Species Profile: The Common Mole Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster rhombomaculata)


I have spent more time and money than I care to discuss on finding some species. Not that I regret the time spent on the road with friends or audiobooks to keep me company, but nevertheless, searching for that one animal can be dismaying at times. Mole Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis calligaster) were, until recently, one such species for me. Admittedly, I spent most of my time searching for the rarer South Florida variety (L. c. occipitolineata) – but even the ‘common’ Mole King (L. c. rhombomaculata) gave me a hard time after over a year of living in their range. I have the benefit of living right on the edge of the Piedmont (foothills) and Mountain region of North Carolina, which gives me quick herping-access to both a plethora of salamanders, as well as many interesting snake species. One road I found soon after moving looked like good Mole King habitat: mixed vegetation, sandy and loamy soils, and little traffic. I hit it hard the first year and found a single DOR (dead on road) specimen. While a DOR is never fun to find, it did tell an important tale: this road did indeed have Mole Kingsnakes.

Mole Kingsnakes are primarily fossorial in nature, that is, they spend much of their life underground, mostly nosing around for their varied food sources: rodents, lizards and other snakes. Living in a place such as N.C. that has some pretty wide temperature variation, they must bask at some point, but I couldn’t yet guess when or how this happens. So, the best way that I’ve so-far come up with to find them is to road cruise them in the evenings. As I said, up until recently this method was fruitless – I turned up plenty of corns (never documented in this county), copperheads (the omnipresent venomous), and a few other species (quite a few, actually) here and there. But no Mole Kings. It should be a surprise to no one, though, that species go through cycles. Booms and busts. Years of high population, years of low population. Years of high activity, and years of low activity.

Short of some very robust and extensive study, it can be difficult or impossible to figure out what, exactly, is occurring – were Mole Kingsnakes not showing up because the population was down? Because the population was up so there was less need to move to find mates? Might the population be the same as ever, but the snakes had plenty of food or water nearby and didn’t need to migrate (cross roads) to find it? There were several dozen possibilities I could think of, but they all expressed themselves in the same symptoms: in 2015, Mole Kingsnakes were nowhere to be found in McDowell County (at least by me and my herping bud for the county, Steve.)


Then summer 2016 hit. It had been dry – really dry – and we got a brief spit of rain, just enough to give the road that mottled wet-and-dry patchwork. I was frustrated enough with the lack of snake productivity that I wasn’t really looking for snakes that night – I was just testing out a couple of review lights I’d been sent (reviews coming soon!) But, sure enough, as I drove with peals of lightning in the distance my long-awaited goal was revealed: a small Mole King! Ten or fifteen minutes later – another, larger Mole King! ‘Well,’ I thought to myself, ‘No need to get greedy – time to get home anyway.’ Within a month and a half, I had seen two more Mole Kings, one a large adult.

Strangely enough, I don’t think I’ve road cruised too much more than I did last year… So what gives? Who knows, but it is my hope to know eventually. The first stage with any herp species is to find the species for yourself – if you recognize the awesomeness that has been put into them, and you have the ‘herper maturity,’ you might just find yourself moving on to the second stage: knowing the species. That’s where I’m at with the Mole King. I’ve found a few – great, they’re beautiful – but, now it’s time to know them. Over the coming months (and years) I intend to lay out artificial cover for them. To figure out when they’re under cover, when they’re on the crawl, their movements and how those relate to weather, climate and habitat. The first stage is where the adrenaline lay; the second stage is where the joy lay.




Posted by on 02/09/2016 in Uncategorized


Equipment Review: Lumintop TD16


Greetings everyone! Forgive the lack of posts in recent history, but the life of a father working two jobs has kept me very busy until now. But, on the bright side (pun intended, sorry) I’ve got a few flashlight reviews on the way, and hopefully some other new material too.



I’ve had the pleasure to review one of Lumintop’s lights before, the capable (if poorly named) Lumintop Tool, so I was excited to test out the Lumintop TD-16 when I got a review light in the mail from one of the US Lumintop distributors, Lucky Light Bank.


