Herp Update: Ribbonsnake rediscovery, activity, events — May 1, 2024

Herp Update: Ribbonsnake rediscovery, activity, events — May 1, 2024

Recent Herp Activity

Over the last few nights American Toads have been on the move in much of Vermont. Last night Kate and Molly Kelly joined me on a nighttime road search in Benson and West Haven and I was surprised that some of the American Toads have even begun calling.

Spring Peepers were in full chorus last night from many locations here in the Lake Champlain Basin.

Wood Frog egg masses have begun hatching and we have seen their tiny tadpoles at a few ponds now. Check out Laura Meyer’s excellent photo of Wood Frog tadpoles and eggs below.

An Important Rediscovery

UVM Herpetology student Amelia Schwarz found a snake in South Hero that she thought probably was a Common Gartersnake, but it looked slightly different, so she took a photo (see below). We are really glad she did. She is the first person to document an Eastern Ribbonsnake from Grand Isle County since 1934! We regularly receive reports of Eastern Ribbonsnakes, but upon inspection of the photos, they have always turned out to be Common Gartersnakes—that is, until Amelia found her snake in South Hero.

This species has not been documented with a photo or museum specimen in Chittenden County since 1970. Laura Gaudette sent us a photo from Windham County as recently as 2015. It is documented a few times every year from western Rutland County and southwestern Addison County.

Please do keep your eyes open and camera ready for Eastern Ribbonsnakes. They look very similar to Common Gartersnakes, but are slimmer and usually more brightly colored. The easiest field marks for telling the two species apart are on the head (see the close up photo below taken by Nick Arms).

In Eastern Ribbonsnakes look for the bright white upper lip, the vertical white bar in front of the eye, and the straight, thin black line behind the eye. This black line separates the dark-red head from the white lip.

The photo of a Common Gartersnake below was taken by Brian Johnson. Notice the dark green head, yellow upper lip, and the irregular margin between the two (behind the eye).

Eastern Ribbonsnakes are always found near water where they hunt amphibians. Spring is a good time to search for them, before the vegetation in the wetlands gets tall enough to hide them.

You might find the Quick Reference guide for snakes to be useful.

Upcoming Herp Events

This Sunday May 5 is the annual Herrick’s Cove Wildlife Festival in Rockingham. This is always a great event for wildlife lovers and it is held on a beautiful peninsula reaching out into the Connecticut River. My wife Kris and I will be there and twice during the day, I will lead turtle walks to check my turtle traps. Join me. We always have caught Painted Turtles that we can handle and examine, before releasing them back in the river. Sometimes we also catch Snapping Turtles.

Check it out at: https://amasvt.org/herricks-cove-wildlife-festival

I will also be leading a herp walk for the Smokey House Center in Danby on May 11, from 9-12. You can learn more about this event at:


Photo Credit Correction

In an earlier Herp Update, the wonderful photo of Wood Frogs was taken by Hans Nedde, an intern at the Birds of Vermont Museum in Huntington.

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