Buckeye Herps Blog

A photographic journal of the reptiles and amphibians of Ohio, Michigan and other places interesting wildlife call home.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

West Texas I

Back in 2007 Carl Brune and I made a trip out to SE Arizona for a few days. We knew we would be a little early for the monsoons and before heading out there we had even talked about what some other options might be. I kinda had my heart set on the Arizona thing and Carl gladly agreed to go out there with me. One of those other options we discussed was to head out to West Texas...

Two years later I had another week off at the end of June again. During the winter we had touched base about a possible trip and started throwing around ideas. West Texas was of course at the top of the list...

The Trans-Pecos region of Texas is a herp mecca. Many people travel there for the elusive alterna, but it also holds tons of other fascinating creatures. It is one of the areas of the country that most herpers should try and visit sometime. I say most, because it sure isn't for anyone. It is located in extreme SW Texas, and is an interesting combination of desert and montane habitats. Most of the land is private though, and basically unavailable for recreation activity. This leaves you with the option of roadcruising and searching rock cuts along public right of ways. Texas has also passed legislature making it illegal to pursue reptiles and amphibians from roads, which basically completely eliminates that as a viable search method. If you manage to gain access to land, or spend time in one of the parks, you are stuck fighting the oppressive heat of the SW Texas summer. If you decide to "bend the rules" and do some roadcruising you risk fines and the possibility of the boredom of long hours on the open road. But if the hardships of such tasks still suite you...

We flew into El Paso Texas, Carl via Columbus and I via Detroit. I arrived an hour or two before hand and was able to secure our rental for the week. We had chosen one of those small model "SUVs", basically with the thought we would appreciate some extra room during the long hours on the road, as well as the added ground clearance compared to a larger SUV. At the same time, our gas mileage was a little easier on the wallet. I picked up a tan Kia Sorento, with 1000 or so miles on it, and the car treated us well on our travels.

We made a quick (not really) stop at Wallmart to stock up on some food and our hunting permits. We had no plans to collect any animals, but wanted to be as law abiding as possible. A few hours later we were even searching some nice habitat. Unfortunately, we only saw a garter, a few amphibians and a couple DORs that first night.

Black-necked garter snake Thamnophis cyrtopsis

Couch's Spadefoot Scaphiopus couchii

Red-spotted Toad Anaxyrus punctatus

Milksnake Lampropeltis triangulum

After working our way south, we found a cheap $40 motel to crash. It wasn't the cleanliest of spots, and I made sure to give the mattress a good once over for bed bugs, but it served a purpose for the night. The next day we continued on farther south into the Big Bend region of the state. This would be our base of operations for the next few days. We got the last room at the Wildhorse Motel, a nice herper friendly joint, and then headed into Big Bend for a few hours. We turned up a few lizards and a dark coachwhip that escaped before we could get pictures.

Big Bend Spotted Whiptail Aspidoscelis scalaris septemvittata

An intense thunderstorm rolled through the area and destroyed our well laid plans. All power and cell phone service was out for miles in all directions and we had to drive an hour or so in order to get gas and some food.

We made a few passes on a road, chatted with some other herpers, and made some finds along the way.


Presidio Canyon Lizard Sceloporus merriami longipunctatus

Western Diamond-backed rattlsnake Crotalus atrox

Trans-Pecos Ratsnake Bogertophis subocularis

Long-nosed Snake Rhinocheilus lecontei

Chihuahuan Nightsnake Hypsiglena jani

Near the end of the night, another herper had hit a bat with his car and it was lying stunned on his windshield. I believe it to be a Pallid Bat Antrozous pallidus. The bat flew away after about 5 minutes.

We pulled in back to our motel around 4am, feeling very weary. It was a great night, but we had more finds to make the next couple of days...

Click here for West Texas Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV.

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