On first look, the light isn’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen – the business end is wider than the rest, sacrificing some of the sleek look of other lights in this range. The torch is powered by a single 18650 battery, and when I first turned it on, I was genuinely impressed by the light output from such a small light and minimal power source. The light is purely a spotlight – no floodyness here, but the light has some real punch. At a recent camping trip at Hopeville Pond State Park in Connecticut, I was able to easily shine the opposite site of the pond (~600 feet) and amply light up the trees. It’s got two click switches, one on the tailcap toggles the light on and off, one near the head changes between the light’s three intensities (35, 220, and 1,000 lumens). With that said, let’s jump into the rubric:



Overall Brightness – 10/10

It could be brighter, but why? The light’s 1,000 lumens provide all the illumination needed for the vast, vast majority of foreseeable circumstances. The only brightness complaint I have is the big jump between the medium and high mode (e.g., I wish there was another level at 500-700 lumens), but I docked it points for that in the “other” rating (below.)


Width of beam5/10

Without mincing words: this isn’t the light for floodlighting scenarios. This is obviously a drawback for some things, but it does allow the light to have superior throw. I’ve used it mostly for road cruising purposes, and it suffices for that to be able to hold in my lap easily and pinpoint the snake, salamander, or other critter from a ways away. I haven’t used it for much night hiking yet, but I would imagine a floodier light would be best for such a scenario if you’re the type who scans everywhere (as opposed to pin-point searching) when hiking.

Throw 10/10

I’ve already lauded the throw for the TD16, but simply put one more time – this light has a long reach. I’m confident that one could shine up small animals in trees from hundreds of feet distance, and it’s extremely useful for spotlighting mammals.

Water/Light Penetration 9/10

A tight, bright beam like this means more water penetration – the only caveat is that in murky water the light might be too bright and catch floating particles too readily and obscure ones’ vision.

Battery 7.5/10

This is my second light that uses CR123’s or a single 18650, and I understand the benefit of the battery (from what I understand one 18650 is about as powerful as 3 AA’s), but I’m still not sold on it because it’s limited availability- That is, if my flashlight dies, I can’t stop at the corner gas station I will likely find AA’s, but I’m not likely to find 18650’s, especially when traveling abroad.


It’s much more pleasurable having this guy sit in the side pocket of the car or in my lap during a road cruise than some of the bulkier parts of my arsenal (Fenix’s TK41 and 45), so a good score here for size. My only critique is that the flashlight’s head seems excessively large compared to the body size. I don’t think that’s necessarily a reflector problem, but I think the head may’ve been made bulkier to accommodate the strike bezel head, which I don’t foresee ever having a use for – But I suppose some people like the sort of gimmicks like strike bezels.


The normal retail price, is, I think, overpriced considering Lumintop’s relatively-newcomer status. It retails right around $100. That said, Lucky Light Bank did send a 20% code, and $80 isn’t a bad deal for the ’16.

Dependability – 10/10

I’ve had no problems in over a month of use – I will update appropriately if something changes with that.

Ruggedness 8/10

The TD16 comes with a nice looking holster. That holster fell to tatters mere hours after opening the box. Now, this isn’t a problem with the ruggedness of the light – but for a $100 light, a decent holster would be of benefit.



Other 8/10

Ok, this is where the light loses some points, but it may only be an issue for some folks. First, I’m just going to come out and say it: there’s nothing sleek or attractive about this light – it’s ugly. Despite the fact that it’s really bright, and an overall well made light; it looks like one of the cheap Chinese lights you’d get off ebay for $3.99 that works for a few weeks before breaking. It’s none of these things (except Chinese), but there you have it. If ugliness isn’t an issue for you (and it really isn’t much of one for me, but it’s worth mentioning), you should be fine. The other minor problem is the fact that there are only 3 brightness modes – a forth somewhere between the mid and high setting would be desirable. For some uses, the light cycling goes from ‘not enough’ to ‘way too bright.’ The light also comes with an anti-roll O-ring around the outside, and despite my initial dubiousness that it’d ever be useful, it does a good job of keeping the torch from rolling off my lap when I’m driving.


OVERALL SCORE – 83.5/100

Despite a somewhat low score, I’m not trying to say that this is a bad light – there are just some little things here and there that effect its likeability for my purposes in comparison to some other lights. That said, I don’t think it would be a bad purchase if you’re in the market.

One last thing – the folks that sent me this light also sent me a code for a 20% discount on any of their lights, and they’ve got a nice selection of lights (most of them prime eligible). Their store is at – and the 20% off code is BLLJosh8 – They’ve got a nice selection, and I would particularly recommend the Lumintop Tool ( )


Coming up in the coming weeks will be some other flashlight reviews, including some new offerings from Fenix, so stay tuned.



