My string of good herp luck looks like it might continue in 2010. You may recall the super-aggressive prairie rattlesnake and uncooperative dusty hognosed snake that I featured in 2008 (or not – my readership was rather minuscule back then), followed by the juvenile Osage copperhead, gorgeous male eastern collard lizard, bizarre Texas horned lizards, death-feigning western hognosed snake, super rare Florida scrub lizard, and – finally – cute little western pygmy rattlesnake in 2009. All but the copperhead and collared lizard were first-time sightings for me, and now in 2010 I have yet another first-time sighting to present – the rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus aestivus).
My friend Rich and I spotted this long and slender snake during our early April hike of the lower Wappapello Section of the Ozark Trail (soon after photographing the jumping spider). We would never have seen it, so effective was its green camouflage, had it not been disturbed by our close approach along the trail and tried to flee. The moist bottomland habitat where we found it was thick with greenbrier (Smilax sp.), making tracking the snake a thorny affair, but I managed to head it off and start taking a few photos of it. It was surprisingly calm during the early part of the photo session, but I just wasn’t getting the lighting and exposure that I wanted. Eventually, it started fleeing again, and my efforts to rip through the greenbriers to stay close became too much for my arms to bear. When it started climbing a tree, I said “enough is enough” and captured him, brought him back out to the comfort and openness of the trail, and had Rich hold him while I worked on getting some better photographs. The one above is my favorite of the bunch.
Rough green snakes are found in Missouri primarily south of the Missouri River in the Ozark Highlands, where they feed on insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, and especially smooth caterpillars. A second green snake occurs in Missouri as well, the smooth green snake (Opheodrys vernalis), which differs from the rough green snake by having smooth scales and a more northern distribution within the state. Sadly, the smooth green snake has not been seen in the state for a number of years now, probably because of loss of habitat resulting from the near complete agricultural conversion of that part of the state.
Photo Details: Canon 100 mm macro lens on Canon 50D, ISO 400, 1/60 sec, f/4.5, Canon MT-24EX flash w/ Sto-Fen diffusers. Minimal post-processing.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010