Sightings – Reptiles

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 5/7/18

Observation Time: 8:15 a.m.

Observation Location: Moose Hill Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary

Common Name: Black racer

Scientific Name: Coluber constrictor

Comments: This black racer was sunning itself in the cool of the morning, and continuously monitoring its surroundings by “tasting” the air with its forked tongue.

More Information: Snakes of Massachusetts

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 6/14/09

Observation Time: morning

Observation Location: Moose Hill Farm, Trustees of Reservations land

Common Name: Black Racer

Scientific Name: Coluber constrictor

Comments: Photos taken on Sunday, 6/14/09 at SFOC’s Biodiversity Day event at Trustees of Reservations on Moose Hill.

More Information: UMass Amherst Natural Resources & Environmental Conservation

 

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 7/19/10

Observation Time: 7:30 a.m.

Observation Location: undisclosed location in Sharon (to protect the turtle)

Common Name: Eastern Box Turtle

Scientific Name: Terrapene carolina

Comments: I spotted this rare male box turtle (Terrapene carolina) in Sharon (exact location undisclosed to protect the turtle) at 7:30 on Monday, July 19, 2010. Although it appeared at first to want to cross the busy road, it eventually turned around and trundled off away from the road, perhaps deterred by the 6″ granite curb.

Box turtles live within a very small territory (about 200 yards in any direction). They become familiar with where to find food and shelter within that area as the seasons change. It is not a good idea to move a box turtle to a new area because it won’t know where to find food, and it may try to find its way back to its home territory, crossing roads and taking the risk of getting run over in the process.

Box turtles are extremely long-lived (up to 100 years or more), slow to mature, and have relatively few offspring per year. These characteristics, along with a propensity to get hit by cars, make the box turtle a species particularly susceptible to human-induced problems. It is listed by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) as a Species of Special Concern (SC).

Excerpt from NHESP web site:

“Most turtles require multiple types of habitats to fulfill all of their survival needs. For example, the Blanding’s Turtle overwinter in permanent wetlands, often move to vernal pools to feed, nest in open gravelly upland areas, and move among marshes, shrub swamps and other wetland types throughout the summer. In order to access all of these resources in one season, they will often have to cross roads. Roads are one of the most prominent threats to turtles. The number one threat is habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation due to residential and commercial development. Other threats include collection as pets (both commercial and incidental), disease, increased levels of predation in urban and suburban areas, and succession of nesting and other open habitats.”

For tips on what to do if you encounter a box turtle, and how to report sightings of rare species, see the NHESP website.

More Information: Massachusetts Turtle Atlas

Eastern Box Turtle

Observer: Zahava Friedman

Observation Date: 9/3/17

Observation Time: 6:45 p.m.

Observation Location: along Gavins Pond Rd.

Common Name: Eastern Box Turtle

Scientific Name: Terrapene carolina 

Comments: This specimen was discovered by Zahava’s dog, Yoshi, when they were out for a walk. Box turtles are a species of special concern. They are vulnerable to getting run over by cars. Although box turtles can live over 100 years, females do not reach sexual maturity until they are about 13 years old.

More Information: Natural History and Endangered Species

What to do if you find a turtle: https://www.mass.gov/guides/turtles-of-massachusetts#turtles-in-the-road

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 3/17/11

Observation Time: 2:20 p.m.

Observation Location: Coach Lane

Common Name: Garter Snake

Scientific Name: Thamnophis sirtalis

Comments: This is a common snake. It is harmless.

More Information: Wikipedia

Garter Snake

 

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Observer: Kathy Farrell

Observation Date:  10/17/18

Observation Time: 3:46 p.m.

Observation Location: Beaver Brook Trail

Common Name: Milk Snake

Scientific Name: Lampropeltis triangulum

Comments: Beautiful snake in middle of trail. Not very big…maybe 6-8″. Maybe juvenile? Was shaking its tail at me! No rattle.

More Information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milk_snake

Observer: Kate Kavanagh

Observation Date: 6/3/10

Observation Time: 4:15 p.m.

Observation Location: South Pleasant Street

Common Name: Milk Snake

Scientific Name: Lampropeltis triangulum

Comments: This beautiful snake was slowly moving along the foundation of the house in the front garden bed. Disappeared into the gap behind the front step. Sadly, I was not fast enough with my camera.

