Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Southern Ontario shenanigans for Canada Day (part 2: Eastern Hognose Snakes!!!)

After the success of finding the foxsnakes in a new area, we continued on and checked some "tried and true" areas, hoping to turn up an Eastern Hognose Snake. Some usually productive areas on the way failed to reveal the desired Smooth Greensnake, though we did see handfuls of Midland Brownsnakes. We hypothesized that the lack of Smooth Greensnakes was due to the abundance of Midland Brownsnakes. Brownsnakes seem to be common in areas where other species are not!

Brownsnake - June 29, 2013

Some of the snakes were basking several feet off of the ground in the vegetation. It was something that I had never seen before with what is normally considered a somewhat fossorial species. This is a common behaviour in the tropics where the forest floor rarely sees sunlight in some areas.

Brownsnake - June 29, 2013
Jon and I were walking a stretch of road that had been productive for hoggies in the past. I was scanning from left to right, my vision and hearing on high alert, hopeful to catch a glance of a coil or hear the quiet rustle of a snake moving slowly through the dead leaves and sand. It didn't take long before I glimpsed a sight which made my heart stop for a second - a coiled Eastern Hognose Snake beside the road!

Eastern Hognose Snake - June 29, 2013

Jon and I were pretty happy that we were able to predict an area where we might find one, and actually be right! It took less than 5 minutes, too. This was my first Eastern Hog in a few years, and I was super stoked to observe it for a while.

Eastern Hognose Snake - June 29, 2013

Eastern Hognose Snakes have evolved an interesting set of behaviours to deal with potential predators. The large "eye spots" and flared neck seem to give off the same appearance as a cobra, as you can see in the photo above. Admittedly I haven't researched why they have this apparent mimicry, but it sure seems pretty badass. This snake appeared only mildly annoyed with our presence, and so it only flared its neck and hissed briefly. But if one feels threatened, it may roll over and pretend to be dead. The act is made more believable by the snake defecating, regurgitating it's last meal, and hanging its tongue out of its mouth. The actor can be exposed by simply turning the snake back over - they will roll back onto their back immediately!

Eastern Hognose Snake - June 29, 2013

Eventually the snake slowly crossed back to the other side of the road and slowly disappeared into the vegetation.

Eastern Hognose Snake - June 29, 2013

We continued on along the road edge and Jon found the second hog not long after! We kept our distance from this one so as to not disturb it. Eastern Hognose Snakes are quite variable and can range in dorsal colour from pitch black to orange to olive like these individuals. Some have strong patterning while others are rather plain.

Eastern Hognose Snake - June 29, 2013

Not to be outdone by the hogs, several dozen Eastern Gartersnakes were also basking along the edge of the road and the woods. This is Ontario's most abundant species, likely due mostly to its cold tolerance, varied  and generalist diet, and wide variety of suitable habitat types that it will occupy.

Eastern Gartersnake - June 29, 2013

After walking the length of the road, we were happy to see that a 3rd hog had joined the 2nd! This one was a little younger, yet it also possessed the same pattern. Perhaps these snakes are related in some way.

Eastern Hognose Snake - June 29, 2013

Our snake totals at the end of the day were:
~ 30 Eastern Gartersnake
~25 Midland/Northern Brownsnake
3 Eastern Hognose Snake
2 Eastern Foxsnake
1 Northern Redbelly Snake

The diversity was a little low (Jon's had up to 9 species here in a day) but the quality certainly made up for it.

1 comment:

  1. WOW thats good count.
    I found my forst Hog in Muskoka the other day a large one too. It was all brown though and hardly had any pattern.