Showing posts with label Liochlorophis vernalis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Liochlorophis vernalis. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Buffer Zones For Snakes in Agricultural Landscapes

The Eastern Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis. JCM
Roadside shoulders covered with vegetation, and gallery vegetation growing along streams that run through agricultural fields can act as buffers and corridors for wildlife. These linear strips of habitat are all that remains for hundreds of thousands of square miles that have been turned into the breadbasket for America. Land management agencies in the United States promote conservation buffer strips as beneficial to wildlife populations but little is known about how snake use these habitats, Knoot and Best (2011) evaluated the influence of buffer design, management, and surrounding landscape characteristics on snake occurrence in gallery grasslands along waterways in southeastern Iowa. They documented snakes in about 80% of the areas and captured 119 individuals representing five species (Storeria dekayi, Thamnophis sirtalis, Thamnophis radix, Liochlorophis (=Opheodrys) vernalis, Elaphe (=Pantherophis) vulpina). The Smooth Green Snake (Liochlorophis vernalis), is listed as a species of concern in Iowa. The width of the waterway was the best predictor of snake presence for three of the five species. The Plains Garter Snake was most often in grass-lined waterways farther from wooded habitat; a finding that is consistent with the observation that Plains Garter Snakes are more often found in open habitats; while the Smooth Green Snake was more often associated with waterways with greater plant litter cover but the reverse was the habitat most often assocaited with the Eastern Garter Snake. Most research on buffers in agricultural has focused habitat for birds and butterflies, but this project suggests that snakes can also be managed in these narrow buffer zones of habitat. This paper is available on-line.

Knoot, T. G. and L. B. Best. 2011. A multiscale approach to understanding snake use of conservation buffer strips in an agricultural landscape. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 6:191-201.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Smooth Green Snake Release in Libertyville, Illinois

The Buffalo-GrovePatch is reporting the introduction/release of the smooth green snake (Liochlorophis vernalis ) in into the Old School Forest Preserve in Libertyville, Illinois

Half were sent directly into the wild (so-called “hard release”), while half were released into pre-release enclosures within the preserve (so-called “soft release”) where they will spend some time getting accustomed to being wild while still being contained in a controlled, managed environment designed to limit predators of the snake. Over the course of the summer about a dozen more snakes will be released – some of which will have very tiny radio transmitters affixed to them so the biologists are better able to track their movements and keep tabs on their survival success rates.

An exceptionally small insectivore, these snakes are difficult to spot in their grassland prairie habitat. They are also difficult to find because they have become so rare in Illinois. A collaborative conservation effort between Lincoln Park Zoo and Lake County Forest Preserves aims to boost their population numbers through scientific study, breeding, monitoring and reintroduction efforts.

Lake County Forest Preserves Wildlife Biologist Gary Glowacki explained that for more than a decade the District has purchased and/or restored a significant amount of lands containing suitable smooth green snake habitat. “Despite this, the snake is still found only in a handful of isolated areas in Lake County that contain remnant grassland habitat,” he said. “The remaining populations may not be viable in the long-term due to small numbers and because habitat fragmentation, primarily due to roads and other physical barriers, makes re-colonization of restored sites improbable.”

According to the Illinois Comprehensive Wildlife Action Plan and Strategy, the smooth green snake is identified as a Species in Greatest Need of Conservation. Populations of this species are declining due to habitat loss, conversion of grasslands into agriculture, urbanization, and the widespread use of pesticides. “Currently, Illinois only has less than 1 percent of its pre-settlement prairie acreage remaining, so species that depend on grasslands are in need of conservation,” said Lincoln Park Zoo Reintroduction Biologist, Allison Sacerdote.

With little chance of natural recovery, the Lake County Forest Preserves and the zoo established a partnership in 2010 to aid the recovery process through population supplementation, translocation, and reintroduction into suitable habitat.

The partnership’s first challenge was to locate the snakes last summer – not an easy proposition with such a small population of tiny snakes that blend in so well with the grasses. But hard work paid off when a few adult snakes were located and brought to the zoo for breeding, and a large communal nest of more than 80 smooth green snake eggs was discovered in an undesirable location that is slated for development. The eggs were taken to the zoo for incubation and 83 neonates hatched in mid-summer 2010.

The biologists and animal care staff at the zoo are breaking new ground with the care and study of this species. Very little is known about it as there are no published accounts of any other accredited zoo ever caring for this species, and very few scientific studies related to the species. As such, the team is employing a number of different rearing and reintroduction techniques for the neonates to determine which methods garner the highest success rate.

“We hope that this recovery program will not only restore a more robust population of this species in Illinois, but our work may also be a model for other organizations and regions seeking to help this species recover,” Sacerdote said.