March 2015 Featured Herper – Kenneth Gisi

March 2015 Featured Herper

Kenneth Gisi

Kenneth with his Speckled Kingsnake
Kenneth with his Speckled Kingsnake

This month we are taking a look at an awesome photographer and herper, Kenneth Gisi.  Kenneth, at 22 years old, has been herping as long as he can remember.  He says his love for reptiles and amphibians truly became a passion around 2009.  Kenneth began catching snakes, photographing them, and it slowly became a huge part of his life.  He, like many of us has been bitten by the herping bug…. He can’t walk past a piece of tin, board, pile of wood, barn, broken down building, or any type of artificial cover without scoping it out for Herps.

Kenneth has been into photography now for a total of 7 years.  He says it all started when he picked up his mom’s Kodak C875.  After that… the rest is history.  He truly has a passion for photography and it shows in his work.  He takes amazing photos and is a master in his field.  He loves how you can speed up, slow down, and even stop time.  He especially loves long exposure.

“… but mainly, what I love about photography is that it’s able to let you see life through another person’s eyes.”

Texas Rat Snake by Kenneth Gisi
Texas Rat Snake by Kenneth Gisi

Kenneth is one of us privileged people who has the opportunity to herp from home.  Kenneth can walk right out his back door and start herping.  He has 100 acres of open fields and woods right next to his house.  I can understand the joy of being able to walk out the door and start herping.  You don’t have to plan, travel, spend money on gas and food….. You can just decide to herp and walk outside.  Kenneth says his favorite place to herp is literally right out his back door.

“I can get lost in those woods for hours, find snakes, frogs, turtles, and all types of wildlife and when I am done; I start walking back home”

Kenneth has herped mostly in Texas and South Dakota but most of his time is spent in Kaufman County Texas.  It is home to many species of snake that keep him happy.

I asked Kenneth where he would herp if he could go anywhere in the world…

“Oh man, hmm. North Africa, they have the Saharan horned viper – Cerastes cerastes. I mean, look at that snake! so beautiful and the horns are so appealing.  It’s such an unusual thing to see on a snake when you’ve spent your life around Racers, Coachwhips and Diamond Backed Water Snakes.  I would die a happy photographer if I got to photograph that snake.”

Kenneth considers his most memorable find so far would have to be the Eastern Hognose.  Kenneth says he was walking on a hot humid morning in May on a trail to the woods when he got an email and stopped to check his phone.  As he was looking at his phone, he accidentally kicked the snake.  The funny thing about it is that the Hognose seemed to tilt its head to the side as if it was saying “What the hell man?!”  He says he will never forget that look on the snake’s face or when it would play dead.

It is funny how many of us share similar experiences with Kenneth.  Most of you can say with me, when I say, some of my most memorable finds were when I least expect it.  I have targeted a species for months and even years just to have it show up on a day I wasn’t even thinking about it.

An Amazing Copperhead Photo taken by Kenneth Gisi
An Amazing Copperhead Photo taken by Kenneth Gisi

Kenneth told me about a speckled kingsnake he found this past season (2014).  He had found his first speckled kingsnake back in April of 2009.  He had just got into photography and didn’t take many pictures.  He wasn’t very satisfied with his pictures and desperately wanted to find and photograph another one.  He says it took him 5 years of searching, but in October of 2014 he finally found another one under a piece of tin he flipped.  He had obsessively searched for 5 years and it had finally paid off.  He was so happy because he had started to think their population was declining.  It’s nice to know they are still in Scurry, Tx.

Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer by Kenneth Gisi
Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer by Kenneth Gisi

Kenneth has two goals for 2015.  He really wants to get an Eastern Cottonmouth.  He found his first on this past year and was able to get a few pictures.  This one was found at night and he hopes to get one during the day and really get some nice pictures.  I am sure that he will have some amazing pictures if he finds one this year.  He also hopes to find a prairie kingsnake.

Kenneth is both an amazing photographer and a true herper at heart.  I will be following Kenneth closely to see what he finds next.  Already this year, he has shared some pictures in Instagram of some sweet finds.  Kenneth has been a supporter of HerpersGuide since it’s creation.  He has offered photos for many of our articles here on this site.  Strong work Kenneth and happy herping to you brother!

For articles within HerpersGuide that feature Kenneth see:

Eastern Racer Snake, Coluber constrictor

17 Great Instagram Accounts for Herpers

For more on Kenneth, visit him on Instagram: @viralography or on Flickr. Logo Logo will be selecting one person each month in the year 2015 to feature on our site.  If you know someone you think should be featured please let us know.  Email Phillip at with a means of contact and the reason you think they should be featured.

