What is Herping?

I have been asked this question many times. Let me start by pointing out that Herping has nothing to do with herpes. Many of you, me included, have been Herping before we even knew what it was.  Herping is a slang term that comes from the word herpetology, the study of reptiles and amphibians, and refers to the act of looking for them. When someone is Herping, they are looking for reptiles and/or amphibians. A Herper is someone who does the Herping.

There are many ways to herp. You can go out into the habitat looking around in the reptiles environment, usually called walking or hiking. You can also flip or cruise. Each have pros and cons and I use all these techniques, many times at the same time.

On Foot

Herping the Pond
Phillip Laxton and Bill Barham Herping the Pond on foot.

Walking or hiking an environment for “herps” is very enjoyable. Whether its walking around in a field, along the riverbank, or looking around the base of the trees, many species can be observed doing what they typically do. Some of my best finds have included turtles basking on logs, snakes sunning on a creek bank, or anoles fighting for territory on the side of a fallen tree. Trying to spot a leopard, pickerel, or bull frog before it jumps in the water is always a blast. A view of a racer telescoping over the grass is always a sweet find.

Flipping

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Flipping is one of my favorites. Flipping allows you to catch a “herp” for a closer inspection easier than walking up on one doing its daily activities. Nearly all reptiles and amphibians find themselves under cover at some point in the day. Flipping a log mid-day could find a sleeping rat snake and the same log at midnight could yield a racer cuddled in for the night. Many Herpers place out AC, or artificial cover to aid in the likelihood of a find. As a child I had several “hot spots” I would search for snakes long before I even knew about “AC”.

Cruising

Agkistrodon p. piscivorous; Photographed by Phillip Laxton Instagram: @plaxton53
Agkistrodon p. piscivorous; Photographed by Phillip Laxton Instagram: @plaxton53

Last but not least is cruising. There are real advantages to cruising. I use cruising a lot when Herping a new area. Cruising involves riding around back roads looking for Herps on the road. I try to stop at every sighting. Dead or alive. Although DORs (dead on road) really can get depressing it will give a Herper a good idea of what snakes, or other herps, are in the area. Cruising requires someone with a driver’s license, money for gas, and stretches of road with little traffic. It can be dangerous getting in and out of the car, turning the car around, and walking around the road at night.

This is just scratching the surface of Herping and we have so many tips to help you along. We look forward to helping you enjoy the love of reptiles and amphibians and can’t wait to share what we have learned with you. Wish you luck and Happy Herping!!!!

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