As a herper (one who actively searches for reptiles and amphibians), the ultimate goal is to find as many species as possible. Some can be very easy, and others can be extremely difficult.
I am spending my summer at home in Wyoming rather than in Florida. Luckily, my amazing boyfriend was able to tag along and enjoy the state with me. Wyoming has a total of 16 species of snake (2 venomous), 11 lizards, 4 turtles, 6 toads, 5 frogs, and 1 salamander. 43 species total. As you can imagine, it has been a crazy summer so far trying to find as many of these as we can. We have done really well so far and have nearly seen everything we can in my hometown of Casper before we need to start traveling to other parts of the state.
One of the biggest goals we had for the summer was to find a Plains Hognose Snake. Hognoses are my all-time favorite type of snakes. They have an adorable upturned snoot, and they play dead when they feel threatened. Can you even imagine something cuter?! I think not. My boyfriend had never seen one before, so this was a big deal. My dad and I found one last year while herping, and I was so excited that I burst into tears (trust me, there’s a video).
The fact that I had seen one already made us both very determined to make sure we found one while he was here … thus began the Quest for the Hognose.
My boyfriend is brilliant when it comes to snakes and finding them. He can pick out the perfect habitat on Google Maps and locate the perfect roads to cruise to try to find specific species. This is exactly what he did at the beginning of our search. He found a couple really good roads, but one in particular that he was excited about.
We tried the road at first but came up hognose-less. We did, however find several bullsnakes and rattlesnakes along with perfect hognose habitat. Eventually, my boyfriend decided that we should try the road again, and we finally got our first clue into the Casper Hognose World! We found a dead adult-sized hognose on the road.
Now, one would think that it would be extremely sad to finally find the snake you are looking for and have it end up being dead, but it was quite the opposite. You see, up until that point, we hadn’t seen any evidence of them existing anywhere in Casper. We tried several different roads and talked to many people. We finally knew for sure that we were in the right place!
With a newfound strong desire to try again, we packed up our photography equipment and headed out to the road once more. We cruised for 4 hours, when all of a sudden we both look at each other and say, “Did you see that?” Prestin got out of the car and ran back. I look in the rearview mirror to see him screaming the word “HOGNOSE!!!” I rush out of the car, and sure enough, it is a hatchling plains hognose, playing dead. The cutest thing I’ve ever seen! I may or may not have shed a few tears.
The next goal was to find a big hognose. We returned to the road soon after the thrill of the young hognose. The only live snakes were again bullsnakes and rattlesnakes. However, we did find an unexpected surprise. We found another dead hognose, but this time, it was HUGE. Roughly 3.5 feet and FAT! We wish we could have seen that beauty alive.
We returned once more to the road, determined as ever to find a big hognose. We started cruising, and before we knew it, we were seeing several bullsnakes and rattlesnakes and moved them all off the road. After about 2 hours, we look up ahead and see a short and stout line sitting across the road. Prestin (AKA the ultimate snake expert) knew exactly what it was. HOGNOSE! Roughly 2 feet long and beautiful. As I pick it up off the ground, I immediately get pooped on while the snake proceeds to play dead. It was worth it. After weeks of dedicated searching, hours of searching for roads, multiple drives, and multiple hikes, we had finally found the snake we had dedicated so much time to.
So there you have it … the quest for the hognose. It is always such a rewarding experience to find my favorite snakes, and it is even more so when my wonderful boyfriend gets a lifer out of it.
Let me know what you think! Are there any animals you would dedicate a lot of time to finding?