Without Wild Things – John Vanek “A Must See”

Without Wild Things

John Vanek

 This article written by editor and owner of

It was not requested by Mr. Vanek.  I choose to endorse his work because I truly find value in the work Mr. Vanek is doing.

© J. Vanek, IN
© J. Vanek, IN

Many of you may know John Vanek from his articles here on  He helped me and my readers by writing two great articles; Eastern Hognose and Timber Rattle Snakes, both of which were enjoyed by our readers.  He is compassionate about what he does and he does it well.  He is considered a friend of HerpersGuide and his contribution to our site is much appreciated.  John is always welcome to write for HerpersGuide.

John has recently started a blog.  He intends to use his blog to record his “ecological musings in more than 140 characters” as well as present himself professionally.   I have looked his site over and see he is off to a great start.  I could recommend his website to you in hopes of you visiting his site but, if you have read his articles here, I am sure you do not need my recommendation.  Regardless, I would like to formally recommend John Vanek’s personal blog to my readers.

Please take the time to visit his site and follow him as he adds another notch in his belt.  John is a high-class writer.  I have enjoyed everything I have read from him.  Be sure to check out his first blog entry, where he fact-checks a show I watch with my 3-year-old son.  He looks over “The Wildlife Thornberrys”.  It is a fun read.  I also learned how accurate the show is!  I am going to continue to encourage my kid to watch it.  There isn’t much out there.

Thanks again to John for your work on our website and your continued conservation efforts in other ways!

To the readers; thanks again for stopping in.  I can’t share with you enough how much I enjoy being able to offer you this website.  Be kind to one another.  Be kind to the environment.  Be sure to catch and release.  Happy Herping!


17 Great Instagram Accounts for Herpers

17 Great Instagram Accounts for Herpers

Instagram’s Best Herping Accounts


Instagram logo
Instagram logo

Hey Guys!

Are you new to Instagram?  Are you new to Herping?  Are you just looking for some amazing Instagramers to follow?  If you are, you have come to the right place.  As we are nearing the next “herping season” I thought it might be a good idea to post some of the great Instagram accounts I follow.  In this post, I will share with you some of my favorite Herping Instagram accounts.  These accounts are top-notch.  They each bring something great to the table.  In no particular order, here we go…..

17.    johngarrisonphotography

John Garrison

John is a 17y/o photographer from Maryland.  He offers some great shots of Herps and birds.  He has shared his work with and is an account I truly enjoy following.  Be sure to check out John and his work by following his instagram account!  You will not be disappointed.  He also has a YouTube channel and you can get the link from his Instagram Bio.

16.    bill_nye_the_herper_guy

Bill Barham

Bill is a great herper I met this year.  He came down and did some Herping with my wife, kid, and I this past fall.  We had a great time!  Several of the photos on my account in October and November are from the week he spent down my way.  He and I found a lot of herps.  We photographed and released several species in the short time he visited the NC coast.  Bill has managed to do a bit of traveling.  His account has a variety of herps from all over.  Be sure to check out his account.

15.    tkennedyfour

Taylor Kennedy

Taylor is a 19 y/o herper from Canada!  He is now an Ecosystem Management Student.  His account is great!  He offers great reptiles in a very photogenic way.  You should check it out.  Taylor will be working this year on two priorities for Ontario species.  He is targeting the Blue Racer and the Eastern Fox Snake. will be following close to see what happens this year.  We are hoping to give an update to our Eastern Racer article based on any findings he has this year.  I recommend this account and wish him luck with his Ontario targets this year!!

14.    tx_snakewrangler

Shaun Hayes

This is likely one of my most favorite Instagram accounts of all time!  This guy is an amazing guy who has a very balanced account.  He shares great finds and shares some of his personal pets with us as well.  Shaun was one of the first people I began following on Instagram and was one of the first people to follow me that I didn’t already know!  He would comment and give me strength to keep going.  Without people like him encouraging me, come would likely not exist.  Check out his account!

13.    hawkinsherping

Hawkins Herping

This account, managed by four brothers who all share a passion for Herping.  Their account has some great finds.  These guys have really been a joy for me to follow.  They were one of the first accounts I began following when I became active on Instagram.  I have been a fan ever since.  Their photographs have steadily improved during the time I have followed them.  I look forward to seeing each picture they post.  They have contributed many photographs shared in articles found on this site.  They were a primary contributor on the Rat Snake Feature we are working on.  I strongly recommend following this account!  Check them out and be sure to let them know you found them here on

12.    aaroncrank

Aaron Crank

Aaron is a Southern Ohio reptile enthusiast who has plans to become a herpetologist.  Looking through his Instagram account, it’s easy to see that passion first hand.  Aaron has some great finds and you can track his work by following his account.  He also has a newly started YouTube channel you can find the link for in his Instagram bio.  Be sure to check him out!

