Herping: A Nature Activity That’s Tipping the “Scales”
by Amy Lignor
There are a million lists put out daily, it seems, that tell you all about the most popular sports, hobbies and activities in the U.S. Well, there just so happens to be one that’s climbing up the charts, tipping the scales (literally) when it comes to finding, photographing and spending time with a creature of nature. Move over birdwatchers, THIS is herping.
There are even herping shows for herping enthusiasts being held more and more across the U.S., where any and all can attend the event to see the largest variety of reptiles and amphibians in one place at one time. There are actual laws in place where this hobby is concerned as well, and even lists and documents about how to be a herper, where to go, and how much fun you will have.
First, it’s important to note that when it comes to choosing herping as your outdoor activity, the habitat of these particular animals tends to be fragile. In fact, many things that humans can do that seem to be of no danger whatsoever to other species can be detrimental to these creatures. Depending on where you choose to travel to practice herping, conditions do change. Cold winters are a poor time to ever try herping, considering that a high percentage of these creatures are dormant when the snow flies. And when it comes to the weather, especially if the Southwest is your choice of where to herp, rain, or lack of it, definitely affects the activity of these desert animals. The phase of the moon also changes when and where to herp because these nocturnal species can be influenced highly by a half or full moon.
When it comes to photographing these creatures, state parks can be the greatest places to do so. There, you can find extremely hard to locate reptiles in their own habitats. Unfortunately, if you are driving through those parks at night, very slowly, you can be suspected of illegally collecting the animals for captivity. But if you tell the personnel at the park what you want to do, chances are they will simply allow you to take your pictures.
If looking for the best two states for herping, New Mexico is one and Florida is the other. When it comes to Florida, herping enthusiasts have everything to choose from: the Sweet lands, the Keys and the Florida Everglades.
The Everglades is a whole lot of fun to spot reptiles and amphibians, especially when you consider that through the Glades run two main roads, Alligator Alley and the Tamiami Trail. There is both good and bad brought by these roads. Once easy to cruise, they are now known for heavy traffic that continues to take a toll on all wildlife attempting to cross them. But when it comes to the outer fringes of the roads, everything from water snakes to racers to the coolest reptile you can think of can be spotted. And the road SR 9336 is perfect to drive at night during the warmer months to spot mud turtles, corn snakes, eastern diamondbacks, as well as Burmese pythons. Just watch out for those water moccasins which may be waiting in that tall grass.
In New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment offers over 120 species of reptiles and amphibians. Among this number is four species of horned lizards and over 45 snakes. Herping is absolutely free and is extremely stunning in this desert paradise. From spotting the bright green and yellow collared lizard sunning itself on a fence to perhaps (if you’re lucky) sighting that Gila monster traveling along the desert trail (don’t touch, by the way), you have a ton of chances to see the coolest of the cool.
You know it’s an activity that’s growing exponentially when you note that there is an association representing herping called, The North American Field Herping Association. Dedicated to bringing together amateur, private and professional herpetologists from Canada, the United States and Mexico, they strive to educate one and all on how best to conserve and manage native North American reptiles and amphibians.
In other words, jump on the herping bandwagon now and hit the most awesome trails in America.