Nerodia clarkii compressicauda at the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

2011-07-09 at 13-36-52While we were exploring the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge on Stock Island (near Big Pine Key, Florida) on 09 July, my dad and I couldn’t help ourselves and just had to look for some salt marsh snakes in the mangroves. It didn’t take too long to find a lovely mangrove salt marsh snake, Nerodia clarkii compressicauda, cooling itself in the shady, mangrove underbrush.

The snake was near shedding, thus the glassy blue eyes and the muffled tones of its scales. Though the shedding prevented the camera from really getting a feel for the snake’s full beauty (you can see the hint of color and contrast beneath those milky scales in the photograph below), it’s unlikely I would’ve been able to catch this individual if it hadn’t been shedding. The snake was basking on a mangrove strand overhanging the water; one slip and this snake could’ve easily dodged the lumbering mass of mammalia closing in on him, holding the magic-box painted “NIKON”.

2011-07-09 at 13-36-28

As it was, the snake was entirely agreeable during our brief photo-shoot rendezvous. Mangrove salt marsh snakes are fairly small and generally agreeable snakes. They’re non-venomous and don’t seem to have nearly as fiery temperaments as some of the green watersnakes (Nerodia floridana) you’ll encounter in central Florida. The little dude was content to just let it be… Whatever will be will be.

That’s a snake-attitude I can get behind.

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After ten minutes of photographs, we let the snake go exactly where we found him — and it languidly went about on its way, retreating into the thicker weaves of the mangrove bush.

Heaven knows I love my lizards, but I can’t tell you how happy I am to back in the realm of the Nerodia watersnakes. I missed them terribly during our four-year jaunt in Alaska.

A Bonus: no hard bites. Always a plus. The only negative to this encounter was losing my Chugach National Park cap. I’d taken it off to better manage the flash. Forgot to pick it back up when we were done. Alas, my beloved Chugach cap is now lost somewhere in the mangroves of Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge. Hell, if you gotta get lost somewhere, that’s not a bad place to be. Right?

Tomorrow: giant land crabs! Aye!

~ janson

7 thoughts on “Nerodia clarkii compressicauda at the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge, Florida”

  1. If you ever get a chance, try roadcruising Everglades National Park – they’re very comfortable there, and there’s some very nice specimens: I’ve seen some cool blood red ones there.

    1. I’ve got a fantastic orange individual photographed from the Coral Gables area. The mangrove salt marsh snakes have some wicked diversity to them, don’t they? In the Glades, taking the main road through to Flamingo, I most-often see the Everglades racer — a damn beautiful snake. I did once find and photograph what I think was a *severely* emaciated and/or diseased striped crayfish snake, Regina alleni. The dude was all kinds of messed up.

      In your time down there, are the N. c. compressicaudas pretty widely distributed throughout the Glades? Or are they closer to Florida Bay? I’m curious how “inland” they get there, given the uniqueness/seasonal-wetness of the territory.

  2. Almost exclusively in the mangrove habitat (Parotis Pond and south) though I have heard of them showing up on the north side of the park very occasionally. They’re largely a mangrove/estuarine obligate.

    1. I usually try to get down there a couple times a year and do the Miami/Coral Gables anolis party, the Everglades run, and Big Cypress/Loop Road. Occasionally I get distracted by the Keys… heh. I’ll flag you next time I’m heading down. I’d like to get some better perspectives of the Glades. Also, congrats on the forthcoming book. You going to take on the south Florida lizards next?

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