaimed “The crown jewel of a fun day of tin flipping, a chunky female Eastern King.” I’ll simply add that it was scale perfect, very well nourished, and just entering ecdysis.

Photos were taken, the snake was replaced, we shook hands, hopped in the cars, and in the proverbial cloud of smoke (actually flying sand) we closed out the great kingsnake hunt.
Continue reading "The Search for a King"
More Featured Articles
  - Canefield Kings
  - The Search for a King
  - A Rainy Spring Night in Tennessee
  - Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizards
  - The Red-eared Slider 101
  - Anticipation
  - Let’s Roll Some Marbles
  - Sonoran Collared Lizards
  - The Big-headed Turtle
  - Coral Pipe Snake
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  - Thoughts on the Dragon Snake
  - Florida Scrub Lizards
  - Florida Peninsula Kingsnakes
  - The Striped Whipsnakes, Desert and Central Texas
  - Axolotls
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  - Where Have all the Water Snakes Gone?
  - White Rattlesnakes
  - Red-lipped Snake
  - Great Plains Skink
  - The Variable (or Western) Ground Snake
  - Florida’s Boa Constrictors
  - The Cuban Treefrog
  - A Florida Evening Chorus
  - Gopher Frogs
  - Hog-nosed Snakes, Natures Bluffers
  - Pink Coachwhips
  - The Canyon Treefrog
  - The Granite Spiny Lizard
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