Trying to Decide Where to go for Thanksgiving

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skybutton
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Joined: June 6th, 2013, 2:57 pm

Trying to Decide Where to go for Thanksgiving

Post by skybutton » September 14th, 2014, 9:22 pm

Hey everyone. I'm currently a freshman at the University of Florida in Gainesville, although I've been deeply interested in herpetology as long as I can remember. I'm from Connecticut, so I've only lived here about a month. So far the stuff I've found though has been pretty disappointing. I've seen maybe 6-7 different types of lizards, 4-5 different types of frogs, 4-5 different types of turtles, and nothing else (not even a single snake)- and in general everything I've found has been fairly common, or even invasive. I'm thinking that this is probably due to the fact that I don't have a car so I'm pretty much limited to everything within 4-5 miles of UF that I can bike to and from.

I've been hoping to increase my luck herping by getting to and spending sometime somewhere where herping is likely to be more productive. While most people are going home for Thanksgiving break, I am not. Instead I'm hoping to hitch a ride with one of my friends who is going home and have them drop me off at a place where I'd set up camp and go herping for a few days instead. For example, if I were going to Osceola National Forest, I'd ask a friend who was passing through/near there on their way home for Thanksgiving. If I were going to ANF, I'd do the same. I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to find a ride to the location at the start of Thanksgiving break, and from the location at the end of the break. I have a lot of experience with multi-day camping, hiking, etc., so I know what I am doing in terms of that once I get there. I plan to set up one campsite and go herping/hiking in different directions on different days as opposed to backpacking.

So now, given that context, I've narrowed down where I might like to go to a few places:

ANF
Osceola National Forest
Ocala National Forest
Myakka River State Park
Everglades or Big Cypress
Crocodile Lake NWR (takes up most of Key Largo it seems)
Torreya State Park area
Blackwater river state forest

In terms of herps I'm hoping to see, I absolutely love snakes (any type), salamanders (especially ambystomids and eurycea), frogs of hyla or pseudacris, and skinks.

With that in mind, could anybody please give me some feedback on some of the places that I'm considering going to, keeping in mind that it'll be around Thanksgiving? Feel free to message me also. Any feedback is appreciated.

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BillMcGighan
Posts: 2302
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:23 am
Location: Unicoi, TN

Re: Trying to Decide Where to go for Thanksgiving

Post by BillMcGighan » September 15th, 2014, 5:52 am

There are several folks from the central FL region active in the SE Chapter of NAFHA. I'd suggest networking with FL experienced folks.

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NewYorkHerper16
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Joined: August 13th, 2014, 6:50 am
Location: Long Island, NY

Re: Trying to Decide Where to go for Thanksgiving

Post by NewYorkHerper16 » September 15th, 2014, 12:56 pm

Im not from Florida, but i have been to the Everglades around Thanksgiving before and it was great! At that time of year a few years ago i found my very first venomous snake, a beautiful little Diamondback Rattler. I saw plenty of lizards, leopard frogs, and gators too, but those are common everywhere in FL. Corn snakes, water snakes, and cottonmouths are common in the Everglades/Big Cypress too if you go roadcruising at night.

Pretty much all the places you listed should probably be good in November, i see no reason why you cant be successful in any place you choose.

Good Luck!

Coluber Constrictor
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:25 am
Location: Mobile, AL

Re: Trying to Decide Where to go for Thanksgiving

Post by Coluber Constrictor » September 15th, 2014, 4:28 pm

Torreya. I was there around that time a few years ago, and saw a copperhead and a huge gray rat snake. There are salamanders too, but I didn't have luck with those. It is a beautiful and unique habitat in Florida. Nice fall color that time of year.

Coluber Constrictor
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:25 am
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Re: Trying to Decide Where to go for Thanksgiving

Post by Coluber Constrictor » September 15th, 2014, 4:29 pm

If you want to see huge numbers of snakes, the glades might be a better choice, however.

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mtratcliffe
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Joined: January 19th, 2014, 4:34 pm
Location: Springfield, VA

Re: Trying to Decide Where to go for Thanksgiving

Post by mtratcliffe » September 15th, 2014, 5:18 pm

skybutton wrote:Hey everyone. I'm currently a freshman at the University of Florida in Gainesville, although I've been deeply interested in herpetology as long as I can remember. I'm from Connecticut, so I've only lived here about a month. So far the stuff I've found though has been pretty disappointing. I've seen maybe 6-7 different types of lizards, 4-5 different types of frogs, 4-5 different types of turtles, and nothing else (not even a single snake)- and in general everything I've found has been fairly common, or even invasive. I'm thinking that this is probably due to the fact that I don't have a car so I'm pretty much limited to everything within 4-5 miles of UF that I can bike to and from.

I've been hoping to increase my luck herping by getting to and spending sometime somewhere where herping is likely to be more productive. While most people are going home for Thanksgiving break, I am not. Instead I'm hoping to hitch a ride with one of my friends who is going home and have them drop me off at a place where I'd set up camp and go herping for a few days instead. For example, if I were going to Osceola National Forest, I'd ask a friend who was passing through/near there on their way home for Thanksgiving. If I were going to ANF, I'd do the same. I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to find a ride to the location at the start of Thanksgiving break, and from the location at the end of the break. I have a lot of experience with multi-day camping, hiking, etc., so I know what I am doing in terms of that once I get there. I plan to set up one campsite and go herping/hiking in different directions on different days as opposed to backpacking.

