Photo of the Week – April 24, 2014

Last weekend, my 13-year-old son went with me to do some work in our family prairie.  It was a nice day for wildlife sightings, starting off with a prairie chicken that flushed from the grass as we drove in.  We also watched thirteen-lined ground squirrels, great blue herons on the wetland, and speculated about whether or not the hawk flying around was nesting in our prairie again this year.  After we left, we drove a few miles south to visit a small prairie dog town before heading back home.  Within a mile or two of leaving the prairie dog town, I stopped and backed up the truck to take a closer look at a snake warming itself on the gravel road.

A plains garter snake (Thamnophis radix) on a gravel road in southern Hamilton County, Nebraska.

A plains garter snake (Thamnophis radix) on a gravel road in southern Hamilton County, Nebraska.

 

The snake was very accommodating, allowing me to lay on the road and photograph it from close range.

The snake was very accommodating, allowing me to lay on the road and photograph it from close range.

 

John was patient while I photographed the snake, but finally got his wish to pick it up and take a closer look himself.

John was patient while I photographed the snake, but finally got his wish to pick it up and take a closer look himself.

 

I warned John that garter snakes often defecate when picked up, and that the smell is REALLY hard to get rid of, but he had no such issues.  In fact, the snake started out a little agitated but quickly calmed down and the two seemed to eventually part on friendly terms.

I warned John that garter snakes often defecate when picked up, and that the smell is REALLY hard to get rid of, but he had no such issues. In fact, the snake started out a little agitated but quickly calmed down and the two seemed to eventually part on friendly terms.

I’m grateful for opportunities like these to spend time with my kids and help them develop positive feelings toward nature and conservation.  I sometimes have to cajole them to join me on a trip to the prairie, but we rarely return home without a few memorable encounters and experiences that make them glad they came along.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
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7 Responses to Photo of the Week – April 24, 2014

  1. Nate Walker says:

    Thank you for getting your children involved in personally connecting with nature. With the way of the world it seems that being connected to nature is getting to be the exception rather than the rule. I imagine this day will stand out in your son’s memory for a while; great stuff!

  2. Scott J. says:

    Love your posts, Chris! My USDA office hosts a youth ecology day with conservation partners each May. Attendees can hold animals which helps everyone further appreciate nature. Specifically, one of the USDA staff members who always hated snakes finally held a tame snake at the event and realized they are tolerable and unique animals. It’s great to see a deeper appreciation for nature at all ages!

  3. elfinelvin says:

    Not many dads can share their work with their kids like that. They’ll appreciate it someday. Great shot of boy and snake!

  4. James McGee says:

    We also have that species in my area. It typically bites when you pick it up. In contrast, the Chicago Garter snake musks.

  5. Pingback: Photo of the Week – April 24, 2014 | Gaia Gazette

  6. Tom Prunier says:

    Could not find the contact button but Mass Audubon has a job opening for someone to work with grassland nesting birds. Someone in your readership may know just the right person. Best to all. Tom P. http://www.massaudubon.org/site_ma/jobs/mass-audubon-bird-conservation-fellow

  7. Marilyn Woerth says:

    Man it looked huge at first.

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