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Stream bank surprise

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Photographing Nebraska’s wild animals is always rewarding, but capturing imagery of those that reside only in specific parts of the state is especially gratifying.

I was wading up the middle fork of Soldier Creek to capture trout video with Nebraskaland intern Emily Burch last week when this little character, not much bigger than a nightcrawler, caught my eye from its perch below a small overhang.

The terrestrial garter snake (Thamnophis elegans) is one of four garter snake species in Nebraska. Dan Fogell’s “Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Nebraska” notes that this species resides over vast stretches of western North America, but “barely enters Nebraska from the west and is found only around the Pine Ridge region of Sioux County in the northwestern Panhandle.”

Fogell’s description for the species, true to my experience, states “In the Pine Ridge of Nebraska of Nebraska they are found within ponderosa pine forests along the numerous small streams that intersect them.”

This one was just a baby, surely born in August or July. Cute, eh?

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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