Herping during a full moon

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Deng09
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Herping during a full moon

Post by Deng09 »

I have been hearing that herping during a full moon is a waste of time and nothing will be out. Can someone please explain why this is?

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nightdriver
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by nightdriver »

This topic has been discussed a number of times on several threads. Do a search and you shouldn't have trouble finding lots of opinions. There are multiple factors that can help or hinder your success. Best advice I could give....herp whenever you get the chance :thumb: ....you never know what you might find.

-nightdriver

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ricrabt
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by ricrabt »

There are many factors that go into a good or bad night of herping. In my experience full moons are an overall negative. More so with colubrids than with crotes and boas. If other factors are in play, such as temps, moisture, time of year, etc you could still have a decent night. This year in May good weather fell on moonlit nights so I herped anyways with some success. If I were planning a trip and it had to be in advance, I would plan it on a new or late rising moon cycle. I would think that some snakes are more nocturnal than others, meaning sensitive to any light. Hence less snakes overall to be found. That's just my opinion. Believe me I've heard many opinions over the years. You'll always find pictures of boas found on full moon nights and endless debates. I myself had an eight boa night with a near full moon fairly high in the night sky. I don't think anyone has all the answers to herping, just some with more and some with a lot more. All that said one thing is for sure, except in a rare case you won't find it if you don't look. Good luck and pray for a wet fall, winter, and spring....John

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Fieldnotes
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by Fieldnotes »

If your rich and can afford wasting gas and time, do it. Like others pointed out, you never know what freak might be crawling.

During full moon phases, substantial numbers of reptiles are seldom encountered by night driving. Putting breeding seasons and humidity aside, when reptiles are spotted in bright moonlight they usually consisted of characteristically crepuscular or diurnal species such as Rosy Boa (Lichanura trivirgata), rattlesnakes (Crotalus spp.), California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis californiae), Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer), and Western Banded Gecko (Coleonyx variegatus) which is a common species on any night. One could hypothesize that the preceding reptiles (except Coleonyx variegatus) were simply postponing their activity due to excessively hot day temperatures.

A person once said to me that a full moon is as if you stood outside their burrow pointing a flashlight at them. Bright moonlight makes snakes more vulnerable to human capture and other predators. Coyotes and owls are able to enhance their vision afforded by moonlight, improving hunting success, whereas snakes travel efficiently without light by using chemosensory, and for some more specialized serpents, by heat-sensing organs. Reptiles active in clear moonlight expose themselves to needless risk of predation. My research revealed that many primarily nocturnal snakes do not typically travel far from the safety of their shelter during intense moonlight; night walking in the shadow of canyons works out better. By road cruising, when I encountered nocturnal snakes such as California Lyre Snake (Trimorphodon lyrophanes) and Desert Night Snake (Hypsiglena chlorophaea) during a bright moon phase, it usually happened before moonrise, where mountains shadowed the road, or as clouds obstructed the moon.

Overall, I encounter considerably fewer reptiles when the moon was full. On the bright side (yes, a pun was used), if you like boas, rattlers, geckos, and other typically crespusular and diurnal serpents you should have a good time. In general, keep the moon phase in mind, but a good thing about bright moons is they sometimes don't appear until late at night or in the AM hours, after a person has finished night-driving.

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Kent VanSooy
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by Kent VanSooy »

Wow John and Will, those are a couple great, well thought-out and articulated answers!

Fisherman have the same argument, which often boils down to "the best time to go fishing is when you can go".

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Porter
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by Porter »

Wise man once said... you shouldn't be hunting snakes on a full moon. You should be hunting werewolves. Then again, he himself May have been a werewolf...

Deng09
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by Deng09 »

Thanks for all the replies guys. I'm gathering lots of good information. I know tomorrow is a full moon, but it looks like the Mojave preserve is getting some thunderstorms this afternoon, plus lots of clouds will be out tonight with temperatures in the mid 70s to low 80s. I'm gonna head out there and see what I can find. Thanks again for all of the explanations!!

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nightdriver
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by nightdriver »

I hope nobody gets mad at me for spilling super secret info.....but, clouds can block the moon...the best thing to do is be observant and take detailed notes. Don't be surprised if you see things(herps, mammals, ...) that seem to completely disappear as soon as the moon comes up. As was said by Will, if you can see them, so can their predators.

Another tidbit of info.... what's good or bad in California for conditions, can be completely unimportant or critical in other states/countries....

