Journals of Lewis and Clark: Reptiles

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The Journals of Lewis and Clark: The Reptiles
The following excerpts are taken from entries of the Journals of Lewis and Clark - Reptiles. A general description of the beasts, Animals and Reptiles, &c. found by the party in this expedition.

The reptiles of this country are the rattlesnake, the gartersnake, lizard, and snail.

The Gartersnake
The gartersnake appears to belong to the same family with the common gartersnakes of the Atlantic coast, and like that snake they inherit no poisonous qualities: they have one hundred and sixty scuta on the abdomen, and seventy on the tail: those on the abdomen near the head and jaws as high as the eye, are of a bluish white, which, as it recedes from the head, becomes of a dark brown: the field of the back and sides black: a narrow stripe of a light yellow runs along the centre of the back; on each side of this stripe there is a range of small transverse, oblong spots, of a pale brick red, diminishing as they recede from the head, and disappear at the commencement of the tail: the pupil of the eye is black, with a narrow ring of white bordering on its edge; the remainder of the iris is of a dark yellowish brown.

The Horned Lizzard
The horned lizard, called, and for what reason we never could learn, the prairie buffalo, is a native of these plains, as well as those on the Missouri: they are of the same size, and much the same in appearance as the black lizard: the belly is however broader, the tail shorter, and the action much slower: the color is generally brown intermixed with yellowish brown spots: the animal is covered with minute scales, interspersed with small horny points, like blunt prickes on the upper surface of the body: the belly and throat resemble those of the frog, and are of a light yellowish brown: the edge of the belly is likewise beset with small horny projections, imparting to those edges a serrate appearance: the eye is small and dark: above and behind the eyes there are several projections of that bone, and their extremities also being armed with a firm black substance, resemble the appearance of horns sprouting from the head: these animals are found in greatest numbers in the sandy open plains, and appear in the greatest abundance after a shower of rain: they are sometimes found basking in the sunshine, but conceal themselves in little holes of the earth in much the greatest proportion of the time: this may account for their appearance in such numbers after the rain, as their holes may thus be rendered untenantable.

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