So now, given that context, I've narrowed down where I might like to go to a few places:

ANF
Osceola National Forest
Ocala National Forest
Myakka River State Park
Everglades or Big Cypress
Crocodile Lake NWR (takes up most of Key Largo it seems)
Torreya State Park area
Blackwater river state forest

In terms of herps I'm hoping to see, I absolutely love snakes (any type), salamanders (especially ambystomids and eurycea), frogs of hyla or pseudacris, and skinks.

With that in mind, could anybody please give me some feedback on some of the places that I'm considering going to, keeping in mind that it'll be around Thanksgiving? Feel free to message me also. Any feedback is appreciated.
I can speak to a few of those places. First, Crocodile Lake NWR is pretty much a no-go, from what I can tell. I went down to the Keys last Thanksgiving, and before the trip I discovered that the NWR is off-limits to the public. Plus, I did not see any discernible way of getting to the namesake Crocodile Lake from Key Largo, besides cutting through the thickest hardwood hammock you've ever seen. Some people have had a lot of success herping in the Keys; I didn't, though I wasn't really there to herp.

Myakka River State Park is neat, but all I can guarantee that you'll see there are gators, many of which are quite large. You can rent a kayak there, and on a warm, sunny day, you should see many gators out, and perhaps some turtles (mostly Peninsula Cooters) as well. Besides those two herps, the only other herp I've seen is a snake, discounting Brown Anoles. Myakka has a great ecosystem, but not many trails, so I'm not sure how much you'll see.

As for the other parks, keep in mind that it can get chilly in FL in November. It certainly did last Thanksgiving, where overnight temps dropped into the 30s in Tampa, and even down to the 50s in Key West. If you are up in the panhandle and you get a cold front, you may not find much at all.

Good luck with your choice and let us know what you go with!

simus343
Posts: 566
Joined: March 30th, 2014, 12:16 pm
Location: Okaloosa ca, Fla.

Re: Trying to Decide Where to go for Thanksgiving

Post by simus343 » September 16th, 2014, 7:31 am

As far as Blackwater State Forest: when I went there in June, I spent every day from 5:30am until 11:30pm looking for all sorts of herps for 7 days, on foot, vehicle, and kayak. One of my friends that is an avid herper has some private property up near Blackwater State Forest and he herps the forest regularly but not for snakes. At a special dinner at work, my friend from the Blackwater area was there and I asked him tips for herping the area for snakes. First off I'd like to say he has been herping in Blackwater for years, during all seasons. He said don't, the area is "piss poor" for finding snakes. He told me I am better off going to the ANF area, which I would have but the reservations at the camp site had already been made and we were past the refund deadline. Over the course of 1 week in Blackwater National Forest, 5:30am - 11:30pm, hiking, driving, kayaking -- I found 1 snake and it was at the cabin I was at while eating breakfast before hitting the road to look for snakes. The next snake I found while "on the trip" was on my way home, it was a DOR Black Racer on a highway cutting through the Eglin Reservation, which is the odd part, I didn't even see a DOR on any main or back road in Blackwater State Forest. I must say my friend was correct about the area being lousy for snakes.

I'm actually trying to transfer into the University of Florida Milton Campus for Natural Resource Conservation right now so maybe I'll get to see more if I live there for 2-3 years instead of 7 days haha.

Compare this to my trip to the ANF last August. It was early August and very hot. From what I understand spring and fall are better to search the ANF than the hottest part of summer. Still though over 4 days I found 11 snakes, and not a single one was DOR, though the one Diamondback came mighty close. Me and my dad stayed at Ochlocknee State Forest. We hiked those trails early in the morning, road cruised through the ANF and Tate's Hell regions, hiked trails in St. Marks NWR, and took a non-glass bottom boat tour at Wakulla Springs State Park. Most of what I saw was water snakes, 3 brown and 2 banded, 2 ribbon snakes that I can only ID to be peninsular ribbon snakes based on the longer than average length and disappearing middle strip down their back. I also saw 2 cottonmouths, a pygmy rattlesnake, and an Eastern Diamondback that 5 vehicles in a row swerved to miss - though it could be they saw I was going for it, I like to think otherwise.

Also from what I gather, the ANF area has the highest species diversity for snakes in Florida, is relatively undeveloped, and has so many back roads that finding a snake in moderate weather should be easy enough. Remember there are areas such as St. Marks NWR and Torreya State Park nearby as well to herp.

As far as central Florida I can't really give any input as the only herping I have done down there was around Tampa when I lived there, and then catching Bahamian Anoles at Disney and Universal Studios Orlando when I have been dragged there by my family against my vacation destination input. For South Florida I have only been to Marco Island, last time I went I was 6, so I can't tell you much there :?.

Kfen
Posts: 386
Joined: June 17th, 2010, 4:51 am
Location: CT

Re: Trying to Decide Where to go for Thanksgiving

Post by Kfen » September 16th, 2014, 10:28 am

Aside from salamanders, the everglades/big cypress are going to be your best bet. The further north you go, you run into the possibility of adverse weather conditions for reptiles that time of year (again excluding salamanders). I have only been to everglades/big cypress(many times), myaka (couple times), and Ocala(once). I'm not saying you cant/wont find stuff in other areas that time period, its just that the everglades is pretty much a guarantee all times of year. Good luck wherever you choose.

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