More Information: UMass Amherst Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date:  9/12/13

Observation Time: 4:30 p.m.

Observation Location: Moose Hill Street

Common Name: Milk Snake

Scientific Name: Lampropeltis triangulum

Comments: Sad to see this beautiful non-venomous milk snake run over by a car.  Milk snakes are generally docile, but when alarmed, they sometimes shake their tails against dead leaves to imitate the sound of a rattlesnake.

More Information: Virginia Herpetological Society

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 5/29/13

Observation Time: 1:30 p.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond Dam

Common Name: Musk turtle

Scientific Name: Sternotherus odoratus

Comments: This small turtle, which only grows to 5″ in length, is common in Sharon. When disturbed, it emits a disagreeable odor, which accounts for both its common and scientific names.

This individual presumably came ashore to lay eggs. Believe it or not, musk turtles are known to climb high up into the branches of shrubs and trees.

More Information: Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

Musk Turtle

Musk Turtle

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 5/31/12

Observation Time: 8:20 a.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond Dam

Common Name: Northern Water Snake

Scientific Name: Nerodia sipedon

Comments: This big water snake was stalking a frog.

More Information: http://www.snake-removal.com/northernwatersnake.html

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

It tastes the air with its forked tongue.

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Its scales have ridges called “keels.”

Northern Water Snake

The frog got away.

Northern Water Snake

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 6/12/13

Observation Time: 1:30 p.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond Dam

Common Name: Northern Water Snake

Scientific Name: Nerodia sipedon

Comments: The older northern water snakes get, the blacker they become. This mature specimen appears to be all black, but the underside is still colorful. Non-venomous northern water snakes are sometimes confused with venomous water moccasins, which live farther south. Even older northern water snakes that look black when on shore may appear banded when swimming through the water.

Note the ridges on the scales, called “keels.”

More information on this one-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uw6W8NaJmfo 

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 7/9/11

Observation Time: 3:45 p.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond Dam

Common Name: Northern Water Snake

Scientific Name: Nerodia sipedon

Comments: Water snakes are not venomous, but they can be large (4 feet long or more, and as thick as a man’s wrist) and aggressive. This one was more interested in avoiding me than attacking me.

More Information: Savannah River Ecology Laboratory

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

The scales have ridges called “keels.”

Northern Water Snake

Observer: Alex Hackman

Observation Date: 8/14/10

Observation Time: 11:00 a.m.

Observation Location: Outlet of Gavins Pond

Common Name: Northern Water Snake

Scientific Name: Nerodia sipedon

Comments: Lucky to see this water snake slither by while taking stream flow measurements.

More Information: Wikipedia

Northern Water Snake

 

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 8/6/12

Observation Time: 1:10 p.m.

Observation Location: outflow pool below Gavins Pond Dam

Common Name: Northern Water Snake (juvenile)

Scientific Name: Nerodia sipedon

Comments: Young northern water snake males are more brightly marked than older ones, which tend to be all black.

More Information: Snakes of Massachusetts

Northern Water Snake (Juvenile)

Northern Water Snake (Juvenile)

Northern Water Snake (Juvenile)

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 7/25/10

Observation Time: 10:40 a.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond Dam

Common Name: Painted Turtle

Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta

Comments: Painted turtles mostly stay in the water, or climb out to sun themselves on logs. This one was walking around on Gavins Pond Dam.

More Information: Warner Nature Center

Painted Turtle

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 7/6/11

Observation Time: 4:50 p.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond outflow pool

Common Name: Painted Turtle

Scientific Name: Chrysemys picta

Comments: I found this specimen on the dam, so I photographed it and then put it back in the water. In June, painted turtles lay their eggs in holes they dig with their hind legs in sunny patches of sandy soil.

More Information: Wikipedia

Painted Turtle

Painted Turtle

Painted Turtle

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 7/22/16

Observation Time: 6:15 p.m.

Observation Location: Outflow pool below Gavins Pond dam

Common Name: Snapping Turtle

Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina

Comments: Snapping turtles come out of the water and lay their eggs in sandy areas in early June. The eggs hatch in late summer or early fall.

