Saturday, October 3, 2009

Herp Identity

I finally got an email from the Wisconsin DNR's Bureau of Endangered Species - a response to my bullsnake sighting report (and question about the identity of a frog that literally jumped out in front of me on the Chippewa State Trail).

Yes, it's a Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer), one of the largest (up to 6-feet long) non-venomous snakes in the upper midwest.  While it's known for its similarity to a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake and its confusing mimicry - hissing and rattling the vegetation with its tail, it's harmless.  Unless you're a rodent (large insect, ground nesting bird, lizard or baby snake), you have nothing to worry about.  Just stand still and you'll see this constrictor's most effective defense:  slithering away.
Bullsnake range

And the frog that jumped out in front of me the other day - it's a Green Frog (Rana clamitans).  At first I thought it might be a Mink Frog (named for a musty odor emitted through the skin - a signal to predators that they're not so tasty).  Another example of mimicry.  It sure confused me.

At the time, I had insect repellent on my hands, so I didn't pick it up to take a whiff.   The Green Frog also has characteristic dark cross-bands on the rear legs.  "Sit and wait" hunters, these amphibians feed on the small animals that cross their paths - flies, spiders, crayfish, caterpillars, snails, slugs, butterflies and moths.

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