Tag Archives: reptiles

Weekly Puzzler Answer #142

Hello friends! Happy holidays. Isn’t it amazing the month of December is nearly over and another year is about to begin? I wish you and your family a happy and healthy New Year filled with all things that make you smile and bring joy to your heart.

rnsnake-3580Did you know the snake in last week’s puzzler? It is a ringneck snake, also known as a ring-necked snake or Diadophis punctatus. Of course when you see the whole snake you can understand how perfect this name is for it as it has a ring around its neck and a gorgeous yellow/ yellowish-orange belly. There is a northern and a southern ringneck snake, differentiated by a row of black in the middle of the yellow underside in the southern species. Northern ringneck snakes lack this row of black. These snakes are found throughout the eastern two-thirds of the United States and into Canada.


It is a little snake, growing only 10-15 inches long. It is my favorite snake because it is so easy to handle and my experience with them is that they are very gentle–so perfect for letting kids touch them–and proving once and for all SNAKES AREN’T SLIMY! Salamanders are slimy. Snakes are smooth and dry.

The best place to find them is under logs or fallen trees. Have you ever seen or handled one?

Ringneck snakes lay eggs–2-7, in early summer. 6-8 weeks later the babies hatch out, crawling off in search of food. Ringneck snakes eat slugs, salamanders, earthworms, baby snakes, insects and other invertebrates. Want to learn more about snakes? Check out some past posts about them, including cool things you may not know about snakes, are you afraid of snakes? or 10 things you may not know about rattlesnakes and lastly, what do you know about copperheads.

Perfect for holding!

Perfect for holding!

So on another note, I have, as you may have noticed, been writing less often these days. Since early November and the election, I have been in a pretty dismal state, lacking the energy and enthusiasm to do even the simplest of things. I feel that it’s my place to be inspiring and positive but these days I lack hope. Thus, I have decided to take some time off from my blog posts, perhaps a couple of months during which time I will do some traveling as well as some soul-searching and will hope to return when I have something worth sharing.


…until then, my fondest wishes to you and yours for a joyful and safe holiday. Happy winter…see you next year.


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Weekly Puzzler #142: Yellow Belly

Since we’ve been talking about reptiles for the last two weeks, I thought I would continue the trend and do one more–this time a snake instead of a turtle. Do you recognize this snake?turtle2-3575

It is my favorite snake! And I will tell you why next week…

If you know the answer, use the comment box below to give your guess. As always, all correct answers will be entered in a drawing to win a quarterly prize.

…Have a fabulous day! Did you get snow where you live? Do you have any fun plans for the weekend? It’s the middle of December! Amazing how this month flies by. Enjoy your weekend and I will see you again soon.

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #141

turtle-5558The scute and shell in last week’s puzzler is from a common snapping turtle–Chelydra serpentine. Did you recognize it? One of my readers guessed snapping turtle but wondered if the shape of the shell was right. She may have been thinking of the other kind of snapping turtle–an Alligator snapping turtle, which has a shell with three distinct spiky ridges on top rather than the smooth shell of the common snapping turtle.

You often only see the head of the turtle--the rest is underwater!

You often only see the head of the turtle–the rest is underwater!

Common snapping turtles are found throughout North America east of the Rocky Mountains and evolved 40 million years ago! Wow, they have been on earth for a long time! Males are larger than females, weighing in the wild up to 45 pounds. Captive turtles can weigh up to 75 pounds, an incredible amount for an animal that is only 19 inches long. Common snapping turtles are omnivores, feeding on pretty much anything they can find and catch, including, insects, fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians, dead animals and a surprisingly large amount of aquatic plants. Snapping turtles will also eat other turtles.


A snapping turtle buried in the mud.

Common snapping turtles live up to 30 years. Most of their time is spent underwater, in a freshwater pond, or lake. They prefer bodies of water with muddy bottoms and lots of vegetation. They are known to burrow into the mud with only their eyes and nostrils visible. This is a good tactic for staying hidden and grabbing some unsuspecting prey when it comes along.

Snapping turtles venture out of water to lay their eggs. (Here’s what to do if you find a turtle crossing the road) Females lay a single clutch in sandy soil, with 25-45 eggs. These look just like ping pong balls! turtle2-0009But are soft with a slightly rough surface. The female will lay the eggs, then leave them and return to water. Eggs are often eaten by animals–especially raccoons. Baby turtles hatch out 75-95 days later. And guess how the sex is determined? By temperature. That is, eggs that are incubated in soil/sand that is cooler will be males and in warmer soil will be females. This does make one wonder what will happen with global warming–will it be too warm eventually to produce any male turtles?