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Posted by on 28/06/2016 in Uncategorized


Herp Nation Magazine Goes Digital

Hey everyone,


Herp Nation Magazine has gone digital (and free), which means some of my articles will be available for free viewing online. They will be posting back issues as they come, but for now there’s an issue I did on Mangrove Saltmarsh Snakes, their ecology and captive husbandry, available in this issue:{%22issue_id%22:289755,%22page%22:0}





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Posted by on 02/03/2016 in Uncategorized


Snaketacular! Thoughts and Thanks.

Hey folks,


Thanks to everyone who watched Snaketacular this past Sunday night – For those that missed it, it’s available to watch online here:
To the several people that messaged me and added me on Facebook, etc., thanks for the add and feel free to follow some of my herpetological thoughts and ventures here at Field Ventures. Keep educating your friends and family about snakes – they are a valuable and fascinating part of our world, and deserve our awe.


There are also a great many herpers who were not satisfied with the show, and perhaps thought it foolish that the other experts and I chose to go on it. If it’s not already apparent, we certainly did not agree with a lot of what the people were doing in the clips that they showed: that was entirely why we were on there to provide balanced viewpoints and good information about snakes, as well as specifying why, exactly the people in the videos were being irresponsible. Much of our information was edited out, but that is entirely within the prerogative of the production company and those at the Discovery Channel, and I don’t have anything bad to say about any of them* – television shows are a mirror of the culture, and if you want to change TV, change the culture.


To that end I, and I know for some of the others on the show as well, it was all about education: recognizing others doing irresponsible things with snakes is like second nature to many of us, but is uncharted territory for much of the public. It might seem like an uphill battle, and perhaps an entirely unwinnable one to spread education and awe of snakes to everyday people. The battle is uphill, but it isn’t futile. I’ve had many friends and relatives remark to me that they don’t now kill snakes immediately when they see them, and I’m sure the same has been said to many of you: I am confident that this sort of change in attitude will, in the long term, have a greater effect than many conservation efforts otherwise could. For those who think me entirely stupid for being on the show, I can only comment that it was me or somebody else who perhaps would care less about education. We, as herpers, can either withdraw from the culture altogether or choose to engage it – coming from the Christian faith it’s something my forebearers have wrestled with for 2,000 years – I will tell you, if we as herpers withdraw and have nothing to do with these sensationalist shows, then the voice of reason will be absent and the animals will suffer. If you embrace an perfection-or-nothing mentality, (or put another way – give me O’Shea’s Big Adventure or give me death), you will only succeed in raising up a venomous generation of Herpers who are more bitter and crankier than yourselves.


But to those who are out there, educating and promoting snake conservation (and reptile and amphibian conservation in general) – Keep up the good fight! The animals are worth it, and the people who now hate and kill snakes are worth it so that some day they might get all the joy we do in seeing a big, scaly serpent crawl out onto the road…







*Quite the opposite, I thank Discovery Channel and the production company, Pilgrim Studios, for the opportunity. I didn’t agree with all their editorial choices, and I certainly cringed when a Fer-De-Lance was unnecessarily killed at the end – but it’s a virulent lie to think that I must agree with every choice someone makes to work with them and enjoy their company. A horrid world it would be if everyone believed this falsehood.

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Posted by on 02/02/2016 in Uncategorized


Field Ventures on the Discovery Channel

That’s right – tune in this Sunday night at 10pm EST to the Discovery Channel to see me, Josh, talk as an expert commentator for the Discovery special Snaketacular, along with some other talented herpetologists and educators.




Posted by on 26/01/2016 in Uncategorized


New Field Herp Forum Post

Check it out here:

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Posted by on 11/12/2015 in Uncategorized


Equipment Review: Lumintop Tool AAA


Welcome again fellow Field Venturers. As most of you know, I try to run this blog specifically tailored to those who do biological field work – whether that be professionally or recreationally – and obviously my main interest is Reptiles and Amphibians (though I will post a mammal or invertebrate from time to time.) In keeping with this, I like to offer gear reviews of whatever I can get my hands on, and oftentimes that means flashlights. Why? Because I’m out a lot at night, looking for critters. Usually I am interested in the big, really bright lights; but for this review I’m going to be scaling down and taking a look at the Lumintop Tool.

