In The Field

With some many "In the Field" adventures to share, I gotta go with one of that's closest to my heart. I mentioned on the home page, the greatest reward of having herps, is my wife and children. Although my son Jake went on his first Rosy adventure when he was just three weeks old, he didn’t see his first Rosy in the wild until he was one year old. Historically, I meet up with my best friend Ryan Pear on Memorial Day weekend for some quality time together road cruising in some remote spot through Rosy habitat. Since we only get to go once a year with each other, it has become tradition. On the Memorial Day weekend in 2003 we decided to bring our wives and kids to let them spend time together too. We met-up in Ridgecrest CA and decided we would go to Homewood Canyon 10 miles outside of Trona CA. We all piled in the Yukon at the bottom of the canyon and started making a few passes conversing about the usual stuff. It's a very relaxing road to look for herps on being paved up to where the old mine is, and then it turns to dirt and heads up the mountain. First few passes we see a couple of banded geckos and a big desert hairy scorpion. (My wife loves the geckos, but hates the scorpions). Anyway after a few passes I noticed a stick way off on the dirt shoulder that wasn’t there on the last pass. So I kinda casually stop, and all the adults in the vehicle say, what, what is it, what did you see? So I back up, stick the flashlight out the window and say, just a Rosy over on the shoulder. So everybody jumps out of the vehicle while I go get it to set on the road for everybody to see. Then I took Jake out on to the road to see it and take a photo or two. Don't worry there weren’t any other vehicles on the road. Jake just stood there and watched it crawl. It was a very special moment for me. He has seen many more Rosys in that canyon since then, all are just as exciting to see as the last.

Jake's fist wild Rosy encounter in Homewood Canyon 2003

Jake with a Rosy as found in the same spot on the road in 2011

Randsburg California Rosy Boa as found on dirt road at night

Rosy Boas can be found in the field many ways. In early spring Rosys can be observed out on the crawl, or thermoregulating in the cracks of rocks throughout rock outcroppings, or under rocks that are at the base of rock outcroppings. It is very important that you put the rocks back exactly how you found them as Rosys use the same rocks every year as part of their survival. Rosys can even be found under artificial cover “AC” such as discarded old furniture, mattresses, pieces of carpet, plywood, etc…… During the warmer months they are more commonly observed crossing roads through suitable habitat from sunset through the night as the temperatures cool down. Dirt roads are most effective Another very fun way to observe Rosys at night during the warmer months is using artificial lights to walk through suitable habitat. This form of looking for Rosys offers a very different feel to the adventure, enabling you to observe so many other types of fauna so closely. All forms of looking for any herp is very exciting, but has its dangers too, so take your time and be careful.

Though Kingsnakes, Gopher Snakes, and Bull Snakes can be found out on the crawl, under rocks, or crossing the road, one of the easiest ways to observe them in the wild is by placing artificial cover in their desired habitat to enable the snakes and their prey to take up residency underneath. The AC provides cover for the snakes to thermoregulate. Thermoregulation is made easy using this cover as it allows the snake to warm itself via the sun without being exposed to predators. The sun warms the cover item, allowing the snake underneath to absorb the heat. Once the snake has reached it’s desired temperature, it can then retreat back down a rodent hole or crack beneath the cover. Artificial cover such as plywood can be placed in the proper habitat, creating cover in areas where surface cover may not be present. It is important to note that you should take every precaution when in the field in Rattlesnake habitat as they will seek refuge under AC just like any non-venomous snake.

Artificial cover (plywood) placed in roadside habitat

Cal King’s and Pacific Gopher Snake as found under plywood in Northern CA in 2015
Jake with a Kingsnake as found under plywood in Northern CA in 2017

Though it can sometimes be very laborious, setting up artificial cover has many benefits for the animals as well as the herp enthusiast. The cover well provide an environment for prey items to dwell. This benefits the prey items, which intern helps to provide a good food source for the snakes. For us herp enthusiast, the cover provides a great way to observe Kingsnakes, Gopher Snakes, and Bull Snakes in the wild. Snakes with limited habitat such as levy banks, fields surrounded by developed land, and roadside easements benefit greatly from artificial cover as these environments are generally very competitive to survive in.

Finding animals under AC that you have placed yourself is very rewarding . Many of the same snakes can be observed year after year under the same object. Sometimes you’ll see multiple snakes under one piece of AC. The biggest challenge of creating your own AC observation location is finding available space in their desired habitat that won’t be disturbed by not only the general public, but by other herp enthusiast as well. I have had many such locations cleaned up due to development of housing, places of business, farming, and installation of new roadways. Believe it or not, the biggest challenge is keeping locations secret from other herp enthusiast. Once a location has been discovered, it becomes an open book. To add to the frustration, other enthusiast are not always respectful, and sometimes do not place the AC back in its proper setting, and disturbing the micro habitat it creates.

Pacific Gopher Snakes as found under 1 piece of plywood in Northern CA in 2006
Jake with Pacific Gopher Snakes as found under plywood in Northern CA in 2017