A Call to Count Your Snakes for Conservation
For most people, trepidation usually sets in after someone has an encounter with a snake. Other times, people will go out of their way to pick snakes up, observe and release them without causing harm. Whether you walk toward snakes or run from them, their presence fills an important role in the functioning ecosystems where they are found.
Snakes are natural predators and will feed on a variety of food sources. Smaller species of snakes will feed on earthworms and insects while larger species will prey on mice, rats and other small mammals. In some instances snakes will serve as prey for larger animals such as hawks, owls and herons. We know that snakes are a key component in the balance of the ecosystem and their removal will have a direct impact on the ecosystem’s success.
Happy Snakes Mean Healthy Lands
Snakes are an important indicator in the health of our natural areas and it is vital for us to understand as much as we can about their presence or absence. Citizen science can play an integral role in understanding population densities and with February 1 being Serpent Day, what better way to celebrate than by submitting observations to a national database used by professional scientists. The Pennsylvania Amphibian and Reptile survey is a state sponsored project that can help determine the distribution and status of all amphibians and reptiles throughout the state. The project is a joint venture between the PA Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) and the Mid-Atlantic Center for Herpetology and Conservation (MACHAC), funded by the PFBC (via the US Fish & Wildlife Service's State Wildlife Grants Program), the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (Wildlife Resources Conservation Program), and MACHAC. I highly recommend everyone volunteer for the PA Herp Survey and influence the states amphibian and reptile populations.
Looking at Snakes a Little Differently This Spring
A favorite author of mine, John Muir, once wrote “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” Understanding the fear usually associated with snakes, I encourage you this spring, if you encounter one while outside, think how that species is interconnected with the environment around you. Then, enter that sighting into the PA Amphibian and Reptile Survey. If you have any questions about what snake species may be found on your property, please contact Kevin Fryberger at firstname.lastname@example.org.