11.    viralography

Kenneth Gisi

There is no way to discribe this account without getting you to visit it first hand.  This account is one of my most favorite.  This account has nothing by high quality photos on it.  To call Kenneth an amazing photographer is an understatement.  Kenneth is well-respected here at  He has provided many photos for our use.  He provided the feature image for the Eastern Racer article.  This article has become one of the most viewed articles here at HerpersGuide!  I can’t help but think that Kenneth’s racer image is partly responsible for this response.

10.    SXBLUR51

Aaron Short

Aaron Short is from Central Oklahoma.  He has over 1.6k followers and his followers grow every day.  His account consists of snakes, salamanders, lizards, and any other herp that finds its way into his lens.  His account is well-balanced between his love for herpetology and other interest.  You can find the occasional bird of prey or even a shout out to his gal, who he gives credit for getting him into herping and photography.  Aaron Short was January 2015 Featured Herper.

9.     Big_River_Herping


Kalab is the man behind big_river_herping.  At 14 y/o, he is busting out some great stuff.  Kalab is from Northern Illinois and loves his herps!  With his Canon sx170 in hand, Kalab has captured some amazing photographs of some awesome animals.  Turtles, frogs, and snakes make up the majority of his post.  Please be sure to check out this cool kid!

8.     Zacharge

Zach Lim

Zach is a San Francisco native with an interest in herpetology, field herping, fishing and wildlife photography.  When Zach is out herping, he captures his shots with a Canon Rebel T3i.  This guy is the real deal.  The majority of his account consist of, you guessed it, Herps!  Zach does a great job of balancing his Herp shots with the occasional glimpse into his life outside of herping.  He shares images of friends and family, and pictures of his band.  It is just the right balance of mostly herping with a little of Zach outside of that hobby that dominates his account.  He is a must follow.  Zach is a blogger and maintains a account.  You can find the link to his blog on his Instagram profile.  Zach has written for and you can find it Here.


Emre Cayir

This kid is amazing!  Emre is a field herper from New Jersey.  His account is filled with photos he has taken.  Frogs, Salamanders, Lizards, Turtles, and Snakes, you name it he’s got it.  If you are new to herping or a veteran, his account is a must.  He comes highly recommended by!

6.     Itrains4days

Justin (NoNameKey)

Justin is an amazing photographer and his account will back it up.  His Instagram account is full of Herps, birds, and other nature related shots.  If you are into Herps and need an account to follow, NoNameKey is a must on your list of people you follow.  I have enjoyed his work for some time now.  He has also donated several pictures that are found throughout the articles here at  Here and here are a couple of articles.  Be sure to check out his work.  He also has a flickr account that is in his profile description.

5.     swamprattler


This is most defiantly an account worthy of being followed by any herper!  This guy has some great finds and does a great job capturing their beauty in his photographs.  He has a great variety of herps.  You will get great bird shots also.  He is a great herper and his photography will leave you in awe.  You got to see it for your self.  Check out the swamprattler.  He has also contributed to the Copperhead article here on as well. His Copperhead photo became the feature image.

4.     jryanherps


This 23y/o Oklahoma Herper and all around nature lover will amaze you with his finds and his photography.  The account is full of herps.  I have followed him for some time.  In the beginning, I seen voucher shots of some amazing animals.  I then seen a post were his Christmas present came early and instantly a photographer was born.  His newest shots will amaze you.  This is a must have account on your follow list.

3.     JadedHerper

Josh Young

“Herp Better.”  “Georgia boy who prefers his snakes alive not dead.”  “The only good snake is a live snake.”  “Photographer of nature but mostly herps.”  These are all quotes from his Instagram profile.  His account brings those messages home!  This guy knows his Herps.  I always enjoy checking out what Josh is sharing.  Be sure to follow this guy!

2.     snakemannick

Snakemannick is a 22 y/o field herper with some amazing finds!!  This account features some great reptiles that are photographed nicely.  When you are visiting this account, you cant help but appreciate these amazing animals.  This is a must follow account.  At 3.3k followers, it is clear the rest of the herping community agrees.

1.     kameron_agkistrodon_burgess

This account is off the chain!!  This 22 y/o herper goes by the name of Agkistrodon burgessi, although it’s a funny little scientific name joke, his account is no joke.  This account features some amazing photography of some stellar reptiles.  His account is a combination of both captive bred subjects and those he has found in the field.  This is an account every reptile lover must follow.  Be sure to check it out.

