Monday, December 28, 2015

Hellbender Conservation Efforts in Indiana and Missouri

The St. Louis Zoo has been working on breeding Hellbenders for several years now with the first successful breeding in 2011. Since then the zoo has been enjoying much success breeding these unique amphibians. Our state is the only state to have both Hellbender subspecies. The animals reproducing at the zoo are from three different rivers in Missouri so their offspring can eventually be released into their specific water systems. For more information on the zoo's breeding efforts click on this link.

Our zoo is not the only institution working on Hellbender conservation. Since 2013 officials from Indiana's Columbian Park Zoo (located in Lafayette) along with scientists from Purdue University have been working on breeding Hellbenders in hopes of releasing them back into the Blue River. This river is the only place Hellbenders occur in Indiana. After successfully breeding about 200 of these giant salamanders the next step is to make this waterway habitable once again. For more reading on the project follow this link.

The Hellbender is very specific in its environmental needs. As is the same old story,  they have declined drastically throughout their range because we humans have altered their rivers to the point where they are no longer suitable habitat. It is heartening to see efforts from these two zoos to try and restore the rivers and reintroduce these amazing creatures so we may see healthy populations thriving once again. If they succeed, they will not only save this species... it will benefit us all.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Holiday Party at the Zoo!

Sunday, December 13th we will be having our annual Holiday Party at the St. Louis Zoo's Herpetarium. 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. This event is one of the highlights of the year for the club. Members get to enjoy our zoo's wonderful collection of reptiles and amphibians after hours in a relaxed visit. You must be a member in good standing to attend but you can renew or join at the door. Members may bring guests. Please BRING A DISH OR SNACK TO SHARE. The SLHS will provide water and coffee. We will hold a short meeting where we will vote for the 2016 board members and then dine at 6:30.

There will also be a PHOTO CONTEST with three age groups (up to 11 yrs old, 12 to 18, and 19 and up). No frames or mats on the photos and please write your name and age on the back in pencil. 8 x 10 preferred and all photos will be kept by the SLHS for future use in the newsletter and blog. With photo credits, of course! 1st prize in each age group is a one year membership renewal and 2nd prize will be a SLHS t-shirt of your choice.

FREE PARKING will be available in the south parking lot near the vertical ZOO sign. See you there!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

November 8th, General Meeting for the SLHS

We hope you can come out to the monthly meeting this Sunday. It is going to be an interesting presentation. Steve Brown will be discussing the world's most dangerous reptiles. He may not be covering all of the below animals but looking at these impressive beasts should get you prepped for a great talk. They deserve our respect for sure! Please visit the SLHS website for more details and we hope to see you there.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Member spotlight, Margaret Liu

Margeret Liu will be running for the SLHS board position of Member at Large this December so we thought this would be an excellent opportunity to introduce her. Margaret grew up in Taiwan then spent some time in Massachusetts before settling down here in St. Louis. She is a freelance photographer and digital artist and does eye lens research in the department of ophthalmology at Washington University. Recently she joined other SLHS members on the annual trek down to Snake Road in Southern Illinois. Below are some excellent captures of some of the animals she came across that day. Scroll further down to meet some of the critters she shares her home with. For other examples of Margaret's photography and fantastic artwork please visit her website Be sure to check out her blog too which is linked from her website.



Juvenile cottonmouth

Leopard frog

A copperhead who has already found his winter home.

Green tree snake

Gray treefrog


Here's a great shot to give you an idea of what snake road looks like.
It is a lovely 5 mile hike with plenty to see.

Meet Margaret's critter family.

Skittles, the panther chameleon

Twiggy, the black rat snake

And just in time for Halloween, a Costa Rican tiger rump tarantula.

Thank you, Margaret, for sharing your snake road experience and wonderful photographs!

Friday, October 9, 2015

October 11th General Meeting. Movie Night!

It is time for the SLHS 2nd annual fall movie night. Instead of a speaker this month we will be showing a reptile-themed horror flick. This year's feature will be "The Giant Gila Monster." It is a 1959 bad B-movie classic. Bring a snack and enjoy. Meeting is October 11th at the Kirkwood Community Center, 111 S. Geyer Rd. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with a short meeting beginning at 7. Then... movie time!

Here is a link for more info on the movie The Giant Gila Monster.

Photo by Josh Higgins

Friday, October 2, 2015

SLHS member spotlight: Kyran Leeker

Fall is always lovely in Missouri and southern Illinois. It is also a great time to get out and look for herps as they are on the move with the cooler weather looking for that last bit of warmth and their hibernaculums. When out herping please always be mindful of the rules of whatever your state laws are and get permission if you are on private property. Remember to leave the habitats as you found them when lifting logs and rocks in your search.

SLHS member Kyran Leeker spends much of his spare time out in the field herping. Along with his passion for reptiles and amphibians is an interest in getting that perfect photograph of these animals in their natural habitat. Get ready for some great indigenous herp eye candy. Enjoy!

