Continuing on our tour of Nerodia clarkii variation in Florida – let’s go a little south to northern Monroe County. I’m dividing the county into two because the Keys are a long string of island, and there’s some differences in clarkii variation between the upper and lower Keys. Once again, all this is in anticipation of an upcoming issue on Mangrove Saltmarsh Snakes in Herp Nation Magazine, Issue 18.
The Keys have what is potentially the most robust populations of Mangrove Snakes in Florida – This is probably due to a mixture of an abundance of habitat that is relatively competitor free – the Keys are free of the iron fist of the Florida Watersnake, which is a superior competitor and keeps clarkii from penetrating very far inland. Being Florida Watersnake free also prevents the hybridization issue I talked about in my last post. So just how abundant can clarkii be? Here are the results of about an hour of searching with a couple of research assistants:
And the story gets even more amazing – a friend of mine boasts of finding more than 100 clarkii in a single evening of searching.
As you can see, a lot of the Keys clarkii are drab in color:
but you’ might also notice some muted copper colors in there – these colors will typically show up very well on the venter.
And some individuals also show copper blotches vibrantly on the dorsum:
A good many of the individuals in the upper Keys are brown in base color, but it’s not uncommon to see other colors as well, including a lovely gray hue –
And as always, the red coloration turns up now and again – I find one once every ten snakes or so in the Keys:
This coloration is not always a solid blood red, but sometimes will include muted yellows and such. I was previously under the assumption that the coloration/pattern ‘fades’ to solid red as they mature, but I’ve seen some blatantly-adult individuals that defy this assumption. Below you can see the same adult, but the pattern/color variation is a little easier to see.
And with so many snakes, they can be potentially found anywhere in the Keys – this is one of the few localities that I’ve herped personally where seeing them in the trees at night is a possible good searching method…. These following two shots are in situ (though I’ve spent hours trying to pose clarkii similarly on other occasions. I personally prefer it when they do it on their own.)
And a few other odds and ends to round off the northern reaches of the county, including some feeding shots. Unlike in nearby ENP where hiking seems to be useless, I’ve found the vast majority of my Keys clarkii hiking in shallow-watered mangrove swamps.
Feeding on a minnow:
That’s all for North Monroe – more to come! I just added a “Like” button on the right, so be sure to “Like” Field Ventures on Facebook. And Don’t forget to check out issue 18 of Herp Nation Magazine, coming out in a few months for my article on Mangrove Saltmarsh Snakes (http://www.herpnation.com/subscribe-main/).