Greetings from the reptile house

I had an extended weekend at my mountain redoubt and got a bit of hiking in.  While there I got to see a pretty wide variety of wildlife.  Unfortunately, most of it when I was without my camera.  But I did get these guys on film.

A small wood turtle which was kind of cool since I’ve never seen one at TwShiloh undisclosed HQ and the fact that they’re pretty uncommon due to poaching for the pet trade.  Don’t believe the stereotypes about slow turtles, either.  This guy could move.

I’m not positive on the identification of this one but I suspect it’s a juvenile black rat snake.  There are only two venomous snakes in Northeast Pennsylvania:  the copperhead and the eastern timber rattlesnake.  Both of those are super easy to identify and so long as you know you aren’t looking at one of those you can get pretty close to anything else (note:  that doesn’t mean non-venomous snakes aren’t aggressive.  I had a common garter snake take some lunges at me like Nag from Rikki Tikki Tavi.)

For some reason many of my neighbors have decided that the appropriate thing to do when buying a house in the middle of a forest is to cut down all of the trees and put in a lawn.  Now, the soil is total crap up there and so, providing you don’t want to convert your land into a giant money sink, the lawns just end up looking like overgrown fields in a couple of years.

As one of decreasing numbers of hold outs who insists on thinking that one of the charms of being in the forest is, like, actually seeing a forest the animals in the area are getting pushed into areas like mine as they search for places to nest and rest.  The lawns are also attracting new animals to the area.  For the first time in almost forty years of going there, I saw my first woodchuck there and the rabbit population seems to be exploding.  I’m hoping the fox we saw last year was an indication the ecosystem would adjust but the huge numbers of people who let their cats and dogs run loose might throw a monkey wrench into the works.

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