By Stewardship Specialist Phillip Weldy
One October day last year, our stewardship crew was out at Glacier’s End Nature Preserve treating invasive species. It was a sunny, warm fall day in the woods. I was moving through a relatively invasive-free section of the preserve when I heard a rustle nearby among the briar and leaves.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket and tried to determine the source of the rustle. It turned out to be a beautiful green colored snake!
To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a solid green snake before then, and I had no idea what species it was. It was cool and new to me though, so I snapped a few pictures and went on my way.
I love this aspect of stewarding nature preserves: you never know what you’ll find when you wander around in nature, and CILTI is protecting some very special places. The ability to spend my workday immersed in these natural areas is a blessing, and finding the diversity of life we protect is a particular joy of mine.
I came into CILTI with very little knowledge of our native plants, knowing only the most common animals here in Central Indiana. For the past two years, CILTI’s nature preserves have been my classroom. With the help of various tools, most significantly the free citizen science app iNaturalist, I have been steadily learning what lives in the places we are protecting. Often by stumbling upon it.
So when I uploaded the photos of the snake later that night, I was surprised to learn it was a rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus). It turns out that it is a species of special concern in Indiana. Glacier’s End is the extreme north boundary of this species’ known range, and there have been few, if any, documented in Johnson County before this sighting. I had no idea.
Little moments like this are when I realize how much I don’t know about our planet. Nature is full of life, diversity and surprises. I’m honored to play a role in preserving the natural areas protected by CILTI through the support of the many people who care about and have been inspired by nature like me.
There are so many aspects of nature to be appreciated, if we only stop to pay attention to them. Who knows, the next time you pause while outside in nature, you might even spot an elusive rough green snake!