Mother Nature is the artist. I just collect the memories…

How to Road Cruise

According to my handy-dandy little statistics monitor provided wonderfully by WordPress.com, I can see what search terms and phrases people are using to look for(or at least stumble across) my little slice of life, here.  One recent term to have popped up is “how to road cruise”.  Well…I don’t have anything like that here…but that can change…

Road cruising is easy.  In it’s most basic form it is driving slowly on paved back roads after dark, looking for snakes and other wildlife.  It really is that simple.  But there a few things you should know…

First…not everywhere is a productive cruising location.  My area happens to be incredibly productive for road cruising, so I’m lucky.  But if you don’t find anything the first few times you try…don’t give up.  You have a better chance of finding them if you’re out cruising, than if you’re watching TV in the living room…

Timing is everything.  Time of day, time of year, moon phase…these things play an important role.  What type of snakes are you hoping to find?  Diurnal?  Nocturnal?  Crepuscular? 

I cover the bases and start cruising in the early evening, when I have a reasonable chance of finding a diurnal snake basking in the last rays of sun, like a Coachwhip, Racer, Patchnose, or Garter.  You might also be surprised by a young rattlesnake, kingsnake, gophersnake…depends on where you live.

In the hours just after sunset, you have your best chances of finding your crepuscular snakes like kingsnakes, gophersnakes, glossysnakes…things like that. 

After dark, you find your more nocturnal species like longnose, nightsnakes,
groundsnakes, shovelnose, rubber and rosy boas…the really secretive ones.

The reason you see snakes crossing the road in the spring and fall is for warmth and thermoregulation.  They use the blacktop as a radiant heat source, and warm up for the evening’s hunt, or to aid in digestion after a meal.  That means, in the summer, when the air temperature stays warm longer into the night…you see fewer snakes.  They no longer need the road to thermoregulate, so you see fewer of them.  You might still occasionally run into a few throughout the night, but that is generally just a snake on the move that happens to be crossing a road.  It’s more luck than anything else…

So…here’s what you need…

A reliable car with good headlights.  Cruising is slow, and you don’t go far, but you can cruise for hours at a time.  And if your headlights are crap, you may not see smaller snakes.  Wash your windshield, too.  Nothing worse than squinting through some mooshed bugs to try and see a snake.

Field guide.  You want to know what it is your seeing, right?  Get a good field guide for your area.  Stebbins makes good field guides, and the Audobon Society has a field guide for North America.  It’s a good guide, but the taxonomical information is outdated.  C’est la vie.

Hooks and/or tongs.  If you plan on moving venomous critters out of the road, plan on using hooks and tongs.  Don’t try to be Steve Irwin.  If you never touch a venomous critter, you won’t get bit.

Required permits and/or licenses.  Most states require some sort of hunting or fishing license for the collection of reptiles and amphibians, just like any other animal.  Check yuor local regulations to make sure you aren’t unknowingly busting any laws by bringing home that pretty little Brown snake.

A positive attitude.  Listen…yuo aren’t gonna find snakes every time you go out.  It’sd that simple.  If you expect to, you will be disappointed.  Take a good camera with a flash, and an open mind.  I have gotten some wonderful landscape and flower shots while I was roadcruising.  Be open to the possibilities and techniques you need, and you’ll find stuff to take photos of.

And who knows…you may even find a snake or two…

Good Luck and Happy Herpin’!!

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