Two weeks ago, I had the joy of spending the weekend in the middle of the Conecuh National Forest hunting for snakes, frogs and other reptiles and amphibians with Drs. Cooner and Gentry on our second annual Snake Hunting Weekend.
Our time was spent hiking long-forgotten trails and lurking about God-forsaken watering holes and minor ponds searching for any forms of herpetological life.
Pickings were slim this year, as we only managed to find a few amphibians in addition to the three snakes we managed to come across.
The youngish copperhead was our first find.
Though a common species, we looked at it as a sign from the gods of snake hunting that they were looking down on us with favor, meaning sundry varieties of snakes to come.
(Sadly, this was not the case, and I’m beginning to doubt the validity of the claim that an Auburn DVM is also dually qualified in the Serpentine Priesthood.)
We did manage to find two life-listers for my doctor friends, so they didn’t count the trip as a complete waste.
A mud snake was procured from his afternoon resting place of a hollowed-out log, courtesy of the hunting tactics of Dr. Gentry. Mud snakes lack a powerful bite, so he spent most of his time coiling up his head into his body and trying to trick us into thinking his tail was his head.
(While he only visited with us a short time, his musk remained as a all-too potent reminder of our wonderful times together.)
Dr. Cooner’s scarlet kingsnake was an equally interesting find, as one minute, he was peeking behind the bark of a stump, and, within the next, had a red and black snake firmly affixed to his index finger with its small but effective fangs.
Bitey IV, hereditary King of the Stump, stayed latched to Dr. Cooner’s hand for a few good minutes, and I tried to get him to explain the level of pain to me so that I could attempt to explain it to you, dear readers.
His answer: “It’s kind of like jabbing your finger with a safety pin and having it get stuck in there. Not bad, but you are aware of it.”
(While I love you all dearly, I sure as hell wasn’t about to go anywhere near that thing’s mouth. Some experiences are best lived vicariously.)
We road-cruised the back roads of Covington and Escambia counties, even venturing forth into Florida’s untamed Blackwater state park.
(Perhaps a full expedition, complete with elephant guns and sherpas, will be warranted next year.)
All in all, it was a wonderful time spent with friends I probably won’t get to see much from now on, as Dr. Cooner has taken a job in small town Indiana (although, sadly, not Gary of “The Music Man” fame) and Dr. Gentry soon starts his multiple-year residency at Texas A&M.
While I may not be embarking to any state parks to “herp” by myself any time soon, I will continue to find areas around here that could prove a good habitat for herpetological expeditions, and I encourage all of you to get out and do so as well.
You all have an open invitation to help me track Eastern kingsnakes, ringneck snakes and other sundry species at McCollum Cottage any time.
Just call, and remember to bring your own snake hook.