So, like I said before, these accounts are in no particular order.  They each have something to offer to the herping community.  I recommend you check each of them out.  I would also like to point out that I follow many accounts on Instagram and there is no way I could post all the accounts I enjoy on this post.  For all the accounts I follow, check out my “following” list on my personal account at plaxton53.  Thanks for visiting today.  Be sure to leave a comment below with your Instagram account or an account you think others should know about!  Thanks again.

Be kind to each other.  Be kind to the environment.  Always catch and release and, Happy Herping!!



HerpMapper (HM) is a relatively new global herp atlas and data hub project that receives “catch and release” data from the general public, herpers, other citizen scientists, and professionals. HM data are only viewable to county-level to the public, but HerpMapper does make these data freely available to HM Partners – groups that use these recorded observations for research, conservation, and preservation purposes. More more information see our F.A.Q. page.

HerpMapper Wants You!

  • Data contributors
    • Citizen scientists
    • Herpers
    • Professionals
  • Data Partners (view our current list of Partners).
    • National, regional, and local units of government
    • Non-governmental conservation groups
    • Existing herp atlas projects
    • Researchers
    • Other conservation partners
  • Promoters – share our flyer (English, Spanish, Chinese).
    • Website administrators
    • Conservation organizations
    • Herpers and other naturalists

Share with Confidence!

  • Public does not have access to detailed location information (example)
    • County-level only in United States
    • Similar scale for other countries that do not use counties
  • Can choose to completely restrict public access to specific observations
  • Maintain access to data you have submitted
  • Export your data in a wide variety of formats (more upon specific request)

Data is Available!

  • Free access for research, conservation, and preservation purposes
    • Supports one-time requests and continuous access
  • Shared data available at multiple scales
    • City to international-level access
    • Species-specific access
  • Photo or audio vouchers for all observations
  • All observations have a HM accession number (example: HM 39316)

Easy to Use!

  • Easy web interface that extracts voucher metadata when present
  • FREE Mobile Mapper app (Android and Apple) that allows multiple configurations
  • App does NOT need cell signal to work in the field!
  • Options to bulk import existing data sets! See importing data

For more information about contributing or receiving data, or for questions and concerns, contact:

Don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook, follow us @HerpMapper on Twitter, or comment on Field Herp Forum!

Eastern box turtle, Terrapene carolina carolina

Eastern Box Turtle

Terrapene carolina carolina

 The North Carolina State Turtle


Male Eastern Box Turtle By: @cplaxton
Male Eastern Box Turtle
By: @cplaxton

The Eastern Box Turtle is truly one of my favorite turtle species.  This turtle is the only “land turtle” found in my state.  There are so many things that set the Eastern Box Turtle apart from the rest of the State’s species of turtle.  I am glad this little guy was chosen to represent our State.

The Eastern Box Turtle is a subspecies of the “Common Box Turtle”.  The Box Turtle currently has six living subspecies and one known extinct subspecies.  Four subspecies in the United States and the other two subspecies are found in Mexico.

Common Box Turtle Subspecies
  • United States
    • Florida Box Turtle, T.c. bauri
    • Gulf Coast Box Turtle, T.c. major
    • Three-toed Box Turtle, T.c. triunguis
    • Eastern Box Turtle, T.c. carolina
  • Mexico
    • Mexican Box Turtle, T.c. mexicana
    • Yucatan Box Turtle, T.c. yucatana
  • The Extinct Box Turtle of Georgia
    • Putnami Box Turtle, T.c. putnami

This article is focused on the Eastern Box Turtle.  It is the most dominant subspecies and is believed by most scientist to be the primary bloodline of Common Box Turtle.  We hope to eventually get the other members of this species online soon.  Many of the Eastern Box Turtles traits can be found in the other members of the species.

Female Eastern Box Turtle By:  @cplaxton
Female Eastern Box Turtle
By: @cplaxton

The Eastern Box Turtle is a bilobed, or double hinged plastron, turtle.  This allows the turtle to close its shell completely.  This ability to completely inclose it’s self within its shell is one way it can be identified against mud and musk turtles.  The carapace is a highly domed, rounded shell that has variable markings.  In most specimen, the Eastern Box Turtle’s markings are vivid.  The upper jaw is slightly hooked and many have a significant overbite.  The Toes are slightly webbed.

Eastern Box Turtles tend to get slightly larger than other members of the species.  They typically max out around 8 inches but some have been found just over 9 inches.  Males and females are very easily distinguished in Eastern Box Turtles.

