Herpetology in Ohio—50 Years Ago
Logs and rocks provide cool, moist places for snakes to hide during the heat of the day. Nature, however, can be supplemented with a little human ingenuity. In Conant’s time, logging operations left behind huge saw dust piles strewn along the steep slopes. When covered with pieces of hacked-off bark, these damp, sturdy piles provided the perfect escape from the elements. Conant recounts one exceptionally good find, “a large slab-covered pile in Hocking County yielded a fence lizard, three young broad head skinks, a northern water snake, eleven hatchling black rat snakes, and two juvenile copperheads.” As mill practices shifted, Conant’s fruitful saw dust piles became a thing of the past.
During the course of our search, Carl and I might flip upwards of 100 pieces of cover and hike ten miles through the ravines and hilltops, all to find a handful of serpents. Somedays, the snakes are plentiful, others require hours of work to find the most common of species. There is really no telling where or when a species might turn up; it's often a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
Hobby, obsession, the ‘weird’ cousin of birding, call it what you will, but herping has captivated my life ever since I first opened Roger Conant's field guide. In a few months time, the snakes, lizards, and turtles will begin to emerge from their frozen retreats. Carl and I will soon be back among the rolling hills of Southern Ohio, flipping logs, boards, and carpets for the secrets hidden beneath. Only time will tell what we find.