Check out the next puzzler here–it’s another reptile… do you recognize it?

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Weekly Puzzler #141: Can You Identify this Turtle?

So here’s another photo of a turtle scute for you. You can see that this one not as colorful or as regularly shaped as the one from last week’s puzzler.


I was going to just give you this for the puzzler but then decided that was a bit challenging. Thus, here is the entire carapace of this mystery turtle.


Can you identify it? If so, use the comment box below to give your guess. I’ve already awarded the prize for the first day of winter, though it is still a few weeks away, but I will start collecting names for the next giveaway–far, far, away on the first day of SPRING!

As a hint, let me just say that this turtle can get BIG! Weighing in at 75 pounds, it is quite a fierce-some predator. It lives in freshwater and is common throughout much of the United States, especially the eastern US and north into Canada.

As always, check back next week to see if your guess was correct.

Have a wonderful day!

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #140

First off, happy weekend to you all! And congratulations to Arden whose name was drawn for the free puzzler prize giveaway. I will be doing another contest again in the near future.

pu-5561So did you know that the ridged-rectangle in last week’s puzzler was from a scute from an Eastern Box Turtle? Have you ever looked closely at the shell of a box turtle? The top, curved part of the shell is called the carapace. The bottom is called the plastron. Both are covered with scutes– bony plates that are made of beta-keratin, the same substance that is in bird feathers and beaks, reptile claws, porcupine quills and human finger nails.

Eastern box turtle scutes can be incredibly attractive, as one of my subscribers noticed, saying she would like to use it for a piece of jewelry. The color varies according to each individual, but all are attractive with their yellow and black design.

The top of the shell is called the carapace

The top of the shell is called the carapace


The bottom part of the turtle’s shell is called the plastron.

If you look closely at one you will notice it most likely has ridges on it–a bunch of lines that radiate out from the center, around the entire scute. These are a bit like the rings of a tree–each year it adds a new one. However, in the case of the turtles, this isn’t necessarily an accurate assessment of age, since turtles can live for MANY years. An average Eastern Box Turtle lives 50 years! And some can live over 100 years! So as you can imagine, fitting 50 or 75+ rings on that small scute is not going to be easy. Box turtles have 38 scutes on the carapaces and 12-16 on the plastrons.

So both Tennessee and North Carolina have designated the Eastern Box Turtle as their state reptile. Do you know if your state has an official state reptile?

Know how to tell the sex of a box turtle? I did this as a puzzler way back at week #9. Wow, that was a long time ago! I suspect very few of my subscribers have been with me since then. If you have, I’d love to know it! Use the comment box below to drop me a line! Also, want to test your knowledge about box turtles? Then check out this post featuring 10 things you may not know.

Click here to check out the next puzzler–another one about turtles.

See you again soon!

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #121

Did you know the mysterious blue object in last week’s puzzler?

121answer-4701It is the TAIL of a one of eastern North America’s most common lizards–the American five-lined skink or Plestiodon fasciatus. When this lizard is a juvenile it has a bright blue tail and is often referred to a blue-tailed skink. But as it ages the blue tail fades and the lizard looks a bit different. Adult males will eventually lose their stripes altogether and just look olive brown, while females retain their stripes throughout their lives. Five lined skinks can be 5 – 8 inches long.


Adult males lose their stripes and their blue tail


The bright blue tail fades as the lizard ages

If you’re wondering how it is I came to find and photograph the TAIL I can tell you. If you’ve been following me for any length of time you may recall MANY, many posts ago I mentioned that I have two cats that I trained to wear a harness and walk on a leash outside. This allows them to go outside–a fact that they LOVE!– but also gives me the peace of mind that my cats are not wandering freely out there, killing everything in sight. In case you didn’t know, cats are amazing predators and even well-fed and well-loved cats will kill smaller animals–insects

Hobbes LOVES going outside!

Hobbes LOVES going outside!

, salamanders, frogs, rodents, birds, and you guessed it, lizards, when they get the chance.

So I was outside with one of my cats, named Hobbes after the lovable and wise tiger in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. He was on a leash when all of a sudden he raced forward a few steps and grabbed an unsuspecting young lizard that was crawling near a stone wall. I intervened but not before Hobbes grabbed the lizard–and guess what? Its tail came off! And continued to thrash around wildly on the steps for several minutes, as if it were a live creature! It was moving wildly, like a worm suddenly set on pavement. Mother Nature is truly amazing right? I mean how perfect is that? Some bird or other predator, or in this case, my cat, saw the lizard and imagined lunch but the lizard had other ideas–offering up its tail while it scurried away to safety. What a great adaptation! The lizard lives to see another day and in time the lizard will regrow the tail and hopefully be a little wiser.


