A Stroll in the Sods

The highest valley east of the Rocky Mountains is Canaan Valley, WV.  This fascinating area is comprised of flora and fauna normally found much farther north.  I had been here a few other times, but always in winter.  Now, the snow had finally melted, the valley was green instead of white, and I was ready for some snakes instead of skis.

 A few of my friends and I stayed at a beautiful house in the ski resort area of Timberline, which has a ski run named “The Salamander” after the Cheat Mountain salamander which is found in the area.  (I didn’t find any while I was here.)  It was the second weekend in July 2010, and it had been super hot all week – but luckily for us, the weather cooled off while we were there.


Hiking, Not Skiing, Up the Salamander

We started out our first day by hiking part way up The Salamander to gain access into the Dolly Sods Wilderness.  Due to the high altitude and cooler weather, the Sods are home to plants not typically found this far south.


Aaah, the cool, cool Dolly Sods

The summers in the Sods are also filled with blueberries.  Yummy, delicious wild blueberries.  What a treat!


Mmmmmmm – wild blueberries!

We found plenty of cool plants, awesome views, delicious blueberries and beautiful bird songs – but we did not find any herps.  We did, however, find some amazing ants and some angry yellow jackets.


GIANT Ant Hill

The next day – we decided to explore a large wilderness area owned by the Canaan Valley Institute. It was apparent that this area was home to bears and possibly bobcats due to the tracks and scat we saw on the trails.


Bear Print

Eastern red-spotted newts, green frogs, and tons of tadpoles were all found in the ponds and wetlands on the property. And we found 8 red-bellied snakes under various logs and rocks.


Red-bellied Snake


Red-bellied Snake

When we turned over another log, we discovered a snake I had a little trouble identifying. It took me a few seconds, but I realized it was an anerythristic garter snake! This garter snake lacked all of his yellow pigment, so it did not have the typical yellow stripe on his back. He was COOL!


Anerythristic Garter Snake

The Dolly Sods and the Canaan Valley of West Virginia are an amazing place to explore.  I plan on going back to uncover more secrets of Sods!

Creature Feature: Brad Pratt

Brad Pratt

Animal Keeper & Wildlife Educator



Reptiles Alive Name: “Boa Brad; aka Showtastic”

Hissstory: Boa Brad was relocated to Reptiles Alive from a fish & water quality research project  in February 2010.

RA Diet: Brad enjoys eating  packed lunches of leftovers or a delicious sammie.

Natural Diet: Greens, meats, processed human food.

Range: Boa Brad has lived in Vermont, New York, Virginia, Italy and Spain.

Habitat: You can find Boa Brad working in the animal rooms at Reptiles Alive HQ, or out in the field performing live reptile shows at birthdays, scout meetings, schools, and all kinds of events.  He also enjoys forays into wild areas for hiking and outdoor fun.

Size: Brad has reached a total length of 6’1″.

Lifespan: Boa Brad could live to 90  years or more.

Reproduction: Boa Brad has been mated for 10 years and has produced three offspring.

Conservation: In addition to working at Reptiles Alive, Boa Brad is currently attending George Mason University and is working towards graduating with a Masters of Science degree in Environmental Science. His long term goals include studying the effects of toxic chemicals in the environment to help in the conservation of endangered habitats.

Cool Facts: As the Lead Animal Keeper at Reptiles Alive, Boa Brad is in charge of the daily care and feeding of more than 50 different animals.  Brad enjoys working with the animals on such a personal level.  He has even come up with theme songs for some of them.  For example, when he works with Janis the leopard tortoise, he thinks of “Low Rider” by the band War and when he sees Major Gary the plated lizard, he thinks of Joe Walsh singing “Life’s Been Good to Me So Far.”

As a Wildlife Educator, Brad combines the skills he learned as an English teacher along with his funny, easy going personality. Children and adults laugh out loud during his fun programs.  Boa Brad lovesssssss reptiles and hopes you will too!