Herp Update: Current Herp Activity – June 29, 2023
Current Herp Activity
Gray Treefrogs are now calling in many areas of the state. We still need reports of this species from many higher-elevation, central Vermont, and northeastern Vermont towns. Please do snap a photo or send us a recording if you hear or see one in any of those areas.
American Bullfrogs are another species that mates and calls late in the season. We heard one calling yesterday while surveying in Pittsford. This species is no where near as common or widespread as Green Frogs, Wood Frogs, or Spring Peepers. In fact of our eleven species in Vermont, it ranks number 8 in the number of sites from which it is reported. Any report of a bullfrog (photo or recording) is valuable.
We are still receiving many reports of female turtles on lawns or crossing roads while searching for nesting locations. I checked out our database and found that we have 28 reports of nesting turtles from May, 152 reports from June, and 9 late-nesting reports from the first half of July.
Eastern Musk Turtles are one of the seven known native turtle species found in Vermont. They have only been reported from 10 towns. Most of these reports are from the Poultney River drainage, the southern end of Lake Champlain, and a few scattered locations along Lake Champlain further north. They are one of our smallest turtles. The largest specimens that we have found in Vermont measured only 5.1 inches long (measuring the carapace front to back). They have been assigned a Vermont State Heritage Rank of S2. This is the second rarest rank. We would love to get some more records.
The Eastern Musk Turtle is known to be one of the best climbers of our turtles. We have received a few reports of them falling out of trees overhanging the water and dropping into canoes. I have attached two photos of them climbing. One was taken by Rick Armitage (Best Back Roads photography) and the second by Greg Van Buiten. The last picture of the turtle in hand was taken by Adrienne Fortune. Some people mistake Eastern Musk Turtles for small Snapping Turtles, but Eastern Musk Turtles have smooth oval shells, with smooth margins all the way around, a highly domed shell, and two white stripes on their necks.
Last week Kate Kelly and I found an Eastern Ratsnake dead on a road in Pittsford. As sad as road mortality is, road-killed snakes can provide us with valuable distribution information. This snake was the first of its species ever reported from Pittsford. It was many miles from the nearest known population. Sometimes reptiles and amphibians get transported by accident with plants, firewood, mulch, old cars, or other materials. A few get transported on purpose. However, in this case, one of the nearby landowners confirmed that they had seen other ratsnakes in the area. This is the first new population of this species that we have found in decades and we are hoping to contact more landowners in that area to see if they have seen them. I will attach one photo of a ratsnake over six feet long that we found a couple weeks ago. They are harmless and quite docile.