Herp Update: first report of 2021

our first herp report of the year came in on January 1st from Kiley Briggs and Melanie L who checked in on an overwintering site for Wood Turtles.  He sent a video that showed two or three turtles underneath the ice and tucked up under the bank of the river.  Kiley says that many Wood Turtles overwinter at this particular location.

Christmas eve was warm and rainy, so Matt G checked the amphibian crossing on North Street in New Haven and I checked ours here on Morgan Road in Salisbury.  Neither of us saw any amphibians moving.  Hopefully, most of them had already reached a safe overwintering location.

Also on Christmas eve, Helen Y found a Northern Leopard Frog on top of the ice at the Watershed Center in Bristol.  This is a sad situation that we see occasionally.  Northern Leopard Frogs winter under the ice of lakes, ponds, and rivers, but travel and feed on land during the spring through fall.  On a few occasions we have seen leopard frogs that arrived back at their overwintering location after their ponds had frozen solid and hence the frogs were trapped on top of the ice and froze.  Leopard frogs are not known to be freeze tolerant, though I brought one home once and thawed it out and it became active again.  I released it in some open water in the outlet of its pond.  I asked an expert on amphibian overwintering about that leopard frog and he doubted that the frog would survive.  Maybe not, but it seemed perfectly healthy when I released it.

Back on December 14th, Willie M sent a photo of a road-killed Eastern Milksnake.  I would not have expected a milksnake to be active so late in the year.  I asked Willie if any sort of disturbance (construction, predation) could have dug up the snake in its wintering location and forced it to move.  He said that a house had burned down nearby and the debris had just been removed.  I suspect that the milksnake had spent previous winters in the walls or basement of that house, survived the fire and returned to the wreckage this fall, but was forced to move when the debris was cleaned up.

In two to three months we will be seeing spring movement again.  Get your flashlights ready.

Jim Andrews
642 Smead Road
Salisbury, VT  05769

We met our fundraising goal for 2020.  Thanks!

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