Posted by: reptilesalive | May 1, 2008

North Carolina Herptravanganza

Imagine a blond, brunette, and a red-head visit a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. A horror story, adventure, or comedy?

A friend at a local zoo invited us down to his place in the woods for a few days of reptiles and fun on thousands of acres of protected forest.

So, we packed the car with tons of goodies and headed down early in the morning. Our directions were to: “drive down a road until you think no one could possibly live there, then drive a few more miles.”

We turned on a dirt road with his address on the mailbox, and quickly ended up on a dirt road with the word “SNAKES” spray painted on a board lying on the side of the road. I guess we got the right place. Boy, did we! A few minutes up the road we encountered another sign stating the land is protected preserve. Not far from that were some tin on the side of the road for reptiles to hide under.

No reptile fan would ever in their right mind pass up the opportunity to look under tin. We got out of the car fire drill style and ran to the tin. Notin’ Honey. Our real surprise was waiting for us at the end of the road. What a beaut!

Notice this gorgeous log cabin is run by solar panels? That’s right kids, this baby is completely off the grid! It comes with all the amenities;

  • All hard wood
  • Huge fireplace
  • fridge
  • hot water
  • giant woodburning stove
  • comfy beds
  • dogs
  • tasteful interior decorations

Did I mention it was off the grid?

We did not hang around the house for long, it was time to look for reptiles! We walked outside laughing and talking, but that did not last for long. Serious herping was happening. The first thing you notice about being in the middle of nowhere is the absolute silence pierced only by the song of a bird, an insect, or a rustle in the grass next to the solar panel. Was that a flash of green I just saw? What the … ? Aren’t those guys supposed to occur in Florida?

I was dazzled, we were in the most northern range of the Carolina Anole! He was gorgeous. We hadn’t even left the front yard. I drooled in anticipation.

Things were gettting serious. Serious relaxation that is.

I have a very exciting job with rooms full of children in sugar induced frenzies and wild life. I love my job. I love the noise, the screaming children, zombied parents and teachers with glazed eyes and stumbling walk, the tortoise with the occasional gas…

my brain needed a bit less stimulus to munch on for a while.

Mark, our gracious host, and I wandered with snake hooks. There were timber rattlesnakes and copperheads around. Mark even mentioned how two rattlesnakes like to sit in the bushes near the bird feeder waiting for rabbits and chipmunks to come in for breakfast. We hoped there would be some use for the hooks today. (We use them to gently scooped up and guide venomous snakes away from us if we find one along the path.)

I was enjoying stories of otters and hawks along our flower scented walk when we found our first group of tin. All of us excitedly began to peak under them. We took turns lifting up a piece while the rest of us squinted in anticipation. Nothing in the first group. We walked up a small hill and soon found a prize.

A gorgeous representative of its species!

The snake is pretty too.

That is Jennifer holding an eastern kingsnake with our host, Mark looking on. This kingsnake is something I would call an intergrade. That is; a mix two subspecies. The snake has characteristics of both the Florida kingsnake and the eastern kingsnake. See the chains of yellow up his side?

Mark tells us that many of animals found in this part of North Carolina are a mix of the northern and southern versions of the species. They are the best of both worlds. How cool!

If you look closely, you may be able to see that this kingsnake is missing its entire tail! It is likely that a hawk or some other animal got a hold of it and bit it off. The snake got away, but not without missing a few parts. Poor guy!

Look at the left side of the picture. That is his tail not his head!

In a little wetland area, we met a cute little critter of the slimy variety. Isn’t he a cutie

Flowers were blooming everywhere. We walked over footbridges, across streams, meadows, and through grass. After crossing the same stream several times, we all stopped. “What smells like strawberry banana smoothie?” A native plant with tiny flowers all over it? Boy, do we have some fascinating plants in the States.

“Quick Caroline!”

“I see it!”

“I think it just ran under that log.”

He found a much better hiding place.

“Is it okay to come out now?”


“Time for me to make my getaway while no one is looking.”

That was one cute skink.

We decided to walk to Mark’s closest neighbors place to check out a yurt they were building next to some very nice ponds. I have never heard of a yurt before. I found out that it was a round house with a domed ceiling and a hole in the top for a chimney, or in this case, a skylight.

I was amazed at the amount of space the building had.

This building was to be completely off the grid as well. Three cheers for green living!

Past the house in progress and up the hill was the one thing that all hikers in the south fear! Watch what happens when I lightly tap the sandy area with my snake hook

Stay away from that ant mound. They look small, but they are fast and fierce!

Next, it was time to check out an old barn in the middle of a field that fell down. Boards were everywhere. For the first time for all of us, we found the elusive cornsnake!

I think Caroline is happy.
Why is this snake considered hard to find. Believe it or not, its people! One of the reasons for the snakes declining population is collection for the pet trade. There are many people who like snakes, but please Leave them in the Wild where they Belong! The main reason these snakes are disappearing is likely just the presence of people. We are building houses where animals used to live, and bulldozing over and killing thousands of animals. Cornsnakes do not occur in the Washington DC area because of this. Check your field guide however, and it will list the snake as occurring in the region. Sad. Hopefully little guys like this wild animal will make a comeback and continue doing its job eating mice!

We had a wonderful day herping. Now it was time to light a fire and cook some fajitas. I think Caroline was so excited about finding the corn snake she fell asleep on the couch first. Gradually we all staggered up the blue spiral staircase into our warm and cozy beds.

What an adventure!

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Responses

  1. Va sent this site to me to read. I had to smile. Most of us who grew up in the county know how it is to not hear the busy sounds of the cities. When a county person moves to the city area they have a hard time sleeping because of all the sounds, amnbulance, fire trucks, cars and so on. Wew havbe a lot of corn snakes around here. When I have been stone hunting with my friend, the brick layer. We pick up stones (rocks) in the creeks and have to look under them before going any father to make sure it isn’t home to some snake.

    Nice story and website… cousin Bob

  2. nothing better than hiking in the sun and looking at the fauna. With a blond a brunette and a redhead. Ye HA!


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