Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Biggest Snake Yet!

As you know, I'm a reptiles guy. So I'm that odd ball you may have seen walking around campus at night catching geckos and frogs in the creek; This is called "herping". If you hear your mate is going out herping one night, it means he's going to go look for snakes and lizards, and any other reptiles or amphibians he can find.
 Back in the states, I have two good friends that like to go herping with me, but here in Oz everyone seems keen for herping. This is really great to see so much enthusiasm for wildlife, so my mate Harrison and I usually try to assemble a good consortium of hikers for the nights when we go herping.
 This particular night, we were headed out to the Ross River, which is a short 15 minute walk from campus. With our head lamps a lite we searched the grass and scrub-scape for eyeshine. Spider eyes were everywhere, so it takes a trained herper to differ between spiders, toads, frogs, and geckos. Snake eyes generally don't shine as much as other herps, but occasionally they may stick out amongst the habitat.
 It wasn't long until Harrison spotted our first snake. A Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularius). This is the species that is wrecking the bird populations on Gaum. They are a pretty hardy and quite common invasive species. I think they are very interesting and pretty. This Colubrid is mildly venomous, but basically harmless. To my surprise he bit me, whilst I was fiddling with my camera and not watching him. First snake bite here in the Southern Hemisphere! Not surprisingly, I had no reaction to the bite, and we carried on to explore the river.
 We noticed several Asian House geckos (H. frenatus), some White Lipped and Green Tree Frogs, Cane Toads everywhere (R. marina) and even a Tawny Frogmouth, which made my bird expert Paul super happy. Then as I swept my light across the trees for gecko eyes I noticed a dull mark, which looked like a Cane Toad in a tree. It was just interesting enough for me to take a closer look.
 "Snake guys! I've got a snake here!" I hollered to the group. "Looks like a carpet Python" I said as I looked at it's head and a foot of its body on the branch.

 "Holy crap, man, come look at the rest of this thing" I heard from the other side of the tree. And as I round the tree trunk I noticed a huge body and tail hanging just low enough to grab. Immediately after I grabbed the snake, it tried to pull away! Even so much that it was lifting me off the ground. As it did so, his head came lower on the other side of the branch. So I reached around and grabbed his head, and we were able to tickle him off his branch for a safe capture. After some measurements and pictures, we bid this 2.3m (7'6") female carpet python farewell, and went back to campus.

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