Tag Archives: Trails Carolina

Rat Snake Tracks Field Report for Summer 2016 & 2017

25 Sep

Video footage in this edition of Rat Snake Tracks was filmed in August 2016 and September 2017.

The Snake Tracks project is an ongoing Rat snake habitat use and movement study using radio telemetry techniques and UAV’s (drones) for canopy surveys and monitoring.

If you were a student at Trails Carolina or the Academy at Trails Carolina during the 2015 season you may have helped “Science Steve” locate Apollo the Black rat snake and you may be in this movie, in front of or behind the camera, learning and living ūüôā

This project is supported by in part by Trails Carolina, The Academy at Trails Carolina, Trails Momentum , our donors, and people just like you. If you would like to support our projects and programs with a donation and learn more about us please visit our website.

Earthshine Nature Programs is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to wildlife conservation, rehabilitation, science, and renewable energy education and awareness.

NOTE: The parents of the student(s) appearing in this video granted permission for us to record their special moments sharing time with our educators and the Apollo the rat snake.

Finding Odyssa

11 Sep

Recently, “Trina” – one of the students in one of my classes known as Alpha – was doing a wood run and found an ancient Eastern box turtle!


This¬†was the first adult box turtle found at our Sky Valley study site since 2014! ¬†The students and I collected the vial scientific data on this old female box turtle and in doing so found that she has a unique injury that she has overcome with great dignity – her plastron (bottom shell) has broken free from her carapace (top shell)! ¬†How this happened in the deep forests far from humans ¬†we have no idea but whatever caused it, it must have been very traumatic but Odyssa*, as we named the ancient old reptile, pulled through the hardship and continued on her life’s odyssey. Box turtles are just amazing creatures.

After collecting the needed science data for our Turtle Trails and the statewide Box Turtle connection project, we released Odyssa at her discovery location. ¬†“Trina” and the Alpha girls were all very excited to be a part of such a wonderful find and we documented the event in a video I produced here:


Things to know:

  1. Box turtles are protected by law in many areas.  This means no collecting, harming or touching other than helping them across the street.
  2. Box turtles do not make good pets.  They have very strict food/habitat requirements, may live for a century,  and see #1.
  3. Box turtles are very beneficial animals to have in your yard/garden.  They love to eat the pests that would otherwise eat your garden fruits and veggies such as slugs, snails, caterpillars and so on.  Count yourself lucky if you have a box turtle in your yard/garden.  Yes, they will occasionally eat a strawberry or tomato but even they need a balanced diet.
  4. Box turtles are “home-bodies” and live in very small habitats their entire lives. ¬†Research shows that moving them away from their habitats can be detrimental to their health and to their lives.
  5. If you find a box turtle crossing a road Рit is not lost.  It is only crossing the road.  All you need to do is gently pick it up Рthey do not bite Рand move it to the side of the road that it was moving toward.  Place it a few yards off of the road and it will go on its way.
  6. If you find an injured box turtle and it has a cracked and bleeding shell or damaged appendage please place it in a container and take it to the nearest veterinarian.  They will have a list of local rehabilitators who will care for the turtle at no charge to you. Most importantly Рbe sure to write down the EXACT location where you found the turtle and give this information to the veterinarian/rehabilitator.  This is so they will be able to take the turtle back to its habitat for release when it is better (see #2) .
  7. Respect the wonderful box turtle.

Read my recent story on why I save snakes and turtles and Opossums.

*Why Odyssa ?


Turtle Tracks and Snake Tracks Field Update for April 13, 2015

13 Apr

I have confirmed that almost all of the reptiles at both the Earthshine Discovery Center and Sky Valley (Trails Academy/Trails Carolina) Study sites are out of hibernation! Catherine, Zoe, Paula Journeys, Shelly Echo, Splinter and Apollo are all on the move heading toward their spring feeding and basking grounds.


I found Catherine about 200 feet west of her den basking in the late afternoon sun.  The epoxy on her transmitter looks rough because I was forced to replace her previous unit a few weeks ago due to the cold weather prematurely depleting the energy in the previous units battery.   On an upcoming field excursion I will smooth out the edges of the expoy so it will be less likely to get snagged on vegetation.

zoe4.12.15  Zoe basking on the warm leaf litter.

She is only a few hundred yards from the top of the ridge and seems to be moving east toward her summer feeding grounds near the waterfall.  If you live in the vicinity of her movement areas, please be aware that she is active and will be moving through soon.

