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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Reptiles Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
reptiles

Lewis and Clark described fewer than a dozen reptiles. We can only guess why so few were treated in their journals. Perhaps they found capturing small turtles, lizards and snakes too trying. Maybe they were not very interested in scaled animals. This recalls an early criticism leveled at Thomas Jefferson. The expedition did not include a qualified scientist/naturalist. Without a professional naturalist in the party Meriwether Lewis was burdened with far too many responsibilities to carry out a thorough treatment of the flora and fauna. The more abundant, dangerous, or odd animals were the ones most frequently recorded. Small, harmless lizards did not get much attention. Rattlesnakes could not be ignored.
Across the plains and into the Rocky Mountains, the men saw and killed rattlesnakes regularly. With rattlesnakes just about everywhere, there were many close calls and near misses. In fact, only one man was bitten. For the victim there was no anti-venom, no snakebite kit, and no hospital care. The men had to stay alert at all times.


Species Common Name
Pituophis catenifer Blainville bull snake, gopher snake
Thamnophis spp. garter snake
Chrysemys picta Schneider painted turtle
Phrynosoma douglasii Bell pygmy short-horned lizard, short-horned lizard
Apalone spinifera Lesueur spiny softshell, spiny softshell turtle
Phrynosoma cornutum Harlan Texas horned lizard
Sceloporus occidentalis Baird and Girard western fence lizard
Heterodon nasicus Baird and Girard western hognose snake
Crotalus viridis Rafinesque western rattlesnake

 
 
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