FOWT News, Updates & Posts

19
Mar

Wolf Trap Reptiles

This page will be a repository of reptile photos from the Wolf Trap park (and work in progress). For a more comprehensive coverage of our crawlers, check out the reptile section of the iNaturalist.

(most of these were taken with my old iPhone, so they have more documentary rather than photographic value)

Archibald

The most famous snake of Wolf Trap is undoubtedly the Northern Watersnake living in a hollowed out beam by the Gazebo Bridge. Since more than half of my snake encounters in the park are with him, I call him Archibald.
His modest abode has two entrances. Here it is peeking out from the Bridge Entrance.
Resting comfortably near the Bridge Entrance (this short video shows how it gets in)
And here it is peeking from the Theater Entrance on the other side.
Curling up on the sofa by the Theater Entrance on a lazy summer day.
But when the hunger strikes, it is time to get up (sort of) and catch some prey.
With a bit of luck you can spot it hunting in the creek.
One day I caught Archibald getting ready for a swim.
And indeed in a few moments it ended up on the other side of the creek (what happened in between is caught on this video)
But on most days you will find it lying on the stony slope and doing sweet nothing.
Its favorite place is under a small bush, just underneath the home beam
Can you find him on the home slope? (in the upper center)
Oops. In Spring 2020, I realized that Archibald was most likely a female (Archibalda?), as on its first outing she was accosted by an insolent male. How do you say #MeToo in snakish?

Joan of Park

Another watersnake lives just about twenty feet upstream from the bridge in a huge root system of the first tree on right (viewed from the bridge). I call it Joan of Park.
At first I thought it was Archibald itself, but then I saw both of them at the same time and that was enough to convince me that this is a different specimen, although I have no doubt that it is Archibald’s good buddy (or more).
The root system is so convoluted that sometimes you can barely see it (smack in the middle). One day I saw a couple of moms with their kids here and they were quite surprised to find the camouflaged snake within feet of their frolicking children.
In Spring 2020, I thought that Joan gave birth to a lovely baby snake named Slinky.
But someone on iNaturalist pointed out to me that it was most likely a male hoping for a mating opportunity…
And indeed, on a couple of occasions I saw him there, biding his time.
He lived in a hollow root together with another male
(who crawled back inside when he saw my iPhone)
One day I caught them all red handed…
…Sodom and Gomorrah – the snake edition.

Other watersnakes

Another watersnake lives in the driftwood by the Children’s Theater (this one has very pale rings, so you could easily mistake it for a different kind of snake)
There are some watersnakes living by the pond area too. I encountered this one on the trail, just a few feet from the access point to the “turtle trunk” (see below).
In the Spring, you can see it swimming in the pond…
… or hunting alongside its muddy shore.
When disturbed, watersnakes freeze, often in the middle of the trail, where you can easily mistake them for roots. So in summer, tread carefully.
I nearly stepped on this pale fellow (on the trail leading to wetlands).

Garter snake

Another very common crawler is the garter snake.
One day I heard a strange noise from the slope above the pond and I saw a jumping frog being chased by this hunter. It did not catch it though and I found him in a rather cross mood at a plateau by the creek.
This one was a bit luckier and had no problem gorging on a frog in the middle of the trail.
Beware, garter snakes can lie hiding in the grass.
They can even climb stairs (connecting the Trap Road with the Wolf Den neighborhood)

Other snakes.

Our most dangerous snake is the Eastern Copperhead. This photo is from the Pond Trail – taken just a few steps from the Info Board. The best time to encounter copperheads is late summer / early fall, when they start looking for the winter abode and often wander into unexplored territories.
Those territories will unfortunately sometimes include your back porch, so watch your step (esp. at night). They are much less welcome guests than foxes or raccoons.
On rare occasion you may spot a long but relatively harmless Black Snake. In all my years at the edge of the park I have seen this snake only once.

Turtles

This is the above mentioned “turtle trunk”. In summer, the turtles are up every day.
This must be the veteran of the local Snapping Turtle Corps.
Sometimes you can find snapping turtles in the creek, under the Lot Bridge.
Couple of times per season I run into a box turtle near a trail…
.. especially after rain.
This is not a turtle obviously, but a skink. I am adding the pic just for completeness.

— honza —

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