Weekend herping in Montana

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NACairns
Posts: 372
Joined: December 30th, 2013, 7:27 am

Weekend herping in Montana

Post by NACairns »

My wife and I made a couple weekend trips down to Montana this summer to enjoy a part of the world that is very geographically close to us but we have visited very few times. We started Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in early June. The reserve is huge (3,706.17 km2 thanks Wikipedia) and incorporates a wide variety of habitat. This trip was not particularly productive for herps but was amazing with respect to vistas as we drove from the center of the reserve at UL bend to the western limit. Have to say, MT has my favorite rattlesnake warning signs.
ImageIMGP7596 by nacairn, on Flickr
We did however manage to observe a few Woodhouse’s toads (Anaxyrus woodhousii) and five racers (Coluber constrictor flaviventris; un-photographed)
ImageIMGP7437 by nacairn, on Flickr
We also came across a loggerhead shrike acting strangely of the road to Zortman hovering and jumping around an unknown prey item. We investigated and the object of its attention turned out to be a young of last year prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis). Despite efforts to not disturb the interaction the shrike got spooked.
ImageIMGP7490 by nacairn, on Flickr
A few weekends later we traveled to the south of the state to the Pryor Mountains of Carbon Co. in search of Pale Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum multistriata) and sagebrush lizards (Sceloporus graciosus). We got in late and the roads produced some interesting ambibians, mammals and inverts.
Anaxyrus woodhousii
ImageIMGP7709 by nacairn, on Flickr
Spea bombifrons
ImageIMGP7722 by nacairn, on Flickr
Dipodomys ordii
ImageIMGP7733 by nacairn, on Flickr
Hogna sp
ImageIMGP7725 by nacairn, on Flickr
The next day started well but nothing other than scorpions appeared under the rocks we flipped.
Paruroctonus boreus
ImageIMGP7861 by nacairn, on Flickr
In the afternoon the weather turned quite stormy so we abandoned the multistriata hunting for canyons and Sceloporus (a treat for Canadians I assure you). Upon getting to a site I immediately saw a large female lizard and while going around a yucca to get a better look my wife found a little rattlesnake in a hunting coil.
Sceloporus graciosus (left), Crotalus viridis (right)
ImageIMGP7820 by nacairn, on Flickr
Crotalus viridis
ImageIMGP7843 by nacairn, on Flickr
Luckily lizards were plentiful and spent a good portion of that afternoon and evening observing them
Sceloporus graciosus (male, left; female, right)
ImageIMGP7975 by nacairn, on Flickr
Sceloporus graciosus
ImageIMGP8054 by nacairn, on Flickr
On the way back north we also found a Bullsnake on the banks of the Missouri River.
Pituophis catenifer sayi
ImageIMGP8062 by nacairn, on Flickr
On the final weekend in June we returned to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge this time to do some fishing, which was outstanding in terms of number of fish caught and species diversity. A few highlights:
flathead chub, Platygobio gracilis
ImageIMGP8176 by nacairn, on Flickr
goldeye, Hiodon alosoides
ImageIMGP8341 by nacairn, on Flickr
pallid sturgeon, Scaphirhynchus albus a very rare species.
ImageIMGP8189 by nacairn, on Flickr
Beyond the fish, racers were everywhere.
Coluber constrictor flaviventris
ImageIMGP8097 by nacairn, on Flickr
ImageIMGP8110 by nacairn, on Flickr
Coluber constrictor flaviventris (Juv)
ImageIMGP8347 by nacairn, on Flickr
Then while investigating a series of river side pools where the previous week I had been trying to ID minnows we stumbled across 9 juvenile soft shelled turtles of different sizes feeding on inverts and I imagine minnows.
ImageIMGP8225 by nacairn, on Flickr
Apalone spinifera
ImageIMGP8236 by nacairn, on Flickr
Apalone spinifera
ImageIMGP8308 by nacairn, on Flickr
And in what I can only hope will become a tradition in the future we found another bullsnake on our way north.
Pituophis catenifer sayi
ImageIMGP8366 by nacairn, on Flickr

Many thanks to Cole Grover for his advice on herping in this amazing state.

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Rich in Reptiles
Posts: 492
Joined: November 30th, 2012, 7:45 am
Location: Missouri

Re: Weekend herping in Montana

Post by Rich in Reptiles »

It's always great seeing the few posts that come from Montana herping! You found a lot of species! Congrats on getting to see a sturgeon too!

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Cole Grover
Posts: 745
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 9:06 am
Location: Montana

Re: Weekend herping in Montana

Post by Cole Grover »

Nice post! I've been waiting to see the photos since you were down here - I'm NOT disappointed!

Hopefully I'll have more time available on your next trip South.

Cole

NACairns
Posts: 372
Joined: December 30th, 2013, 7:27 am

Re: Weekend herping in Montana

Post by NACairns »

Sorry it took so long Cole, can't wait to get back down there. Hopefully we can go on a milk hunt one of these days.
best,
Nick

Tamara D. McConnell
Posts: 2248
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:42 am

Re: Weekend herping in Montana

Post by Tamara D. McConnell »

Beautiful post! I love the viridis and the anurans.

NACairns
Posts: 372
Joined: December 30th, 2013, 7:27 am

Re: Weekend herping in Montana

Post by NACairns »

Thanks

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