Here's Kyran holding an Eastern Hognose. It is doing what it does best, playing dead!

What a stunning Three-toed Box Turtle! Good find.

Collared Lizard

Copperhead, close up and personal.

Cottonmouth agape.

Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad

Don't be fooled by the color. This is a Gray Tree Frog.

Red Milk Snake

Midland Painted Turtle

Hatchling Six-lined Racerunner

Eastern Garter Snake

Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle

Last but not least, a beautiful example of a Tiger Salamander.

These are all great examples of the herp related wildlife Missouri and Illinois has to offer. Get out there while the weather is still suitable and see what you can find! 

Thanks to Kyran Leeker for sharing his fantastic photos with us. If you are a SLHS member, and would like to have your photos from the field featured, contact the webmaster on the SLHS website.

Friday, September 18, 2015

It's that time of year again! SLHS field trip to Snake Road, LaRue-Pine Hills Natural Area. Saturday September 26th

Photo courtesy of Ribbit Photography

On Saturday September 26th join the St. Louis Herpetological for its annual field trip down to Snake Road at LaRue-Pine Hills Natural Area in Illinois' Shawnee National Forest. As many of you know this 2.5 mile road that bisects the swamp from the bluffs is closed each fall and spring so snakes and other swamp critters can cross over safely to get to the bluffs for hibernation or to the water for food and breeding. For many herp enthusiasts making the bi-yearly pilgrimage to LaRue-Pine Hills is a ritual. People come from all over the region for a chance to see many species of snakes, turtles, amphibians and lizards. And since this is a time of movement for most of these animals your chance of a sighting is very good.

If interested in going down on the 26th with herp society members, there will be a meet-up to carpool at the Park and Ride lot on the corner of 270 and Gravois rd. Meeting time is 8 a.m. sharp! If you would to prefer to meet at Snake Road, the carpoolers should be down at the north entrance of the road at approximately 10 a.m. Be sure to wear good walking shoes and bring your lunch and beverages as this will be an all day adventure. Remember: No bags or collection tools allowed!

For info on carpooling please contact Curt Hendricks at

Visit the St. Louis Herpetological Society website:

Photo courtesy of

Here is further information on the area plus rules, regulations and the road closure schedule.

 Collection or removal of any animals is prohibited. Gathering, herding, harassing or having any animal in possession is also prohibited. 

The following information was taken from the Department of Agriculture Forest Service website.

LaRue-Pine Hills/Otter Pond Research Natural Area (RNA) became our nation’s 250th RNA in 1991. RNA’s are permanently protected to maintain biological diversity and to provide places for research and monitoring of undisturbed natural areas. More than 1200 species of plants and animals make their homes in the LaRue-Pine Hills/Otter Pond RNA. Many are threatened and endangered species. Northern prairie plants, southern swamp types and plants typical of the eastern and western forests are all found here, over 1150 plant species in all. It is one of only two sites in the state where the native shortleaf pine grows naturally. Perhaps this area is most famous for the biannual ‘Snake Migration’ across the LaRue Road at the base of the bluffs, adjacent to LaRue Swamp. The road is closed to vehicular traffic every spring and fall to help protect thousands of reptiles and amphibians during their migration between their summer and winter habitats. About 66 percent of the amphibians and 59 percent of the reptiles known to occur in Illinois are found here (approximately 35 species of snakes). Approximately 90 percent of the Illinois mammal species and 173 bird species inhabit the RNA. It is an important resting area for migratory birds and waterfowl. Some unusual animals and birds that make LaRue-Pine Hills their home include the bobcat, bald eagle, spring cavefish, eastern woodrat, golden mouse, Mississippi kite, and indigo bunting. Protecting the Reptile and Amphibian Population The yearly migration involves the hibernation of the animals during the winter months in the bluffs. These animals then move to their feeding grounds in the swamp during the summer months. Herpetologists have reported that the main factor in triggering the seasonal migration is ground temperature. This road was open to traffic year-round prior to 1972. This resulted in the death of many animals that were crossing the road. Consequently, the Forest Service decided to close a 2.5-mile segment of the road during the seasonal migration to protect the reptiles and amphibians. The road is now being closed for two months in the spring and fall to further ensure the protection of early or late migrating species. The number of animals protected by this action is unknown, however, far fewer reptiles and amphibians are found dead on the road. The closure dates are March 15 to May 15 in the spring and September 1 to October 30 in the fall. Collecting of any kind is prohibited. The impact of this action on people is minimal. People who want to enter this area of the Shawnee National Forest for scientific study or recreation are welcome to travel the snake road on foot or by non-motorized methods. Alternate travel routes are available for the motorized traveler. The closure does not interfere with waterfowl hunting, a popular late fall activity in the LaRue Swamp.

