Sunday, September 9, 2012

2012 Fall Snake Count

"Citizen Science" has slithered a long way in a short time.

In northwestern Montana we have inquisitive-but-otherwise-normal citizens volunteering on projects involving migratory waterfowl, resident Common Loons, and even wolverines. And on the 'net we've got ordinary people around the country who are providing regional experts with valuable observations and digital photos of insects and spiders, butterflies and moths and migratory dragonflies.

And next week brings us the second annual "Fall Snake Count," conducted by citizen scientists and managed by the Center for Snake Conservation based out of Louisville, Colorado. The CSC's stated mission is, "To promote the conservation of snakes and their natural ecosystems and implement positive change in human attitudes towards snakes." Now that's a pair of tall tasks.

The first-ever 2011 Snake Count was a big success, so it'll be interesting to see how much it grows in a year. Last year more than 200 inquisitive volunteers from 30 states signed up and counted 535 snakes of 92 different species. Colorado was the hot spot (45 snakes counted), followed by Iowa (37) and Illinois (36). Florida and North Carolina tied for the most diversity with 14 different snake species observed. The Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis) was the most common species last year, with 49 individuals recorded in 13 states.

Most of Montana has Gartersnakes living peacefully at darn near every lake, creek and mud puddle. But in 2011, Montana was a no-show. Even Wyoming and Idaho turned out last year, for goodness sakes. Help me make a stand for Montana this year - and help the CSC gather baseline data to promote the conservation of our native reptiles.

Terrestrial Gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans)
A harmless, native Terrestrial Gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans) visiting my front yard last week.