LIVINGSTON — Wildlife such as bears, wolves, and elk are the typical creatures that visitors to Montana and Yellowstone National Park expect to see. Snakes, on the other hand, aren't very common, especially not a member of the boa family.
Hessler spotted the six to eight-inch snake while hiking just outside Yellowstone and at first he thought it was an earthworm.
"I was so stoked when I saw it. I was like, 'Oh, my god, a rubber boa," said Frank Hessler, owner of Livingston-based Mountain Men Guiding LLC.
He recalled, "I ducked down to look at it and I’m like, 'Wait, wait, no, MY GOSH! THAT’S, THAT’S A RUBBER BOA!'"
The rubber boa is one of two boa species found in North America, and the most northerly found in a handful of western states.
There are ten species of snake that are native to Montana but a rubber boa sighting is the rarest, largely because they're nocturnal.
This was the second sighting for Hessler in his life. His first was more than a decade ago.
"I saw one in like 2008 right by the boiling river in Yellowstone and I had no idea what it was then, so you do a little research and look it up," said Hessler.
They get their name from their rubbery feel and appearance. From the Montana Field Guide:
Rubber Boas are secretive, slow-moving, docile snakes, usually found under logs and rocks in either moist or dry forest habitats. They are primarily nocturnal, but occasionally may be observed sunning on roads, trails, or in open areas. They feed primarily on small mice but also take shrews, salamanders, snakes, and lizards.
And although the one Hessler spotted was small, they can grow to a little over two feet long.
Hessler is used to seeing tons of various wildlife in his line of work, but this was an experience that will be hard to top.
"It was a really cool experience, super random just sitting in the middle of the trail just sunning himself as it was getting cooler out," said Hessler.
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