Common Names Of Some Of The Species 

Spiny Softshell
Northern Red-Bellied Snake
Spotted Salamander
Chorus Frog
Slimy Salamander
Broadheaded Skink
Eastern Hognose Snake
Red Milk Snake Midland
Water Snake
Western Ribbon Snake
Eastern Rough Green Snake
Eastern Garter Snake
Western Lesser Siren
Marbled Salamander
Small-Mouthed Salamander
Midwest Worm Snake
Central Newt Zigzag salamander
Long-Tailed Salamander
Black Rat Snake
Cave Salamander
American Toad
Fowler's Toad
Blanchard's Cricket Frog
Northern Spring Peeper
Eastern Grey Treefrog
Black Racer
Bullfrog Green Frog
Southern Leopard Frog
Midland Brown Snake
Common Snapping Turtle
Stinkpot Turtle
Eastern Box Turtle
Ringneck Snake
Eastern Painted Turtle
Red-Eared Turtle
Northern Fence Lizard
King Snake
Ground Skink
Western CottonMouth
Five Lined Skink
Western Earth Snake
Western Mud Snake
Diamond-Backed Water Snake

LaRue-Pine Hills/Otter Pond Research Natural Area Regulations 

This Research Natural Area has been established to protect a number of special plants, animals and important scenic attractions. To help meet these objectives the following special restrictions apply to public use and occupancy of the area. The following is prohibited: ƒ Use of all forms of motorized vehicles or mechanical transport, including use of motorized watercraft or equipment, except on Forest Road 345 and the woods road in the SE ¼ SE ¼, Section 21. ƒ Collection or removal of any snake species. This includes gathering, herding, harassing or having in possession. ƒ The use of horses except on Forest Road 345. ƒ Overnight camping. ƒ Building fires outside stoves, grills, fireplaces or fire rings provided by the Forest Service at designated sites. Portable heaters or cooking stoves using processed fuels, as alcohol, gas or gasoline will be permitted. ƒ Abandonment of refuse brought to the LaRue-Pine Hills RNA. ƒ Establishment of commercial enterprise, construction of any improvements, establishment of permanent or semi-permanent camps or erection of structures. Temporary waterfowl blinds are permitted, but must removed at the end of each hunting day. ƒ Excavation, disturbance or removal of any soil, stone, dirt or material lying upon or contained in the rock or soil of the area. ƒ Cutting, killing, destroying, injuring or removing living vegetation. A “Permit for Collection” is required and will be issued only for research and educational purposes. Permits and rules governing the removal of plant species may be obtained from the Forest Supervisor, Shawnee National Forest, for certain limited scientific and educational purposes. For a permit application visit our website at or write to Shawnee National Forest, Forest Supervisor’s Office, Attn: RNA Coordinator, 50 HWY 145 South, Harrisburg, IL 62946 ƒ Taking or killing of any animal, bird, fish, reptile or amphibian, except for game species as defined and permitted by state laws. A “Permit for Collection” must be approved by the Director of Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Forest Supervisor to take a species not authorized by Illinois game and fish laws. ƒ Conducting research projects, which the Forest Service has not approved in writing.
For a copy of the official Forest closure order and area map setting forth conditions of occupancy and use in the LaRue-Pine Hills/Otter Pond RNA contact Mississippi Bluffs Ranger District, 521 North Main Street, Jonesboro, IL 62952, (618) 833-8576.

Length: Snake Road is 2.5 miles
Walking Time: 1 - 2 hours (one-way)
Difficulty Level: Easy Surface
Type: Gravel
Recommended Season: Spring and fall
Facilities: Small parking lot at Winters Pond can accommodate up to 15 vehicles.

Safety: Poisonous snakes are in the area. If you encounter any snake avoid being bitten by slowing moving away. Collection or removal of any animal is prohibited. Gathering, herding, harassing or having any animal in possession is also prohibited.
Surrounding Area: Clear Springs Wilderness, Oakwood Bottoms Greentree Reservoir, River to River Trail and Pine Hills Campground. Emergencies: The nearest hospital is St. Joseph’s in Murphysboro. The nearest public phone is in Grand Tower.

Come On Down! It Is A Great Herpetological Adventure For The Whole Family.

Photo courtesy of the Department of Agriculture

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


Visit The Copperhead Institute on Facebook for great information on the beautiful and often misunderstood Copperhead. This is one of Missouri's five venomous snakes and in this writer's opinion one of the most stunning. Follow the link below to watch a cool video of a newborn baby copperhead taking its first breath. These amazing snakes do not lay eggs. Babies are born and come out in a membrane. After poking through, with a flick of the tongue they get their first taste of freedom and then off they go. Absolutely fantastic!  Copperhead baby takes its first breath.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Tennessee Aquarium hatches 5 Beal's-eyed turtles!

The Tennessee Aquarium has successfully hatched out five Beal's-eyed turtles. Once common in the pet trade this turtle is now endangered. Another example of the crisis all Asian turtle and tortoise species face today. But let's celebrate this good news!
Click here for the full article.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Welcome to the St. Louis Herpetological Society blog. Please check back often as we will have info on club happenings plus reptile news from around the globe.