Friday, January 6, 2017

Readers Write In: On Amphibian Garden Neighbors


Good evening Dr. Steen,

It's been a long while since I have frequented your blog, buwhenever I am in my yard and gardens I think of you. Once upon a time I worked in the herp trade and seem to have done a fair job passing my live for wildlife on to my two daughters. Today I was prepping some of my Central NC yard for fall/winter and ran into a lot of fun stuff (as usual.)

One photo (not a very exciting find) is of a regular who lives under my barbecue but was out in plain sight today. My dog learned a long time ago that said regular tastes bad, and she steers clear these days. 

The second/third photo are of a critter that threw me for a loop. I thought I had a clear idea of what it was, but was very surprised once I'd finally identified it.

I apologize for the cryptic email, but I am selfishly hoping you'll post this as it's something a little different for your detectives to ID. Hopefully everybody is as surprised about #2 as I was for the sake of my ego!

I also have an as of yet unidentified Ranid that lives in my tomatoes that I haven't been able to catch for photos yet. 

Respectfully,


Matt M.

North Carolina


Monday, December 26, 2016

The Animals That Went Extinct in 2016

    It's a tradition here at Living Alongside Wildlife to gather in one place a summary of all the animals that went extinct in the previous year. Click here for the 201520142013, and 2012 editions. Let's get into it: 2015 was a pretty good year but our luck ran out in 2016.


Courtesy: Ian Bell/Queensland Department
of Environment and Heritage Protection
The Bramble Cays Melomys is likely extinct. The rodent lived on a small island off of Australia and was last seen in 2009. An intensive search effort in 2014 failed to turn one up. Importantly, the extinction of this small mammal is being attributed to climate change (the first mammal to receive this honor). Sea level rise resulted in the island being inundated with water several times which was bad news for both the animals and their habitat.

The San Cristóbal vermilion flycatcher, a bird only known from the Galapagos Islands and not seen since 1987, is extinct. The extinction of this bird was likely hastened by invasive rats that did not belong on the islands. Interestingly, we did not even know it was a species until after it was gone...It is the first bird species to have gone extinct in the Galapagos, I hope it's the last.


Courtesy: Atlanta Botanical Garden
The Rabb's Treefrog has gone extinct. We knew this one was coming for a while; it was last seen in the wilds of Panama in 2007. A captive animal has lived at the Atlanta Botanical Garden for years but he passed away late in September. The species probably went extinct because of a deadly fungus that is hammering amphibian populations in Central America: chytrid.

The Stephan's Riffle Beetle and Tatum Cave Beetle have gone extinct. These animals were only known from Arizona and Kentucky, respectively. Frustratingly, we've known for many years that these insects needed federal protection, but they never got it. Now they're gone forever. We can point to development of their habitat when figuring out why these species went extinct.

The Barbados Racer from, you guessed it, Barbados, is officially extinct. The last snake was seen in 1963 and likely disappeared because they were eaten by invasive mongoose.

Are you ready for this? Check out John Platt's excellent Extinction Countdown column to learn about the extinction of thirteen bird species: the Bermuda towhee (Pipilo naufragus), Réunion fody (Foudia delloni), Raiatea starling (also known as the “mysterious bird of Ulieta,” Aplonis ulietensis), Oʻahu ʻakepa (Loxops wolstenholmei), Laysan honeycreeper (Himatione fraithii), Mangareva reed warbler (Acrocephalus astrolabii), Aguijan reed warbler (Acrocephalus nijoi), least vermillion flycatcher (Pyrocephalus dubius), Foster’s reed-warbler (Acrocephalus musae), Marianne white-eye (Zosterops semiflavus), Kauia Akialoa (Akialoa stejnegeri), Lanai Akialoa (Akialoa lanaiensis), and the Pagan reed warbler (Acrocephalus yamashinae). None of these animals were recognized as being unique species until after they were gone. These were all island species and likely went extinct because of invasive predators.

Local Extinctions (Extirpations)

Tigers were declared extinct in Cambodia. This is something they've probably known for a few years at least (the last one was documented in 2007), but it was made official this year together with the announcement that they are planning a reintroduction effort. So, there is a silver lining.


Courtesy: Fernando Trujillo / WWF Greater Mekong
The Irrawaddy River Dolphin is functionally extinct in LaosThis means that some may be hanging on (like...three) but not enough for them to play an ecological role and probably not enough for them to hang around much longer. Fishing with gill-nets has likely played a large role in bringing about their dire status.

Once widespread through the deserts of Africa, we can look to the Addax Antelope for another possible example of a functional extinction. It seems as though there are only three wild animals left, in Niger. Poaching by soldiers has played a large role in knocking the species out. Fortunately there are a number of Addax in captivity - but work needs to be done before it would be safe to release any. 

Simply listing the species that went extinct in a given year is surprisingly tricky. Here are my answers to some commonly asked questions.

1. Just because we are always discovering "new" species doesn't mean we are offsetting extinctions somehow. When we discover a new species it is not actually new to Earth, it is just new to us. In other words, a new life form was not just created, we just happened to learn about it. There is a limited pool of species and the total number of species is decreasing. Evolution leads to the creation of new species but not on a time scale that is relevant to this conversation.

2. Human beings are one of the species on Earth. That does not mean that anything and everything we do is natural and therefore okay, even if it means causing species to go extinct. Other species have value and we should act accordingly to keep them around.


