20 August 2016
- Great Plains Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne olivacea)
- Sheep Frog (Hypopachus variolosus)
- Rio Grande Leopard Frog (Lithobates berlandieri)
- Blanchard’s Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans)
- Spotted Chorus Frog (Pseudacris clarkii)
- Couch’s Spadefoot (Scaphiopus couchii)
- Gulf Coast Toad (Anaxyrus nebulifer)
- Texas Toad (Anaxyrus speciosus)
- Yellow Mud Turtle (Kinosternon flavescens)
- Great Plains Ratsnake (Pantherophis emoryi)
- Checkered Garter Snake (Thamnophis marcianus)
- Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)
The family and I decided to take a quick herping road trip to South Texas from Austin. Since most of region had been hit with significant rainfall during the previous week and since large storm cells were again forming in the northern portion of the region, I felt it would be a good opportunity to see frogs, toads, and the critters that like to eat them. One species in particular, Sheep Frog, had caught our interest; none of us had seen one before.
We focused our efforts on Live Oak and McMullen County in the area generally southwest of George West and north of Freer. It took us nearly three hours to get there driving through intense cells of rain and thunder between Seguin and Karnes City. We stopped just before getting to our target area to check on a few critters we noted on the roads. These included Couch’s Spadefoot and Gulf Coast Toad.
After stopping in George West to fuel the truck, we headed southwest on Highway 59. We were very nearly instantly gratified when, only a few miles outside of George West we found a small chorus of Sheep Frogs (3 total) calling from a roadside culvert still holding water (the big rains of the day had missed this area).
This small frog is akin to the very similar and related Narrowmouth Toads (Gastrophryne sp.) but is uniquely South Texan in distribution. Larger than Narrowmouth Toads, they can also be easily distinguished by the attractive orange dorsal stripe running down the spine.
Sheep Frogs also have a similar but distinct call which will aid a field herper in confirming presence and identity. Check out the two videos above to hear the difference between Sheep Frogs and Great Plains (Western) Narrowmouth Toad.
We continued along the road to see what other species were out. Not long afterwards, I found a freshly smashed Yellow Mud Turtle. And a very nice looking Texas Toad. This individual was patterned in such a way that nearly led me to believe it was the much rarer Woodhouse’s Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii). After some discussion and referring to herper friends, it seems this an uncommon trait in the South Texas populations (possibly a relict of hybridization between the two species).
It was a little further down the road when we found our first snake. At this point, a light rain had begun to fall and only slightly accumulating on the asphalt. The snake, a Great Plains Rat Snake, was drinking from the very shallow accumulation of water.
Not long after seeing the Rat Snake, we started to find numerous Checkered Garter Snakes. At the end of the night, we had tallied ~35 individuals of which most were Dead On Road (DOR). We found seven live Checkered Garter Snakes including two that were actively hunting along the road and took DOR frogs/toads (one had a large Texas Toad and another ate a Great Plains Narrowmouth Toad).
Although we noted several more species of frogs, we only found one more snake. A nice sized but DOR Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.