Winter herping in socal?

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AgkistrodonAndy
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Winter herping in socal?

Post by AgkistrodonAndy » December 9th, 2017, 4:56 am

Hey everyone,

In a few weeks I'll be moving to southern California for a couple months. I've never lived out west and don't really know the best places to go herping in the winter. Are snakes active enough in the winter months to make herping worthwhile? If it's worth it, where are some good places to go within a couple hours of the LA area? Pretty much anything out there will be a lifer for me so I'm not really targeting any species in particular yet. Thanks for the advice!

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chris_mcmartin
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Re: Winter herping in socal?

Post by chris_mcmartin » December 9th, 2017, 2:08 pm

AgkistrodonAndy wrote:Hey everyone,

In a few weeks I'll be moving to southern California for a couple months. I've never lived out west and don't really know the best places to go herping in the winter. Are snakes active enough in the winter months to make herping worthwhile? If it's worth it, where are some good places to go within a couple hours of the LA area? Pretty much anything out there will be a lifer for me so I'm not really targeting any species in particular yet. Thanks for the advice!
Dump sites can be easy. I visited in January 2004 and found kings, gophers, and alligator lizards. Conditions weren't very good but it was sufficiently warm (50s? 60s?) for stuff to be under AC.

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Fieldherper
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Re: Winter herping in socal?

Post by Fieldherper » December 9th, 2017, 3:25 pm

Rain is key. Right now, conditions are dismal, as evidenced by the fires. Even in a dry year, some rain should come between Jan-March. You need some moisture and a bit of sun, but moisture is the most important factor in finding herps under cover in SoCal.

FH

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Fire Drake
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Re: Winter herping in socal?

Post by Fire Drake » December 18th, 2017, 4:35 pm

I have heard time and time again about moisture--even monsoonal moisture--bringing out herps. What is the reasoning behind this, is it simply their desire/need to hydrate?

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Brian Hubbs
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Re: Winter herping in socal?

Post by Brian Hubbs » December 20th, 2017, 8:20 am

Yes. Herps don't get the chance to drink much unless they live in a riparian area, so they tend to stay underground to conserve moisture content. After a rain they will come to the surface, or at least, closer to the surface for the warmth and humidity.

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Winter herping in socal?

Post by Bryan Hamilton » December 21st, 2017, 12:30 pm

I'm not sure that the role of precipitation is well understood for snake detectibility. Like a lot of people on the forum, I think precip plays a role, but it does not guarantee you'll find snakes. IMO being out there looking is much more important than waiting for the perfect window to search.

This paper on snakes in the southeast US actually found a negative relationship between precip and snake detection (open access). It would be cool to see a similar paper focused on the southwest.

Anyway, if you don't have an excuse for not finding snakes, they kick you our of the union...

"Too Cold, Too Wet, Too Bright, or Just Right? Environmental Predictors of Snake Movement and Activity"

http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1643/CH-16-513

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Fieldherper
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Re: Winter herping in socal?

Post by Fieldherper » December 22nd, 2017, 11:14 am

Good paper, Brian,

I have spent extensive time herping in CA and other parts of the Southwest as well as the Southeast (NC in particular). I agree with the paper's finding that in the Southeast, precipitation has a negative influence on snake activity in some respects. This is particularly evident with road-cruising. Cruising on rainy nights will produce some aquatic snakes, but usually not much else (amphibians are obviously abundant, though).

Temperature seems to be a bigger factor in the Southeast with too hot or too cold being detrimental to snake movement. For finding snakes under cover in the Southeast, some moisture is helpful. The biggest detriment to finding snakes under cover is again temperature, however. Cover that is too hot is bad. Seasonal transitions and major swings in temperature tend to spur snake movement in the Southeast.

In CA, dryness and heat are the major factors that diminish one's ability to find snakes under cover. Like Brian said, despite being reptiles, snakes are prone to desiccation. When they are sitting under surface cover, it is for a reason: seeking warmth to digest a meal or develop eggs/young, taking refuge between movements, or finding refuge when first emerging after Winter. The worst time to find snakes in CA coincides with peak fire season, which is obviously the driest time.

Microhabitats are very important in CA. Even in Summer/Fall snakes can be found under cover in shadier moister microhabitats, such as canyons or riparian areas. As far as the optimal time to find snakes under cover in CA, it varies between Northern/Southern CA and Coastal/Inland CA. There are many gradients involved which depend upon latitude/precipitation/altitude/temperature and other factors. In Coastal Southern CA, where it never really gets too cold, the arrival of Winter rains followed by some sun start the optimal period to find snakes under cover. This can be anywhere from November through March, depending on the year. Further North, and at higher altitudes in Southern CA, this period may not start until late March or April and extend into June.

The serious and astute herper pays close attention to all of these factors and experiments with different conditions in their area of focus.

FH

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Brian Hubbs
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Re: Winter herping in socal?

Post by Brian Hubbs » December 23rd, 2017, 10:30 pm

Yeah, Bryan...what HE said...

:lol: :lol: :lol:

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