Herp Update: Metamorphs, First Racer since 2014, Spiny Softshells in Winooski River Delta, Turtles Nesting – June 18, 2024

Recent Herp Activity

On a June 11 field trip to Sunderland; Kiley Briggs, Kate Kelly, and I found our first young-of-the-year Wood Frogs. Chris Slesar reported young-of-the-year American Toads in West Haven on June 9. These youngsters were fresh eggs just three months ago and have hatched, gone through their tadpole stage, and metamorphosed since then. Wood Frogs lay their eggs earlier than American Toads, but if the temperature is warm enough, American Toads will lay their eggs early and they develop faster than the Wood Frogs. These babies could easily be mistaken for an insect.

Erin Talmage took this photo of a recently metamorphosed Wood Frog in Huntington.

American Bullfrogs continue to call. Keep your ears open for their deep jug-o-rum call and please do photograph or record any that you hear or see.

Cindy Sprague sent in this photo of an American Toad calling from the back of a male American Bullfrog back on June 5 of this year.

First North American Racer found in Vermont since 2014

Vermont Fish and Wildlife and the Vermont Herp Atlas organized a survey to try to relocate North American Racers in Vermont. The last report of a racer in Vermont had been in 2014. We put together a crew of 15 people consisting of VT Fish and Wildlife employees, US Fish and Wildlife employees (from Massachusetts), and Herp Atlas volunteers to help with the search. We spent Friday, May 31st in extreme southeastern Vermont searching the last known locations where this species had been found. Some of our crew left at lunch time, but those remaining managed to find a single large male racer that measured just shy of six feet long (see below).

VT Fish and Wildlife herpetologist Luke Groff took this photo of the first North American Racer found in Vermont since 2014, along with the crew that found it.

Rosy Metcalfe took this photo of our racer with volunteer Kim Cook and me in the background. Notice the typical distinctive eyebrow on the racer.


In Vermont, Racers have only been found in our southeastern corner. The large black snake found in western Vermont is the Eastern Ratsnake. The only other snake that might look large (over four feet long) and black in Vermont is the Common Watersnake. They darken as they age. Common Watersnakes are found in scattered locations in the Lake Champlain Basin but they are rare in the Connecticut River valley.

Spiny Softshells Returning to the Winooski River Delta

Over one hundred years ago, Spiny Softshells (a turtle) were found associated with three river deltas in Vermont: the Missisquoi, the Lamoille, and the Winooski. Since then, they disappeared from the Winooski River and its delta. Then, in 2019 Liz Lee reported one from the Winooski River itself. Two years later Josephine Robertson photographed one at Delta Park in Colchester. On June 12 of this year Rob Mann spotted another one at Delta Park, and earlier today Harriet Sundue spotted a Spiny Softshell buried in the mud at Delta Park and her father Michael managed to get a great photo for us. These reports are very hopeful. Perhaps the Spiny Softshell is returning to the Winooski River.

All that could be seen of this Spiny Softshell at Delta Park in Colchester was the neck and distinctive pointed snout. This turtle was found by Harriet Sundue and photographed by her dad Michael.

Female Turtles still on the Move

We are still receiving reports and photos of many Painted Turtles, Snapping Turtles and Wood Turtles digging nests and laying eggs. That may continue for another couple weeks.

Upcoming Events

I (Jim Andrews) will be giving a presentation at the Richmond Free Library in Richmond at 7:30 PM on Thursday, June 27. The focus of my PowerPoint presentation will be Selected Reptiles and Amphibians of the central Green Mountains. Admission is $5 for Green Mountain Club members and $8 for non-members. For more information visit their webpage.

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