Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day Herping in St. George

It was a long weekend away from work, so Devin, Diana, Derek, Brittany, Heather, and I rendezvoused in St. George, Utah, for a couple days of camping and, of course, herping. We were a little bummed about the weather, since that Saturday the wind was gusty and the high was only around 70. Still, we found a good spot and began hiking. Side-blotched Lizards hustled across the trail in front of us.

The wind let up after we hiked into lower areas protected by canyon walls, and even with the temps a little on the low side, the sun's rays were constant. Delighted, we found a large, male Mojave Desert Tortoise while we were still within eye shot of the car.

He didn't care that it was a little cool. It's always a good time to wake up and smell the "roses".

We were happy to find a tortoise so early in the day, so we took our time with a herp we always love to find. We could tell he was an old guy with plenty of wear on his shell.

About an hour later in our hike, Devin spotted some distinct and fresh tracks in the sand ahead.
Devin wisely followed the tracks and found our second tortoise of the day only a short distance away. This one was a bit smaller, but he had a really attractive carapace.
  Devin's son Krew loves photographing our herp finds with his dad!
Only a few paces away, a large Gopher Snake was stretched out in our path.
We kept walking and hearing the rustling of Great Basin Whiptails in the underbrush, in spite of the fact that the outside air temperature was still only hovering right around 70.
The time was close to midday as we searched in washes and near canyon walls, and we soon found our 3rd tortoise of the day! He was a little smaller still than the last one, but not quite as spectacular. And he was shy.
We couldn't believe our luck, and imagine our surprise when only a few minutes later we stumbled upon number 4! Four Mojave Desert Tortoises in one day is not an easy feat. This last guy looked like he had come out of his burrow recently since he was dusted with red sand, but he was the most active of the four.
The six of us (8, if you count the babies) were extremely satisfied with what we had found that morning and decided to head to the Virgin River for a break. Here we are catching tadpoles, although I'm not sure what species (Red-Spotted Toads? Arizona Toads? Great Basin Spadefoots? Canyon Treefrogs?).
Due to the cooler temps, we opted out of road cruising and decided to wake up earlier the next morning. We caught another Gopher Snake basking in the morning rays. This was one of the biggest and thickest we've seen, either dead or alive. 
  The air was warmer than it was the previous day, and that brought out the chuckwallas in decent numbers.
Before heading home, I decided to check out my favorite spot for leopard lizards. Once again, it did not disappoint. This male sat perched on top of a roadside boulder.
   And here's how to catch a leopard lizard. (1) Distract him, while you stay behind and below (if possible) his line of sight. (2) Quickly but gently make the move to pin him. (3) Keep his attention with the other hand in order to adjust your grip and remain unbitten. 
And trust me, the Leopard Lizards enjoy this as much as I do. See!
Our second Leopard Lizard was this stunning female giving us the stare while sitting out in the open.
It was a great way to end the trip and time well spent for our Memorial Day getaway in southern Utah.


  1. I really like the Leopard shots

  2. Where is your Favorite place to find Leopards ? Id love to get some pictures