Ron (from Arizona) came to visit Orlando for his first Florida herp trip this March. His friend, Eric, joined the search shortly thereafter, and we had a great time traveling across the state in search of fun wildlife. Here’s a long-overdue photo tour of some of the best finds of the trip:
Ron holds the first snake of the trip, a Florida Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata). We found a lot of these snakes during the two-week trip.
An exotic, invasive Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei) on a palmetto leaf. These lizards are common throughout the state.
Ron and Alexa smile for a photo with an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis allagheniensis).
A Common Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) sits closed in its hinged shell when we startled it walking along a path.
The first of many Pygmy Rattlesnakes (Sistrurus miliarius) throughout the trip, sunning itself at the base of a tree – they can be very difficult to see among the branches, roots, and leaf litter. Pygmy Rattlesnakes are one of the 6 venomous snake species in the state.
A closeup of our first Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius) of the trip. We noticed splotches of white paint on its back, indicating that this individual had been captured by researchers and was being used as part of a study.
Another Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius) nestled between two dead branches.
A third Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius) hidden in the leaf litter.
Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius) tucked under some leaves. It’s amazing how difficult they can be to find.
Yet another Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius) hiding in the debris. With how well they hide (and how common they were in this area), I can’t help but wonder how many we may have walked right past, never seeing them.
A frog metamorph (changing between tadpole and frog), either a Pig Frog (Lithobates grylio) or a Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) – the two species can be difficult to distinguish.
One of the sundew species native to Florida – they are carnivorous plants (similar to the more common venus fly traps) which catch and digest insects in the sticky “dew” droplets that their leaves exude.
The first Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) of the trip, unfortunately it had gotten killed in the fire just before it was able to escape down a burrow.
A Common Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) peeking at us from within a burrow.
The first snake we found in the burned field, charred to match the scenery.
A snake shed in the burned field, the first sign of living snakes in the area. We found a number of sheds throughout the fields.
A flattened Flowerpot Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus), an exotic, invasive snake species which looks like a small dark worm.
Our first Veiled Chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) of the trip, and my first wild-caught Veiled Chameleon ever. These lizards are an exotic species introduced to south Florida.
Ron holding another exotic species in south Florida, a Knight Anole (Anolis equestris).
A large DOR Green Water Snake (Nerodia floridana).
We found some roadside wetlands that were loaded with water snakes (particularly Brown Water Snakes and Florida Water Snakes). Here are two Florida Water Snakes (Nerodia fasciata) sitting in the water.
An American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), one of Ron’s favorite finds.
An African Redhead Agama (Agama agama) that we found on a street corner. This species is another non-native.
Ron inspecting the African Redhead Agama (Agama agama). Check out the goofy front teeth it has!
A juvenile Brown Basilisk (Basiliscus vittatus), also called the Jesus Christ Lizard for their ability to run for short distances across water. They are from Central and South America and have been introduced to south Florida.
Ron standing bravely beneath the coconuts on a palm tree. Coconuts can fall on you, causing serious injury or death!
A venomous Cottonmouth (aka Water Moccasin; Agkistrodon piscivorus) – one of the 6 venomous snake species in Florida.
An exotic Greenhouse Frog (Eleutherodactylus planirostris). These frogs are direct developers – their eggs hatch into tiny froglets, rather than tadpoles, so they don’t require standing bodies of water to develop and can be transported in potting soil.
Ron holding a cooter. I’m not sure which species, as many turtle species look very similar. I would guess it is either a Red Bellied Cooter (Psudemys nelsoni) or a Florida Cooter (Pseudemys floridana).
A non-native, Indo-Pacific Gecko (Hemidactylus garnotii).
Ron holding a Black Racer (Coluber constrictor).
A Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) that is preparing to shed its skin. Before shedding, snakes secret a milky substance just beneath their outer layer of skin which makes them look opaque and reduces their ability to see. This semi-blind state leaves them vulnerable to predators, so many snakes behave more aggresively when opaque.
A mother American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) guarding her babies.
Some of the baby alligators.
The mother alligator.
Rhett holding a Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus).
A very blurry picture of an Eastern Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis).
An Eastern Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii).
A non-native Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis).
A Pinewoods Treefrog (Hyla femoralis).
A Six-lined Racerunner (Aspidocelus sexlineatus) peeking out of a Gopher Tortoise burrow.
An injured Common Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) taking refuge in the only moist area left after a burn. The turtle appeared to have been burned along its back and possibly blinded.
A native Carolina Anole (Anolis carolinensis) climbing on a palmetto branch in a burned field.
A skink (either Southeastern Five-lined or Five-Lined Skink) hiding under the bark of a burnt tree.
An Oak Toad (Anaxyrus quercicus) trying to hide in some sand. It eventually burrowed down into the sand to cover itself.
A live Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus).
A Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius) hiding in the mouth of a Gopher Tortoise burrow. We found several snakes, tortoises, lizards, and Gopher Frogs (Lithobates capito) down tortoise burrows.
Another Pygmy Rattlsnake (Sistrurus miliarius) crossing the street.
Eric holding a large Florida Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata).
Two DOR Black Racers (Coluber constrictor) that we found next to each other on the road (we stretched them into that position, but they were practically on top of each other hit in the road when we found them)… possibly a pair that was mating when they got hit.
A second type of native carnivorous plant that we found this trip, a pitcher plant (Sarracenia sp.).
A Florida Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata) cruising through the water.
An Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) playing dead when we walked up on it.
The same Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) no longer playing dead, once we gave it time to calm down.