Monday, October 19, 2009

No, I'm not only ogling rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) this fall, as wonderful as they are. I am still herping Philadelphia, although primarily my stomping grounds in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery.

It's hard to miss that the redback salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) are out again. I started seeing them a few weeks ago, and now they're under everything I lift up. They appear as if by magic as the temperatures drop, but there's a very ordinary explanation; these salamanders are very vulnerable to high temperatures and to dry conditions, so they stay deeper underground (at least during the day) for the heat of the summer. Now that daytime temps are back in their comfort zone, they're back near the surface.

There are still some snakes about too. Here's a big female brown snake (Storeria dekayi) I've found a couple times. I went for a walk recently with a friend in the cemetery. We saw the expected salamanders, but we also saw this migrant passing through, I assume on its way to central Mexico.


Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of this site and am writing for some advice.

I recently have become a fan of "herping." My interest accelerated a great deal when I found a Eastern Painted turtle while walking on the tarmac of an airport for my job, far from any water. It was mid-summer and the little guy, no more than an inch across, would have died if I hadn't picked him up and taken him home. (I figure he either fell out of someone's suitcase or was dropped by a bird flying over the airport - he was at least 3/4 of a mile from any grass, never mind water. Under the circumstances, I decided to keep him. I read all the literature I could and have been enjoying caring for and watching him very much. He is healthy and doing well after 4 months with me.

Today, a friend of mine who does not live near me found an Eastern Box Turtle crossing the road on the way to my house. Knowing the story of the Eastern Painted, she picked it up and brought it over. I am not interested in keeping a wild adult turtle, which this is - I am keeping it overnight to take some pictures and would like to release it tomorrow.

I had read that a box turtle must be returned to the exact area where you found it because they live their whole lives in the same area. The problem is, while my friend described generally where she found it, she did not describe it with specificity, and she is not going to be around to point out to me exactly where she found it. I live in a wooded area, and could release it into the woods behind my house where it would have everything it needs to thrive -- I've found several box turtles here before -- if it is OK to do so.

What do you think I should do? Is the information I got about turtle habits wrong? Will it die if I don't return it to where it was found?

Thank you for your advice and for this website.

Bernard Brown said...

Thanks for the comment. The first thing to say is that nothing I'm about to write should be taken as a cut on your intentions - I wish everyone cared this much about turtles.

The painted turtle is interesting, but keep an eye out for any drainage ditches that might also work - baby painteds can hang out in some pretty shallow water. Either way, these guys are pretty common, and as long as it's legal where you are, they can make decent pets.

What you heard about box turtles is correct. These guys (and most wild herps for that matter) have strong homing instincts and will set off for home if they're not there, and if they're too far they'll wander until they starve or get killed. Better to hold it a day or two until you can pin down exactly where she found it. Boxies are having enough trouble in the wild that you want to do what you can to keep this one in its local population.

Anonymous said...

All turned out well. I explained the situation and convinced my friend to go out of her way and take me to where she picked up the turtle, and we dropped it off in the woods nearby. It was a beauty with neat brownish-reddish irises and an interestingly patterned shell, and I got some nice pictures before I said goodbye.

As for the eastern painted - I checked, and it is legal for me to have kept it as a pet in my state. If it were not for the overall situation - that I found it in such a strange and dangerous place and felt "responsible" for it, and that it is a fairly common species that as youngsters can adapt well to captivity - I would not have kept it: I certainly would never pluck one out of a pond and take it home. Now I am quite attached to it and would be sorry to see it go and would worry about it if I did. I'll think about what you wrote as well as the ethics of the situation and maybe release it to a friendly pond come spring - I would be afraid to do so now, as the weather is getting quite cold and it I've been keeping my tank at summer-like temps and day-lengths.

Thanks again for the help!

Bernard Brown said...

I wouldn't feel bad at all about keeping the little painted in that case. I might be looser than other people on my rules of collection, but I don't see much wrong with taking 1 of a common species that is under no commercial collection pressure.

Vasco Flores Cruz said...

Great blog! The Plethodon cinereus, looks like the portuguese salamander!

Bernard Brown said...

Thanks Vasco! I hadn't seen your blog before, but I really enjoyed reading back through it. Our redbacks (Plethodon cinereus) really do look like your Chioglossa lusitanica.

Happy Herping!