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A Pine Tree and a Scarlet King by Richard Bartlett on 2020-06-29 08:04:44

Fallen pines and scarlet kingsnakes just seem to go together.

The salamander mentioned in the last blog having been found, I began the 60 mile drive back home. But about 20 miles into the drive I began reminiscing about a big eastern diamond-backed rattler I had seen crossing a forest road on my last trip. So I turned around and retraced my drive about 10 miles and turned into the forest. The area was a bit damper than when I had last wended my way, but I was pretty sure the diamondbacks wouldn’t mind, not that I actually thought I’d see one. But timing and temperature were on my side, so…

I drove slowly along a road once dry but now awash with rainy-season slushiness. Eventually the road ascended a few inches into pine and palmetto forest. Five minutes then 10, and still no snakes—of any kind. The next easily accessed turnaround spot was still a few minutes ahead so I continued. Sort of. But a big pine, long dead but newly fallen was lying across the road. Whoops. Turnaround was now unavoidable. But the dead pine, fully a foot in diameter, beckoned. Could I move it from the roadway? Probably not, but what the heck, it was worth a try.

And though moving the pine did prove impossible (for me) as I tried a slab of bark loosened and then slipped away. Fortuitous, yet unintended, as the bark slipped away it left behind a beautiful, 20” long scarlet kingsnake, Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides.

Pictures were taken, the snake was placed near some remaining loose bark, and before I left had again disappeared from sight.

This was a great ending to what had until then been a mud-flung day.

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