Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
3 October 2014: What a surprise the Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center (CCNHC) had in store for us when we first visited the 1,900-acre nature preserve that is part of the City of Denton, Texas’s Parks and Recreation Department. The CCNHC is in part also administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers as part of the larger Elm Fork Trinity River watershed. The water of the Elm Fork Trinity River that flows past and comprises one of the borders of this nature preserve eventually enters into Lake Lewisville. Clear Creek (which lends its name to this nature preserve) has its origins to the northwest of this site in adjacent Montague County, Texas. Clear Creek ends at the site of the CCNHC when it merges with the Elm Fork Trinity River. The point at which these two bodies of water join is simply called “The Confluence,” and comprises one of the distinctive features of the CCNHC. Several North Texas cities take their water in part from Lake Lewisville where the water that flows past the CCHNC ends up being captured a second time because it is first captured a few miles upstream at Lake Ray Roberts State Park and its accompanying dam. The City of Denton, Texas also draws water from Lake Ray Roberts. After the Elm Fork Trinity River is released a second time from the Lake Lewisville Dam the river and its water flow downstream and south to the City of Dallas which apparently claims the majority of this water. The Trinity River flows past Dallas, Texas, and the Elm Fork Trinity River is one of its major tributaries comprising part of the greater Trinity River Basin.
The surprise that the CCNHC had in store for us was the first encounter we’d ever had with a wild Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus). The images presented here are of the Cottonmouth that we met on this day late in the afternoon. Due to its coloration one can determine that this was a juvenile of the species since it had yet to take on its darker hues that mature individuals will assume. Near the intersection of the path to The Confluence and the start of the Wetlands Trail we came upon this specimen that was apparently taking in a little bit of sun as reptiles are apt to do especially when the temperatures had begun to drop during the early fall weather. About two-thirds of its length was stretched out onto the Wetlands Trail and the remainder of its body was covered by the dried and new green grass that’d grown with the recent seasonal rains. Altogether we estimate that this Cottonmouth must have been about two-feet long. We took our digital pics and left it alone to continue on its way, the snake in the meantime did nothing but keep a wary eye on us. For us at least this was a memorable encounter, one we would never forget. We’d come across our first wild Cottonmouth.
Note: What we call the Wetlands Trail in our description above is labeled the Duck Trail on the iNat Google map (see above) but on the ground at the CCNHC the truth is that no one refers to the Wetlands Trail as the Duck Trail. Go figure.
This is a Short-horned Lizard, likely a young Greater Short-horned Lizard. Any ID help appreciated. It was about 2 inches long.