Third Eye - Wallops Island 2008  
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Tim Spuckler
8213 Wyatt Road
Broadview Heights, OH 44147


On May 7, 2008 I was at the Marine Science Consortium on Wallops Isand, VA with 17 high school students who are members of the Independence (OH) High School Biology Society. While the focus of the program was the ocean ecosysyem, part of the studies involved hiking through a Maritime Forest. I had been to the same trail twice before, in 2003 and 2004 and always thought it was the ideal hognose snake habitat (even though I've never found one in the wild). The area is sandy and there are plenty of toads around (the hognose's main food item). On previous trips the weather was unseasonably cold, this year the temperature was in the high 60's.

Matt and Tree
Tree Talk
Our instructor from the Consortium, Matt Hess, teaching the students about one of the trees.
Fowler's Toad
Toad Time
There were so many Fowler's Toads (Bufo fowerli) hopping around, sometimes an effort had to be made not to step on them.
Hognose Snake
Sunbathing Serpent
Then one of the students said "snake" and pointed to the underbrush beneath a tree a few feet from the trail. It was exactly what I was hoping to find, an Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)
Click here to see another photo
Hognose Snake
Playing 'Possum
Then it did this. What was nice was that I got to explain to the students the snake's defensive behavior before approaching it. What was even nicer was getting to experience a hognose's elaborate acting ability for the first time, in the company of biology students.
Students Photo Opportunity
Here's a picture of me holding the snake with two students. The kids were quite amused when the snake rolled over on it's back every time it was placed on its belly. The snake was a male, about 26 inches in length.
Hognose Snake Open up and say "Ah!"
You'd think one hognose would be enough excitement for one day, but 15 minutes later we came across an even larger one (this example was a female). She was crossing the trail in front of us and did a hood display before moving on to the "playing dead" routine. The tendency for these snakes to gape allowed me to show the students the enlarged teeth they have which are used to puncture toads that inflate themselves with air to avoid being swallowed. It was awesome to experience this "lifer" in the field! Click here to see another photo
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