Friday, September 21, 2012

Gulf Saltmarsh Snake

My first Gulf Saltmarsh Snake!
(Nerodia clarkii clarkii)
Last weekend was the annual Cedar Key Coastal Cleanup and a team of my student volunteers and I were hard at work in the mangroves. Our mission was to collect any and all human produced debris along our selected route.
We had spread among the spartina grass and black mangroves that bordered both a busy bayou and a road. 
It was a beautiful day. The humidity was down, the mosquitoes were off bothering someone else, and the only sounds were osprey calls, mullet splashes, and the steady clink, clink of muddy Bud Lite bottles coming out of the marsh and into our garbage bags.

Suddenly this salty serenity was severed by one of my students' calm voice...

"Um, Mr. FC, there's a snake over here."

Uh oh, Cedar Key has a healthy water moccasin population on the islands.

"Don't go near it, I'm on my way."

I was about 20 feet away through thick mangroves, so I talked to my guy while I slogged over to him.

"What's the snake doing?"

"Just sitting there" , came the reply.

"Well, keep away from him, if he's holding his ground, it might be a moccasin."

Finally I broke out into the spartina grass. My student pointed at the snake.

Loosely coiled in the marsh grass was a thick bodied, striped snake.
Longitudinal lines ... was this a yellow rat snake (rarely yellow) here in the marsh?

Then it hit me, ... a Gulf Saltmarsh Snake!
I had only seen these in field guides.

I told my student that I had to catch it for some ID photos, so be ready to move if I messed up and he came scooting that way.

The snake wasn't crazy about being captured and she tagged me once on my right index finger . That left a neat line of 5 or 6 pin holes in my skin, but I caught her.

I placed her in a clean plastic barrel in the shade until all our coastal cleaning was over, and then I fished her out for some identification style photos.

Please forgive the muddy bandage, I had a cut thumb and had super wrapped it to keep some of the marsh mud out of it that day.

One can imagine how this might have happened.

She did get loose in the Aquaculture lab for a few minutes, but lucky for me, she wasn't adapted to slick tiles.

When the photo shoot was over, I took her back to the marsh and released her.

This is where I like her best, back out in the mangroves, being a snake, a wonderful, secretive native Florida snake.

No longer a secret to me though.


threecollie said...

Congratulations. Must have been thrilling to add her to the list of your life.

robin andrea said...

You always get to see the coolest creatures. Nice find.

Floridacracker said...

It is to a snakehead like me!

So many cool creatures, so little time!

Anonymous said...

You do see the coolest creatures altho honestly, snakes are way down there below manatees, dolphins, spoonbills and many others. But I always enjoy the lessons.

Mockingbird said...

I spotted a Black Racer today at Ocean Pond campground (Olustee).

Floridacracker said...

I understand that completely. Snakes need better PR and that is a task I enjoy :)

Aren't they the slickest things? Black beauties.

Wally Jones said...

Beautiful snake!

Just found your website and plan to review all the older articles soon as I get a chance.

It looks like a comforable place.