The tool is small – powered by a single AAA battery kind of small. Is completely concealable in the average sized male hand. Instead of a twist on/off like most mini flashlights, the Tool has a click-switch on the butt, and depressing the click switch half way controls the light’s intensity – the intensities go in order of medium (32 lumens), low (5 lumens), high (105 lumens), and there’s somewhat of a memory function – albeit a marginally annoying one – where if you turn the lamp off, it will come on at the next intensity. E.g. – if you turn the light off on high, the next time you turn it on, it will be on medium; if medium, then low; if low, then high. The memory function only ‘remembers’ for a few minutes, if you turn it on hours later it will start at the beginning of the medium – low – high circuit. The Tool’s charge purports to last 30 minutes on high, ten hours on medium and 60 hours on low. So far (using the Tool sporadically but regularly,) I think these are somewhat conservative estimates (although they might be more accurate if you use the light for an uninterrupted amount of time.) The Lumintop tool will cost you a mere $20 on amazon.

Overall Brightness – 9/10

Wow. Honestly, the only reason this isn’t given a 10/10 is because it obviously doesn’t compare to other lights in larger classes with a more robust power source… But, again: wow. The tool really surprised me with how bright it is given its size and AAA battery source. I’d take it road cruising for sure – in fact, it’s a really nice addition to just have in my pocket on a day-to-day basis when the suns getting low, conditions are good, but I just don’t happen to have my camera bag on me with its arsenal of lights. The high setting is actually bright enough to shine up arboreal lizards (chameleons, iguanas, etc.), albeit as a backup light, or perhaps a light that doesn’t look overly suspicious in an urban setting.

Width of beam9.5/10

Lamentably, most flashlights seem to prefer spotlighting to floodlighting. This isn’t a problem with the tool – it has what is perhaps a nearly perfect floodlight, spreading its lumens over a wide area. I’m really impressed by this; even the likes of the Fenix TK-45 (when adjusting for lumens) doesn’t give as nice of a beam width. The only light I have that does a better flood is the HP15 when paired with a diffuser, but the Tool gives even that a run for its money.

Throw 8/10

Balancing throw with beam width is give-and-take, but I actually think the Tool does the job of representing both very well. It is able to light across the field behind my house quite well, obviously not as much throw as a spotlight, but a great bit for most applications – especially those herp-related.

Water/Light Penetration 7.5/10

Listen, I really like this light after a few weeks of use, but everything has its limitations – don’t use it for shining for fish or aquatic salamanders and expect it to stack up to bigger, more powerful lights. That said, I was by no means disappointed with the way the light performed – just not overwhelmed either.

Battery 9/10

On one hand, AAA’s are a little bit more annoying than AA’s; but on the other hand, we would, by definition, be dealing with a significantly bulkier light if AAA’s were used. As is, I’m impressed with the output, and AAA’s are still widely available at most gas stations, and certainly any dollar store, Walmart, etc. – and there are plenty of both in the southeast. The torch itself lasts a goodly long time on its battery – currently I’m using a Amazon Basics AAA (non-rechargeable, though I intended to invest in rechargeables soon).


For a normal-to-large sized person, this light’s size is amazing given the output. Those with sausage fingers might find some problems with it and its small click-switch (I stress might, not entirely sure), but all others should love it.


All aluminum, 110 lumens, perfect diffusion for $20. Do I really need elaborate?

Dependability – 9.5/10

No apparent problems here.

Ruggedness 8/10

The Tool is entirely metal, so rugged overall, but I did have to dock it a couple of points for a potential problem: there is a slight gap where the tailcap and the head articulate to the body. This gap attracts grime, sand and dust. This isn’t a huge problem; it just requires a little extra care when opening the light to not allow any sand into the threading.

Other 9.5/10

Everything else checks out – it’s an attractive light. I docked another half a point because of the memory function (see the introduction) and because the tailcap seems to attract pocket lint, but I can’t really compare that to any other light, as I’ve never had one small enough to fit easily in my pocket before. Not a big deal other than a minor cosmetic consideration.



Lumintop sent me this light for review purposes – I’d actually never heard of Lumintop prior to this and wasn’t expecting much. The Tool exceeded expectations, and it goes with me everywhere I go now. As a matter of fact, this light is one of the few lights I can recommend to anyone, even non-herpers. Keep it in your glovebox, in your pocket, anywhere a light might come in handy, and with the $20 pricetag it’s affordable to get a couple strategically placed around the house and in vehicles. If Lumintop’s other lights are of the same caliber as this guy, I can’t wait to get my hands on them and start reviewing them for Field Ventures! The Tool AAA and Lumintops other lights can be seen on Lumintop’s website,; check em’ out.





Posted by on 25/11/2015 in Equipment Reviews