Monday, November 14, 2011

Creature Feature: Eastern Mud Snake

This fascinating species of snake is primarily aquatic, usually only leaving the water in search of prey or finding a mate.  Found from Southern Virginia all the way into Florida, the Mud snake primarily inhabits swamps where there is an abundance of sirens and amphiumas, the Mud snakes favorite prey.  These snakes are very strong snakes but rarely, if ever, bite when handled.  The most common reaction to being handled is that the Mud snake will poke it's captor with its harmless pointed tail.  Moving from bodies of water primarily at night also make this species one that is rarely encountered by people but is also a reason why these snakes suffer a high road mortality rate.  While these snakes are believed to exist in high numbers little is known about their actual population numbers due to their secretive existence.

Lesser Known Fact: Mud Snakes have been witnessed using their pointed tail as an anchor in the mud for extra leverage while subduing prey.

Blood, Sweat, & Gators: Hiking the Florida Everglades

Cuban Treefrog
One of the most memorable aspects about hiking the Everglades isn't actual blood, it's donating it to the mosquitoes.  While the mosquito level was high, at least it wasn't insane everywhere.  Most of the hikes in the everglades are easy access, paved, boardwalks, and a few unpaved beaten paths.  One of the longer trails on our visit was totally flooded which was very disappointing.

Making the trip from the entrance of ENP driving all the way to Flamingo in Monroe county we hit every trail we could.  Most of the trails were in the sun, so be sure to bring some sunscreen.  The shaded trails proved to be the worst for mosquitoes, and after a few minutes on something as simple as the Gumbo Limbo Trail, jogging was the best option to escape the little flying blood suckers.  You may as well leave the bug spray at home because I think that the mosquito just them laughing at you for trying.  So unless you want to wear a full bug protection suit I would highly advise to avoid any shaded trails.

American Alligator
The major attraction to the Everglades is the abundant wildlife.  Everywhere you look there is an interesting bird, reptile, or amphibian.  There is nothing more exciting than seeing an anole scurry away out of the corner of your eye every step you take or having a snake slither across a trail in front of you.  Florida is known for these creatures, but don't expect them to fall into your lap!  During our weekend in the glades we only saw about 10 snakes, and we were actually looking for them!  It certainly isn't like most television shows make it seem.  There are not invasive killer pythons around every turn and deadly venomous snakes aren't falling from the trees.  

Green Heron
If you are a birder, get in your car, book a flight, do whatever it takes to reach the Glades and visit this park! I recommend to go between January and March, which is Florida's dry season, meaning a lot loss mosquitoes!  If you are looking for large mammals this might not be the best place to visit.

American Crocodile
I would also strongly recommend that when you get to Flamingo to give up the dirt trails and try some of the water trails.  This is a fantastic way to get an opportunity to see the endangered American Crocodile.  There are canoes for rent at the boathouse in Flamingo, so while you are there give it a paddle!

Tailless whip scorpion
 There is virtually no challenge to any of the trails in the everglades, everything is flat!  The only issue is that the trails may test your stamina when it comes to the heat or test your patience when it comes to the buzzing blood sucking mosquitoes.  

Florida Softshell Turtle
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