RARE LITTLE CRITTER

Nelvin is an old friend that I don't get to see often enough.

Kirtland's Snake

While checking the oxygen level in the fish ponds, I almost ran over a small snake with the 4-wheeler. Seeing it six feet ahead of me just as I was crossing the Nodine branch, I was able to stop for a closer look. I think it's small size was what interested me most. Had it been full grown ( 14 inches ), I would have assumed it was a common Northern Water Snake which eat lots of catfish and therefore are free game.

Kirtland's Snake

When I picked it up I noticed that its belly was orange with a row of black spots down each side. At that moment I realized that I didn't know what I was holding. I took it to the barn and put it in a coffee can and forgot all about it until the next day.

An old grade school, high school, and college buddy originally from Herrick and now in California, had sent me a Casio digital camera to use this summer. I saw the camera setting on my desk and thought I should photograph the little critter and email the pictures to my son Allan who is a herpetologist (amphibian and reptile expert) at SIU in Carbondale.

Kirtland's Snake

Allan e-mailed back "KEEP IT !!!!!". An hour later he sent a name. "The snake that you have is a Kirtland's Snake (Clonophis kirtlandii) The last time one was collected in Fayette was a DOR on Rt 51 1.5 mi N of Ramsey in 1962, so it is a pretty exciting find. It is a juvenile so that's good that they are reproducing there." Allan also had a list of questions and requests.

When did you collect it? -- Caught it Saturday, August 22.

What time of the day did you find it? -- 6pm

What was the aproximate air temp? -- 90 F

Was it sunny or cloudy? -- sunny

Any recent rains? -- no rain recently

Was it out in the open or under something? -- out in the open on the crossing

Take a measurement of its total length in cm and inches. If it sheds keep it. -- 17.7cm or 7 inches

If it happens to die freeze it quickly.

Let me know how it goes. Great job dad!"

Their diet consists mainly of earth worms and slugs with an occasional crayfish. One reason they are extremely hard to find is the fact that they spend most of their time in crayfish holes.

Allan came home Sunday to see the snake (and Mom and DAD). Mike, a herpetologist and nature photographer from Chicago came down Tuesday to photograph the snake.

Nelvin