— by Jeffrey Ethier
For most, bigger is better. I fully admit that finding huge foxsnakes – some long as 1.6 metres – never fails to pump me up. However, I find that some of the most fascinating things that I have discovered while tracking snakes have come in small packages. Growing up, I lived next door to an entomologist so I developed a strong appreciation for all things tiny and six-to-eight-legged. I have countless pictures of caterpillars, butterflies, moths, spiders, mites, beetles, and true bugs from this year alone. Alas, I do not wish to overload people with my infatuation with invertebrates by sharing the entire catalogue. I shall restrain myself to just a couple.
Two of my favourite arthropod friends this year have been the purse-web spider (Sphodros niger) and grapevine beetle (Pelidnota punctata).
The spider I ran into while doing a road mortality survey early one morning. I helped him safely to the grassy shoulder. The beetle flew directly into me and for a brief moment I considered adding her to my insect collection. In the end – after many moments watching, waiting, commiserating – she was just too cool to “preserve” so I decided to let her go.
While I love invertebrates, insects and spiders are not the only small wonders; there are many mesmerizing, miniscule animals! One such critter, which is a species at risk in Ontario, has been popping out of the marsh in droves lately.
This petite pal is a Fowler’s Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri) and they are the cousin to much more prolific American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus). Lastly, there is the species that Rebecca, Mhat, and I have been trying so hard to locate and track – the Eastern Foxsnake!
This individual is marked with a “DWCT”: one of the decimal-coded wire tags that we insert into all juveniles that we collect, measure, and release. My logs indicate that this specific one was first marked in mid-June, and most likely hatched last year.
Hopefully I have sparked your interest and the next time you out in the great outdoors you will take a moment to look for all things little. Happy trails!