Tuesday, March 1, 2016

An Exciting Snake on an Exciting Road

As I've mentioned in previous posts (here and here), I took a road trip over my Winter Break to South Carolina. I spent the first few days outside of Charleston exploring the vast Francis Marion National Forest. Francis Marion NF is a large reserve (258,864 acres) that contains a great example of the Middle Atlantic coastal forest ecoregion. Francis Marion NF is one of the most biologically and ecologically diverse parks in the southeastern United States, with swamps, freshwater marshes, salt marshes, upland Longleaf Pine savannas, and more.

Old Georgetown Road Francis Marion National Forest
Before we get to the exciting snake, I want to take a short history tangent. Nestled in the eastern side of Francis Marion NF, off US Route 17 and only about 2 miles from the Atlantic Coast, you can find an unassuming dirt road (pictured above). Now, there are many dirt roads like this throughout the park, but I made a trip to travel down this specific road. This road, now named Old Georgetown Road, has an incredibly long and incredible history. It started out as a trading path (named the Broad Path) used by the Sewee Native Americans. Then the British came. They founded Charleston in 1670, and there came an obvious need for a road to connect Charleston to the other colonies in the north. King Charles II ordered for a road to be created that connected Charleston, South Carolina, to Boston, Massachusetts, to fulfill this need. In this part of South Carolina, the colonists chose to use the already-existing Sewee Broad Path that went up the coast. By the early 1700's, this 1,300 mile dirt/mud/sand road was finished, with Charleston and Boston connected. It was the road to use when traveling up and down the coast. For example, in 1791, then-president George Washington decided to travel to all of the new states. He, as you might have guessed, traveled to South Carolina via this road. Most of this 1,300 mile road was eventually paved and slightly rerouted, with the vast majority of it becoming US Route 17. What makes this specific section of the "King's Highway" special is the fact it was never paved over. This 6.6 mile stretch is one of the last remaining unpaved, original sections of the King's Highway (as it became called in the 1900's). In fact, it's one of the few remaining unpaved sections of colonial period roads still left in the US at all. As a history geek, this was one of the most exciting roads I've ever driven down!

Corn Snake South Carolina
The road became even more exciting when I saw a snake laying in the middle of it! As I got out of my car, I could tell it was a species of snake I've never seen before. Upon getting closer, I saw that it was a Corn Snake! Francis Marion National Forest is a treasure trove of reptiles, with the Corn Snake being just one of the 58 reptile species that call the park home. As an Ohioan, that's a stunning diversity of reptiles, as there are only 42 species of reptiles here in Ohio.

Corn Snake
The Corn Snake, Pantherophis guttatus, is a species of non-venomous snake found throughout much of the Southeastern United States. They can be found in a variety of habitats such as overgrown fields, forest openings, palmetto flatwoods, and more urban areas such as around barns and sheds. Within a given habitat, the Corn Snake utilizes a range of space; it will climb trees, bask on rocks, explore underground mammal burrows to hunt, and visit everywhere in between. They feed primarily on rodents, so they can essentially be found wherever there are rodents.

Corn Snake Francis Marion
Corn Snakes are very popular in the pet trade, and one of the reasons for that lies in their beauty. The "wild type" coloration (which is what this guy is) is a stunning orange, red, and yellow. This photo also shows their slight iridescence (which many other snake species exhibit). A large variety of other color types have been selectively bred for in the pet trade, but I still think that the wild type is the best.

Cornsnake
In my opinion, the Corn Snake is one of the most beautiful species of snake in the United States. Even if you aren't a snake lover, you can't help but appreciate the stunning coloration on this species.

Thanks for reading!

3 comments:

  1. I understand your delight in observing this snake. Gorgeous.

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  2. As a South Carolina native herper, one of the things I'm proudest of is our corns! I live near jasper and okatie county which is famous (in our circle) for the high orange corns. I'm really interested in variation between the populations on the islands we have down here.

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