More Information: Tufts Wildlife Clinic and Mass Audubon’s guide to turtle species

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 8/21/10

Observation Time: 7:50 a.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond Road

Common Name: Snapping Turtle

Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina

Comments: It is a common misconception that snapping turtles may be safely picked up by the tail with no harm to the animal; in fact, this has a high chance of injuring the turtle, especially the tail itself and the vertebral column. Lifting the turtle with the hands is difficult and dangerous. Snappers can stretch their necks back across their own carapace and to their hind feet on either side to bite. Also, their claws are sharp and capable of inflicting significant lacerations.

Manual lifting is best accomplished by grabbing the base of the tail right near the shell, lifting a tiny bit and sliding a flat hand with the fingers tightly together between its back legs and under its stomach. The snapper is then lifted off the ground much like a pizza, keeping its head pointed away from anyone. They cannot bite under their stomachs. If available wearing thick work gloves is advised when handling adult snappers. Washing hands or using hand sanitizer is advised after handling any turtle (wild or pet) as they can carry Salmonella bacteria.

More Information: Wikipedia

Snapping Turtle

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 8/25/10

Observation Time: 7:30 a.m.

Observation Location: Spillway at Gavins Pond dam

Common Name: Snapping Turtle

Scientific Name: Chelydra serpentina

Snapping Turtle Drama

On August 25 the spillway at the Gavins Pond dam was flowing strongly following four inches of rain in three days.

Snapping Turtle Drama

A good-sized snapping turtle had gotten swept by the current into the spillway at the Gavins Pond dam. It was hanging on to the concrete lip at the entrance of the spillway by its front claws. If it let go, it would have been swept over the falls and onto the shallow rocks, which might have been fatal. A few years ago, I saw a broken carapace of a big snapping turtle in the outflow pool. I suppose it had gotten swept over the falls and broke its shell.

Snapping Turtle Drama

Moments after I took the above picture, the turtle’s right front claw lost its grip, and the turtle lurched a couple inches backward toward the falls. I thought it was a goner, but it continued to hang on by its left front claw. It somehow managed to pull its right claw forward against the strong current and regained its grip on the lip of the spillway. Very slowly and carefully, it maneuvered itself toward the pond.

Snapping Turtle Drama

Once out of the current, it rested briefly, and I was able to get this last photo before it swam off.

More Information: Wikipedia

Observer: Paul Lauenstein

Observation Date: 6/28/10

Observation Time: 8:00 a.m.

Observation Location: Gavins Pond Road behind Shaw’s Plaza

Common Name: Spotted Turtle (female)

Scientific Name: Clemmys guttata

Comments: This female spotted turtle may have been searching for a sandy spot to lay eggs. It may take up to 7 years for a spotted turtle to reach sexual maturity. Or perhaps it was returning to deeper water after the vernal pool dried up where it was feeding on amphibian eggs. Young spotted turtles only have one yellow spot per scute. More yellow spots appear as they age.

Many turtles get run over by cars. If you find a turtle on a road, dead or alive, please report it to the Massachusetts Turtle Atlas

More Information: Mass. Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) “Massachusetts Forestry Conservation Management Practices for Spotted Turtles”

Spotted Turtle

Spotted Turtle

Observer: Zahava Friedman

Observation Date: 7/17/18

Observation Time: 

Observation Location: Gavins Pond Road

Common Name: Spotted Turtle

Scientific Name: Clemmys guttata

Comments: Rare in Massachusetts. Spotted turtles visit vernal pools in spring to feed on amphibian eggs. When the pools dry up in summer, they must trek overland to return to a permanent pond. Unfortunately, this often entails crossing roads.

More Information: Natural History and Endangered Species Program of Massachusetts

Observer: Kurt Buermann

Observation Date: 7/28/17

Observation Location: King Philips Trail, Sharon

Common Name: Spotted Turtle

Scientific Name: Clemmys guttata

Comments: Rare in Massachusetts. Spotted turtles visit vernal pools in spring to feed on amphibian eggs. When the pools dry up in summer, they must trek overland to return to a permanent pond. Unfortunately, this often entails crossing roads.

More Information: Natural History and Endangered Species Program of Massachusetts