I was unable to locate Jimmy Irwin the Eastern box turtle and Utsanati the Timber rattlesnake. It seems that Utsanati’s transmitter may have exhausted it’s battery due to the very cold temperatures we had near the end of the winter. It will now be a chore to find him but I do know all of his “old haunts” so hopefully I will be able to locate him in the next few weeks. As for Jimmy Irwin, I do not know why his transmitter would have stopped transmitting–it should have had several more months of power remaining before needing to be replaced. It is possible that Jimmy has been predated or his transmitter’s antenna has been chewed off by rodents. ¬†I am leaning more toward the rodent theory as I have had this happen before with Catherine and it greatly reduces the range and lifespan of the transmitter. ¬†I will need to do a more thorough search in a week in order to know more.

apolloontree4.8.15Apollo basking just outside of a tree cavity.

The Trails students from Journeys wilderness assisted me with locating Apollo the Rat snake a few days ago. ¬†We found him basking in the afternoon sunshine just outside of a rather large tree cavity on an old dead oak tree. ¬†The students and I were very excited to see him¬†looking so healthy after sleeping underground for over five¬†months. ¬†This experience was a great teachable moment¬†for the students, many of whom had never seen a wild rat snake in it’s natural environment. ¬†We discussed reptile¬†biology, why they need to hibernate, and why old, rotting trees like this one are important to this species of snake and many other species of wildlife such as birds, squirrels, bats and insects. ¬†If you have standing dead trees on your land that are not endangering any structures or anyone, please consider leaving them for wildlife.


Master Splinter basking on a low limb.

A couple of weeks ago the students from Trails Academy assisted me in locating Master Splinter during our natural resource management and conservation class. We found him outstretched on a low limb, basking in the early spring sunshine.  Then, a few days ago Trails Wilderness group Bravo joined me and we found him sunning on the limb of an old bent oak about 35 feet off the ground.  Everyone was able to see him before he moved back inside the tree to hide from us while we collected vital environmental data and held class under the greening forest canopy.

Keep your eyes open when hiking in the forests and fields or driving the roads and riding the trails because our scaly friends are out and about and we need to do all we can to help them help us.


What is Turtle Tracks and Snake Tracks?

Turtle Tracks and Snake Tracks are citizen/student science reptile conservation and research projects occurring at two separate study sites near Lake Toxaway and Dupont Forest in the mountains of western North Carolina, USA. Through the magic of modern technology and a lot of hard volunteer work by a wildlife conservationist and his small crew of students, and volunteers, glimpse into the lives of four wild Eastern box turtles, two Rat snakes and two Timber rattlesnakes in their natural habitats. For more detailed info on the project please take a look at our website: http://www.earthshinenature.com

Follow us on this blog  www.earthshinenature.wordpress.com

It is our goal at Earthshine Nature Programs and Trails Science to promote wildlife conservation through our unique, exciting, citizen science based, hands-on education, out-reach programs, and online with our nature videos, blog and website and in our environmental education classes at Trails Academy and Trails Carolina.

What is Earthshine Nature Programs?

Earthshine Nature Programs is a separate entity from Earthshine Discovery Center and Trails Carolina/Academy however, we work directly with these institutions of education to promote the conservation and respect of our native wildlife and wild places. It is our mission to educate you about these beautiful but greatly misunderstood animals and hopefully, to impart to you their beauty, uniqueness and intrinsic value to a healthy Earth, healthy wildlife and healthy humans.

Earthshine Nature Programs is a grass-roots, 501c3 non profit, volunteer operated and donation funded organization.

THANK YOU to all of you who have donated to ENP over the years!! Without you, this important reptile conservation and public education work would not happen. If you would like to support Earthshine Nature Programs please feel free to donate by visiting


You may also donate supplies such as animal foods, medical supplies, vitamins and habitat supplies just contact us for more information on what supplies we are in need of and how to donate.

Learn more about Trails Carolina and Trails Academy¬†and see if our¬†unique programs may fit into your child’s education needs.

Visit our friends at the Earthshine Discovery Center and learn how you and your family, school, scout, corporate or camp group, can visit the Earthshine Discovery Center and have a wonderful fun and educational retreat!

Music by The Steep Canyon Rangers used with written permission.



Earthshine Nature Programs is in no way affiliated or responsible for ads that may appear below this line.


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