Whipsnake Survey

Yesterday, biologist Mandy Murphy allowed me to tag along with her while she ran her string of snake traps in search of Alameda whipsnakes and other reptiles.

We found a whipsnake in the third trap we checked. It was a recapture as she had caught it once before and left it with an identifying mark.

The snake was a large one, about four and a half feet long. She also caught a gopher snake.

IMG_3199 trapped gopher snake

The trap consists of vertical boards which guide the target species towards four wire cages that are similar to minnow traps. Once the snake or other critter enters the trap, it cannot find a way out. In this photo there are four separate wire mesh cages underneath the foam boards which protect the caught snakes from overheating.

The traps are monitored closely so that snakes will not be injured.


Snakes that are caught provide samples for DNA testing to determine their genetic makeup. According to Mandy, researchers have determined that two California racer species, the Alameda whipsnake and the California racer, are closely related. It is anticipated that the snakes captured on our ranch will share the genetic makeup of both species.

Snake Den

While touring the ranch with a friend, I suggested that we check out a known rattle snake den. April and May are good months to observe snakes and the most interesting spot is at the den site where large rattlers hang out together – warming themselves and (I imagine) doing what snakes do to propagate.

A perfect snake den has a southern exposure, large rocks with cracks, brush and is often surrounded by ground squirrel colonies. The rock pile in the photo below is a perfect site.

IMG_1941 snake den

DSC_0373 rattler at den 2016

In the above photo you can see a light colored snake and part of a darker snake laying next to it.

DSC_0371 rattlers at den 2016

In the next photo (above) you can clearly see both snakes. These are large rattlers. Didn’t want to mess with them as they get very testy if you disturb them. I get nervous when they get nervous.

Springtime is Snake Time

Gopher snake in gravel road, warming up.

Gopher snake in gravel road, warming up.

Driving home from the ranch last Friday, a form in the road caught my eye – a snake. Stopping to check it out, I found a king snake, about three feet long, warming itself on the road. The air temperature was about 60 degrees, but the sun was bright and the road provided an opportunity for the snake to warm up, probably in preparation for some hunting.

Only a half mile further down the road I came upon a gopher snake that was a whopper – over four feet long for sure. He is pictured above. The king snake is below.

This is a good sized king snake, over three feet long.

This is a good sized king snake, over three feet long.

Spring is a great time to see snakes. They are active and hungry after sitting out the winter months that are too cold for them to operate.

Here is a photo of a rattler from a rattle snake den on our ranch. Rattle snakes and gopher snakes dine on warm-blooded animals, primarily rodents.

This snake was very aggressive.

This snake was very aggressive.

Whipsnakes are secretive, but occasionally they stop long enough for a photo.

Whipsnakes eat cold blooded animals, like lizards and other snakes. They hunt by sight.

Whipsnakes eat cold blooded animals, like fence lizards and other snakes. They hunt by sight.

Garter snakes are usually spotted in our ponds during the springtime when they feast on larvae of toads, frogs and salamanders.

When the garter snakes find the ponds, they feed voraciously.

When the garter snakes find the ponds, they feed voraciously.

Juvenile Snake

Came upon a snake while hiking last week. One of my experts believes it’s a California yellow-bellied racer.

What do you think? It was less than a foot long and had a turquoise cast to it. In the cool morning air it was inactive.

This snake was quite small and stayed still in the dusty trail.

Big eyes.

Spring is Here and Reptiles are Out

This alligator lizard was not full grown. He hid in the grass for a while before finally giving me an open shot.

Spent Saturday looking for reptiles and I found quite a few. Here are some of my photos.

Western fence lizards were out sunning themselves on the many rock piles.

Here’s a classic fence lizard.

A few snakes were circulating. I found one whipsnake.

This whip snake didn’t want to leave and I took several photos.

The Alameda whipsnake is listed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened. http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=C04A

I finally came upon a large rattle snake.

This guy makes a living eating wood rats.

Here he is again.

Plenty of rattles on this guy. No wood rat too big or too small for him.

The next one is not a reptile, but he posed so nice I couldn’t resist.

He stood in the middle of the road and strutted his stuff, but the hens must have been nesting.

April Weekend at the Ranch

It was a good weekend to be in the hills. Here are a few of the photos I was able to take while traveling around the ranch. (Click to enlarge.)

Here's the typical view of a ranch road coyote.

Surprise. It’s unusual for ranch road coyotes to pose for a broadside photo.
Another rarity, only in spring will you see two great blues together like this.
Nice cape on this great blue heron.
Rob pointed out some baby blue eyes – with bug.
Mules ear is having a good year. Maybe it likes the cool spring.
Checkerbloom I believe.
The goldfields were looking good.
My first whipsnake of the season. He was sold cold I could have picked him up.
I don’t know whose brand this is.
Fence lizards were out in force for the first time this spring.
Pacific newts have a rubber look.
The does were in hiding with fawns, but a few bucks were around.
We went to a spot I’d never been before.
Instant replay of the earlier coyote.
For the second time in a weekend, a coyote stopped and looked back.