Archives for posts with tag: snakes
melanistic Elaphe quadrivirgata

melanistic Elaphe quadrivirgata 20 seconds away from an ass-kicking

As we continued to walk from the village of Innai to the site, what happened next was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We spotted a melanistic 4-lined Japanese Rat Snake E.quadrivirgata /カラスヘビ(Karasuhebi) by a ditch that was apparently flooded by the storm from the previous day. Upon seeing us, the snake slid into the water.  After a few seconds, it emerged and approached us as we stood still. It seemed either unusually bold or very hungry (or both). As it investigated my shoe, a Tiger-keelback R.tigrinus/ ヤマカガシ(Yamakagashi) began moving towards us as well (I think it may have been chasing a frog). The E.quadrivirgata immediately turned and faced the Yamakagashi.

karasuhebi versus yamakagashi

Karasuhebi versus Yamakagashi

I will not describe what happened next in detail since an account of the event is currently in press in a herpetological journal, but I will say the encounter ended badly for the E.quadrivirgata.

bleeding Elaphe quadrivirgata

Elaphe quadrivirgata bleeding.

Yamakagashi: Pissed-off and victorious

We reached the site in the Amari Valley at 2:00pm. We set up the tent and finally proceeded to get down to the business of searching for Giant Salamanders (noodling, snorkeling and turning over rocks).

home away from home

home away from home

I’ve crawled over and around slippery stones in many rivers in my time, but I must say this one was particularly treacherous. It seemed the force required to shift about half of the damned boulders in the river was roughly the equivalent of my body weight. Within the first hour, I had a couple of near-misses before having one roll over my foot.  It seemed be a minor injury at the moment, so I ignored it; I would regret doing so later.

Welcome to Giant Salamander territory. Don't break your leg.

After about 5 hours of searching we decided to make the walk back to the liquor store in Innai to replenish our stock of junk food (and do some road-side herping in the process). On the way there and back, I had my first sighting of an Asian keelback snake Amphiesma vibakari/ ヒバカリ(Hibakari), which slipped away before I could photograph it, and after nightfall we found numerous Schlegel’s Tree-Frogs Rhacophurus schlegelii  hanging out on the road.

Rhacophorus schlegelii

Rhacophorus schlegelii froglet

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Hyla japonica frogletHyla japonica froglet

That morning we packed up our tent and resumed our trek at 6:30 am. Outside of Ajimu, we didn’t encounter many people in our walk, but whenever we did, we were always asked about what we were up to.  Upon mention of the Giant Salamanders, reactions ranged from friendly to borderline-hostile, but we were always told one of three things:
1) “You can’t get to the site from here by walking.”
2)” The Giant Salamanders might be there but you can’t find them; you should look for them in Honshu.”
3)” Go see the specimen in the local museum.”

A few hours later we took a short rest at an old temple by the road.

Elephant decoration at japanese templeElephants in old Japanese art: its kind of like finding a french fry in an order of chicken nuggets; not really expected but not really unwelcome.

 

Plestiodon japonicusThe temple was home to a Plestiodon japonicus Japanese Skink/日本のトカゲ(Nihon-no-Tokage).

 

An interesting feature of this area was 19th century bridges inspired by European designs.

 
Around noon we reached Innai, a village next to the site where the Giant Salamanders are said to be. The two biggest stores in Innai seemed to be a combination Post-Office/Cigarette-stand/Barbershop and a liquor store.

Tiger-keelback Rhabdophis tigrinus YamakagashiA Rhabdophis tigrinus Tiger-keelback Snake/ヤマカガシ(Yamakagashi). One of my favorite snake species. It might look like a mere garter-snake, but it’s a real bad-ass. Not only does it possess a hemolytic venom, it actually sequesters toxins from toads that it consumes, storing the poison in a nuchal gland behind its head for defensive purposes. After reaching Innai, we encountered these about once every hour.