How to Distinguish Male and Female

  • Males tend to be larger in overall size and weight
  • Males tend to have red or orange eyes and females tend to have tan, dull yellow, or brown eyes.
  • The female has a more highly domed carapace than males.
  • The plastron of males are concave while the female plastron is flat.
  • Males tend to have more color splashes on the head and feet than females.  Color on the carapace is usually equally colored.
Feeding and Diet:

Eastern Box Turtles feed on a number of things.  They are omnivores, meaning eater of plant and animals.  The Eastern Box Turtle will eat insects, worms and caterpillars, fruit and berries, mushrooms, and even carrion (dead animals).  The Young start out with a higher protein diet (meat) and gradually shift to more veggies as they mature.

I have found Eastern Box Turtles feeding on mushrooms regularly.  They also love cucumber gardens!  I have found them on strawberry farms as well.

General Activity/Behavior:
Old Male Eastern Box Turtle By:  @Geckoman0528
Old Male Eastern Box Turtle
By: @Geckoman0528

In my opinion, the Eastern Box Turtle is one of the most predictable turtles in my home range.  I can tell you before I even leave the house if they will be out or not.  They are fully terrestrial (North Carolina’s only one).  They do however love the occasional bath.  They are diurnal, or day time exclusive.  I find Eastern Box Turtles out within the first hour of daylight and the last couple hours of daylight more than any other time.

The Eastern Box Turtle is a very shy turtle.  They are very quick to go inside their shell and close up.  I have seen them stay in the shell for several minutes.  I have discovered that old males will sometimes stay out of their shell when picked up.

The Eastern Box Turtle is regularly hit by cars on the road.  Just to give you an example, one morning I left for work.  We had a very dry spell up to this particular day.  It hadn’t rained any real amount in 15 days.  The rain came in just before I began my travel to work.  The sun was also just coming up.

On this 8 mile stretch of road between work and my home, I encountered 11 box turtles.  Of the 11 that I seen, 4 were freshly hit.  (I did move the others to safety.  More on this later).


The Eastern Box Turtle can be found in many different kinds of habitat.  They can live in wooded areas, fields, parks, swamps, and sandhills.  Although they are terrestrial, they frequent streams, creeks, and ponds.

Young Male Eastern Box Turtle By:  @Geckoman0528
Young Male Eastern Box Turtle
By: @Geckoman0528

The Eastern Box Turtle matures very slow.  Most do not reach maturity until they are 7 or 8 years old.  There are many that do not reach maturity until they are 10 or 11 years old.  The Eastern Box Turtle mates in early Fall.  The mother will lay 3-6 eggs the following spring. The young, if the nest survives, will hatch late summer early Fall.  The baby Eastern Box Turtle will only be a little over an inch at hatching.

Neat Fact:
Juvenile Eastern Box Turtle By: @Bill_nye_the_herper_guy
Juvenile Eastern Box Turtle
By: @Bill_nye_the_herper_guy

The Eastern Box Turtle deserves credit for a lot of neat facts.  So here it goes:

  1. Males and females are very easily distinguished as pointed out earlier in this article.
  2. The Eastern Box Turtle has a very small range.  Most turtles can be seen in the same field or seen crossing the same paths year after year.
  3. The Eastern Box Turtle has a homing drive.  If this turtle is moved away from its home, IT WILL TRY TO GET BACK HOME.
Herping Tips:

The Eastern Box Turtle is a creature of habit.  Once you learn a turtle you can easily predict his/her next move.  When I was younger, there was an Eastern Box Turtle i seen day after day, year after year.  I hope he is still doing well.

  1. Cruising the roads, at dawn and dusk, on rainy days yield good results.  I love looking for them when conditions are right because I want to get them out of the road.  (***If you find a Box Turtle in the road, carry him/her off the road in the direction he/she was headed***)
  2. Look along creeks, pools, ponds, and streams.  Especially when it has been dry for several days.
  3. Look in the underbrush.
  4. LISTEN….. I have found many Eastern Box Turtles just investigating the rustle of leaves and pine-straw.
Male and Female Box Turtle By: @cplaxton
Male and Female Box Turtle
By: @cplaxton
Special Note of Concern***

The Box Turtle (including all subspecies) are homing turtles.  DO NOT try to relocate.  If found in an unsafe area such as a road, move the turtle to a safe spot in the direction the turtle was heading.  A turtle that has been relocated will very likely die trying to get back to its home.  Especially if crossing a road is required to get home.

**  This is a quick observe, leave where you found species **

In many places, it is against the law to disturb Terrapene carolina.  Know the laws in your area.