A young lizard with its bright blue tail suns itself on a wall.

Want to see some more puzzlers about animal TAILS? Here’s a puzzler that I did about another reptiles TAIL— –remember this one? Or another one–A  puzzler about the NOISE another animal’s tail makes?

Check out the next puzzler!

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10 Things You May Not Know about Rattlesnakes

 P7130439-EditIt’s unlikely rattlesnakes will make many Favorite Animal lists, but if you can put your preconceived ideas aside and look at them objectively, maybe you–like me–can come to appreciate them for the amazing–and beautiful creatures they truly are.

On my Appalachian Trail thru-hike I got to see many different kinds of snakes, including rattlesnakes. It was my first time seeing them in the wild and from these observations I can conclude that their coloring is highly variable–from yellowish with black or brown cross bands to a dark brown or black with dark cross bands. They are thick-bodied, with  black tails, and like all pit vipers, they have a triangular head and two heat-sensing pits behind their eyes.

I thought it would be fun to feature them this week, especially since I just  had them as my Weekly Puzzler. Let’s see what we can learn about Timber Rattlesnakes:

P71304251. Rattlesnakes, as you know, are venomous. But did you know that their venom is costly for them to produce so they don’t waste it? In fact, nearly half of all bites to humans contain little or no venom since rattlesnakes are not viewing us as prey or something they want to eat. These bites are commonly referred to as dry or medically insignificant bites. Of course! This in no way should be a reason for you to approach or try to pick up a rattlesnake! They ARE venomous! If you see one, the best thing you can do is give it plenty of space–just like ANY wild creature you encounter.

2. Like all venomous snakes, timber rattlesnakes have vertical pupils. Other, non-venemous snakes have round pupils.

3. Female rattlesnakes give birth to LIVE YOUNG. They carry the eggs around INSIDE of their bodies for 3 to 4 months before giving birth to live snakes, usually 4-14. This is called ovoviviparous.

P7130432-Edit4. The rattle of a rattlesnake is made from the same material as your fingernails–keratin. Each time the snake sheds it’s skin–once every 1 or 2 years– a new segment of keratin is added to the end but aging the snake this way is faulty as the rattles easily break off. They vibrate these segments against each other to produce their characteristic rattle. It is uncommon to see a rattlesnake with a rattle more than 10 segments long.

5. Rattlesnakes don’t always rattle their tails. In my time on the AT, I saw 10 rattlesnakes but only ONE rattled his tail! The rest remained silent, crawling away slowly. Rattlesnakes are not vicious or aggressive! They will usually move out of the way and try to be left alone. Other snakes–including black racers, milk snakes and hognose snakes will shake their tails in leaves to make it sound like a rattle.

6. Rattlesnakes have a long life span–from 16-22 years but don’t reach sexual maturity until they are 5 for males and 7-11 years old for females.

7. Female rattlesnakes only give birth once every 3 or 4 years so in their lifetimes, they might only give birth 2 or 3 times.

8. Rattlesnakes spend the winter underground, in a state much like hibernation, called brumation. They often do this with large numbers of other reptiles, including copperheads and black rat snakes. They might migrate 1.3 to 2.5 miles from their dens each summer.

9. Females lay scent trails to help their offspring locate their winter dens. Baby rattlesnakes have only one segment–often referred to as a button–of keratin. They shed their skins within 10 days of birth, adding a second rattle segment.

10. Timber Rattlesnake populations have declined drastically in the last 20 years. They used to be in 31 states but now are in 27 and some of those are limited to very small areas of the whole. One of the main reasons for this is malicious killing–people killing them just because they don’t like them. Please don’t do this! Rattlesnakes, and other snakes, play an important role in ecosystems, keeping rodent populations in check. Other reasons for their decline are habitat loss, illegal collection, and destruction of their denning sites.

Did I say 10? I have to add these too!

11. Like other snakes, rattlesnakes smell with their tongues–these sensitive organs collect information and translate it to an organ in the roof of their mouths. This is why when you see a snake, it constantly seems to be flicking its forked tongue in and out!

rattle-12. Rattlesnakes change their habits based on the season. In spring and fall they are more active during the day and in summer, more nocturnal.

13 Rattlesnakes are ambush hunters, waiting for prey to come to them. They eat mice, shrews, chipmunks, squirrels, lizards, amphibians, other snakes, and birds.

14. Their fangs are thin and are replaced every 3 or 4 weeks.

Please join me in protecting these interesting creatures! Leave them alone and they will likely return the favor.

Click HERE to read another post about some common snake myths.

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