Louisiana Amphibian and Reptile Enthusiast (L.A.R.E.)

image10

Gulf Coast Toad

  The Gulf Coast Toad is very plentiful at Palmetto Island State Park. They are medium sized toads with rough skin. They can vary in color from black to brown and have a white to yellow strip down the middle of its back. The extensive ridging on top of its head runs down to its nose. Moist and warm habitats are its favorite. You can usually find them near a small source of water because they lay their eggs in long strings that can contain anywhere around 5000 eggs. Gulf Coast Toads are active at night because they are looking for bugs to eat. They are easy to spot in your back yard hanging around under the porch light.

Racer commonly known as a Blue Runner

Racer - aka 'Blue Runner' - Coluber constrictor

Racers are active during the daytime and a very common snake in Palmetto Island State Park. Racers in the Palmetto Island region tend to be a creamy black, gray and brown mixture on top with a lighter color and a slight blue tint on their underside. Juvenile racers are pale gray with a row of reddish brown spots down the back and smaller spots on the sides, but lose this pattern during their second year.  They get their name from their fast movement. Their diet consists primarily of small rodents, frogs, toads, lizards and other snakes. Juveniles often consume soft-bodied insects, such as crickets and moths.  Despite their specific name, constrictor, they do not employ constriction, but rather consume their prey alive. Most smaller prey are simply swallowed alive. Racers prefer open country and partially open woodlands, but occur in forests and swamps as well. They readily climb shrubs and low trees. Racers bite vigorously when captured and are often territorial in early spring, so much so that they have been known to stand their ground rather than flee when confronted by humans. They lay from 6-29 eggs. Racers can be 20-65 inches long and are found in every parish of Louisiana. 

image11

Mud Snake - Farancia abacura

Mud Snakes are non-venomous despite being heavy bodied. They usually grow to a total length of 40 to 54 inches, with the record total length being slightly over 80 inches (taken outside of Louisiana). The upper side of the mud snake is glossy black. The underside is red and black, and the red extends up the sides to form bars of reddish-pink. Mud snakes inhabit the edges of streams and cypress swamps, among dense vegetation or under ground debris. Widespread throughout the state, but not as common as other aquatic snakes in Palmetto Island State Park. Mud snakes are mostly aquatic and nocturnal. They are not exceptionally fast, being much slower than ribbon snakes for example. Despite rumors, their short pointed tail can not sting or pierce a human’s skin. They also rarely bite, but will thrash around to reveal their bright red belly when threatened. Their primary diet consists of salamanders, but they will also eat a variety of other amphibians, and sometimes fish. Breeding takes place in the spring, mostly in the months of April and May. Eight weeks after mating, the female lays 4 to a few dozen eggs in a nest dug out of moist soil. She will remain with her eggs until they hatch, in the fall, usually September or October.

Dekay's Brownsnake

Dekay's Brownsnake

Dekay’s Brownsnake is a harmless, small live-bearing nonvenomous snake, seldom reaching more than one foot in total length (the pictured individual from the park is a grown adult). It is a wide-ranging species, with several subspecies (the Marsh Brownsnake subspecies Storeria dekayi limnetes occurs at Palmetto Island), and can be found throughout much of the eastern United States, being quite common in many areas. Brownsnakes possess rough-appearing keeled scales (as opposed to smooth scales) with a light mid-dorsal stripe (along the spine) contrasted against a darker color on the rest of the body, which is usually brownish, but can be more gray or red. The venter, or underside of the snake, is usually pale and unmarked, but many times with small black spots. Brownsnakes prefer moist habitats and are commonly observed hiding under cover objects in urban gardens, where they feed upon slugs, snails, and other small invertebrates. Though they are obviously capable, as all snakes are, I have never observed a Brownsnake attempt to bite. However, they will sometimes become defensive when handled, flattening out their body to make themselves appear larger and more intimidating. I know many people erroneously call these snakes ground rattlers and many even believe they are highly venomous. This is simply not true. This common small snake species is completely harmless and actually provides a great pest control service to homeowners who care about the health of their lawns and gardens.

This article and photo were contributed by Brad 'Bones' Glorioso with Louisiana Amphobian and Reptile Enthusiasts.

Watersnakes of Palmetto Island

photos and info by Brad 'Bones' Glorioso, L.A.R.E.

All of these watersnakes are routinely misidentified as the venomous Cottonmouth, which some people call the Water Moccasin. All watersnakes, when they are harassed and feel threatened, will flatten out their bodies and heads to make them appear more imposing to the threat. Even though watersnakes are not venomous they can still inflict a nasty bite, especially when grabbed, and the best policy is to leave all snakes go about their important roles in the ecosystem.  photos and info by Brad 'Bones' Glorioso, L.A.R.E. 

Broad-banded

Broad-banded Watersnake

  By far the most abundant watersnake at the park is the Broad-banded Watersnake, Nerodia fasciata confluens. We always find multiple examples of this species during each survey we conduct. They are especially plentiful off the boardwalk near the Nature Center, where they routinely bask on top of the many logs in the swamp. As their name implies, they generally have bands of color along their body, which are usually whitish or orange. They are semi-aquatic, and usually are not found far from water. They can grow to over 4 feet in length, but are usually shorter.

Plain-bellied

Plain-bellied Watersnake

  The next most abundant watersnake at the park is the Plain-bellied Watersnake, Nerodia erythrogaster. These snakes can also be found basking on logs near the boardwalk, but they can also be found quite a ways from water. As a juvenile and young adult, this species will have blotches along the dorsum, but as large adults they become more uniformly dark colored with only a faint pattern discernable. They can grow to over 5 feet in length, but are relatively slender.

Diamond-backed

Diamond-backed Watersnake

  We have also detected the Northern Diamond-backed Watersnake, Nerodia rhombifer rhombifer, at the park, but only on a few occasions. This snake has been found in the swamp off the boardwalk and also along the shore of the larger bodies of water. They are more aquatic than either the Broad-banded Watersnake or the Plain-bellied Watersnake. They can grow quite long, sometimes over 5 feet, and are heavy-bodied.