Good luck, and take good pictures. Some of us need to live vicariously through others' success ;)

-nightdriver

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Porter
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by Porter »

True, true, true, and true... lthese guys know! If it starts raining, keep herping! Monsoon those damn roads tonight and keep your eyes open!. good luck :thumb: This was a 48 hour trip to the desert during mid September. The whipsnake was found in but cold temps, during a steady heavy downpour, rain harvesting. I would have given anything for that stupid video camera to focus though the rain drops at night for vid of that lifer.... :? :lol: :| inspiration

https://youtu.be/DB79fSJCvKE

Deng09
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by Deng09 »

Ok guys, just got back. It was probably my longest night drive yet. I got there at about 7:15pm, and left around 1:15am. It was drizzling for the first hour or so, and didn't get dark until sometime after 8pm. The moon was mostly covered by clouds all night, but they werent super thick clouds because you could still see a faded moon behind the clouds and it did give a bit of extra light. The usual suspects were out in big numbers: 14 banded geckos, and varying amounts of scorpions, camel spiders, wolf spiders, etc. I also found 1 side blotched lizard and 1 lesser earless lizard I believe it was sleeping on the road. As for the snakes, here were my results:

DOR western diamondback - 7:30pm 83º
Mojave rattlesnake 1 - 8:40pm 79º
Mojave rattlesnake 2 - 8:59pm 79º
Glossy snake (2-3ft) - 10:06pm 79º
Mojave rattlensake 3 - 12:01 am 76º
DOR Mojave rattler - 1:04 am 79º

The is the first time I have really kept track of time so I'm not sure exactly how successful this was, but it tied my best total for live snakes in one night at 4 and set my record for combined dead and alive at 6. I have read some threads around here about people finding 20-40 snakes in one night, so I still have some work to do I guess! The glossy was really cool to find. The only other glossy I had seen was a tiny baby so this guy was really good size for me. He was nice and calm too. Here are some pics from the night:

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The first mojave crawled right up to me. I'm sure he would have kept going through my legs if I had let him.

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Mojave rattler #2. A little smaller than the first one.

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The glossy snake!!

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Maybe you can see under his throat, he appeared to have a couple of damaged scales sticking out. Otherwise was in really good health.

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Here was the lizard taking a nap on the road. Maybe someone can ID him. I thought maybe it was an Earless Lizard.

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He was the first lizard I have caught that actually tried (and succeeded) to bite me. Luckily he has a really weak bite.

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The final mojave rattler. I actually thought it was dead when I first saw it because a few inches below the head the body appeared to be crushed. It actually had some sort of deformity or previous injury that caused this crushed look you can see.

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I chased it off the road and it seemed to move much slower than the others, but still got around OK. It was also pretty plump so the deformity wasn't affecting it too much I guess.

hellihooks
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by hellihooks »

Shouldn't be any Atrox in the MNP... and if that's where you were... that should be a Zebratail, rather than an earless. I've never found criusen in or after a rain very productive in the Mojave... jim

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ricrabt
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by ricrabt »

Yeah, I'm not sure about Atrox there as well if that is where you were. Post a picture...

Bob McKeever
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by Bob McKeever »

I'm aware of an atrox observed not far from the preserve recently. Photo if you have one could help make a pretty cool record for the preserve & the NW known range of that critter.
Bob

Deng09
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by Deng09 »

Sorry guys, no pictures of the DORs. I have been ID'ing them based on the size of the white and black stripes on the tail. If there is a better way please let me know. This one was just a baby with only one rung on the rattle which I hear means it hasn't even shed yet? Maybe the age had something to do with the appearance? The 2nd dead one was also a very small snake and the tail markings I have been going by were super clear so IDK. Remember I'm pretty new so very possible I misidentified. It would have been within a mile or two after I entered the preserve on the very northeast side if that matters. I'll be sure to take pics of the deads from now on just to be safe.

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nightdriver
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by nightdriver »

DOR's are just as good as any herp when it comes to range data. Thanks for sharing.

40 snakes in a night is all fun and games until your hand cramps up from writing down the GPS coordinates.. :lol:

-nightdriver

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ricrabt
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by ricrabt »

Baby Scutes and baby Atrox are not all that easy to tell apart at first glance. Look at the stripe behind the eye (atrox goes to the corner of the mouth, scutes go way behind) and scutes have large plates on the head. The tail rings on Atrox are usually striking in contrast to scutes. Also if your collecting data for NAHERP.com then please photo voucher all dors as they prove that the reptile was there. If in fact you found an Atrox that far north you would have a range extension. Herpers (especially here in California ) can herp their whole life and never find a range extension. It is something really worth while. You could even get a write up in Herp Review. John/ricrabt

hellihooks
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by hellihooks »

And if you enter data at HERP... dor is listed in the drop down 'methods' box. least we can do is enter the data on dors, to better (possibly) help the species at large, so that their deaths are not 'all for naught'. :thumb:

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Field Herper
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Re: Herping during a full moon

Post by Field Herper »

I've found that the very best night herping is on warm, dark nights just after rain.

I've been bushwalking at night under a full moon without artificial lighting, which was quite an amazing experience and recommend that everyone try it at least once for the experience. Once your night vision kicks in you can see quite well. I can imagine that the brightness if the full moon would be almost blinding to some nocturnal animals and they would feel quite vulnerable. I usually take a red light with me now when I occasionally do this, so that it doesn't ruin my night vision.

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