3. In my list I include species that went extinct in a globally significant region even if the species might still exist somewhere else. I think these local extinctions (called extirpations) are important. You might decide not to include them in your list of extinctions.


4. I include in my list species that went extinct in the wild, even if some individuals may still exist in captivity. See above.


5. It is often impossible to know when a species went biologically extinct. That is, there is often no way of knowing when the last individual of a given species dies. So, I often include in my list species that were declared extinct, this official designation often occurs many years after the last actual death. Again, you may not include them in your list of extinctions, but I do.


6. It is not unusual to "rediscover" a species that we thought was extinct. That is always great news. But, they are usually still critically endangered and often "really" go extinct afterwards.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Blue Aster Studio and the Quest for the Perfect Snake Art ---Guest Post---

    Hello, Living Alongside Wildlife readers! My name is David Orr, and with my wife Jennie, I run a small design firm called Blue Aster Studio. We do work ranging from illustration and branding to designing full presentations and websites. Because of our shared passion for the environment, we especially enjoy working with organizations and researchers in their conservation outreach efforts. Today, I’d like to share our process in creating outreach graphics for David Steen.



    I’ve been following David on Twitter for a while now. He’s why I know about the indigo snake. He educated me about the fact that rattlesnake round-ups exist, and how heinous they are. So when he asked to work together, Jennie and I jumped at the chance. He told us that he would love to have graphics to support his interactions on the #NotACopperhead and #NotACottonmouth hashtags, so each tweet could have more information than Twitter’s 140 characters can convey.

    David wanted something bright and eye-catching, rather than “field guide” type imagery, which we felt tied in nicely with his mantra of “Don’t Hate, Educate.” Our mission was to create work that would surprise and delight people, even as they were… gasp... being corrected by an expert. We asked David to give us a list of the snakes most commonly mistaken for copperheads and cottonmouths, as well as a set of factoids about each species. 

    Having this content was the foundation of everything, and the design process began. First, we created a visual identity that would unite all of the graphics: a set of fonts, colors, and other graphic elements. This also included the logo. We tried various ways to make a snake interact with the
#NotACopperhead and #NotACottonmouth hashtags, eventually settling on a pennant design, with a rat snake wrapped around the flagpole.

    We shared a draft of the logo with David along with one snake illustration, to be sure that we were on the same page. When he gave the thumbs up to both (he liked that the logo reminded him of the “victory” flag at the end of Super Mario levels), I moved on to completing the set of seven snake illustrations and incorporating them into the two sets of shareable graphics. One was a simple “You found a…” design that would correctly identify a snake. The other incorporated the factoids for each species, between three and five for each. To keep them varied, each graphic used a different combination of colors and textures. We wound up with three dozen individual graphics!


    Since David also wanted to benefit snake conservation in some way, we created a line of merchandise to sell from a special section of our on-line shop, called the Snake Shop. Half of all proceeds go to Advocates for Snake Preservation, who work to improve the way people interact with snakes. I’m happy to say that since launching the shop in September, we’ve raised about $85 for the organization!

    Finally, we pitched the idea of holding an event to bring together snake experts with the public, as well as launch David’s shiny new set of graphics. Thus, the #SnakeTownHall was born. Early in September, we brought together an international group of researchers and conservationists and helpd a two hour event on Twitter to allow folks to ask their burning snake questions (to clarify, these were not questions about burning snakes - not that I recall, at least). It seems to have been a hit, with participants leaving excited for the next one, and advocates of other organisms pondering running their own virtual town halls. We certainly learned a lot about snakes and about running events like this, and we’re also eager to try it again.

    In all, working with David has been a great experience. It’s always a treat to see designs “out in the wild,” and the fact that we’re directly contributing to improving the lot of snakes in this country is a terrific feeling. We’ve got another project we’ve discussed as a follow-up, so keep your eyes peeled for that, too!



Click here for more information 
about Blue Aster Studio and 
please visit the Snake Shop!




Friday, December 16, 2016

This Week's Snake Identification Challenge: These Are...Not Snakes...

This guy was traveling across a path through the marsh at Ft. Pulaski in the Tybee Island area of Georgia. I'm fairly certain it is a legless lizard and not a snake, but I'm curious to know what kind. Thanks,

Kim K.
Georgia




David,


On the Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation today, I got
 these pics of a Glass Lizard, perhaps the biggest I've seen. I'm not sure if the pics are good enough for ID. I used to be able to ID them, but have forgotten the keys. Size 9 boot for comparison.


David S.
Florida

What Are These?
-----

Snake Identification Post Ground Rules

-Guesses are welcome and encouraged. Don't worry if you're not an expert, wrong guesses allow us to talk about how to distinguish between the various species and that's why I run these posts.

-If you can't explain why you think a snake is a particular species, go ahead and just say what you think it is. But otherwise please do let us all know how you identified the animal. If you're wrong, we can explain why. If you're right, this helps everyone learn how to identify snakes, which is the point of these posts.

-This is not a pop quiz, any kind of research is encouraged and I hope you will engage with other commenters to try to figure these snakes out. I will eventually chime in with my thoughts.

-Assume I know what kind of snake is in the picture. I run these posts because they are outreach opportunities. Please don't send me private e-mails with your guesses, include them below.

-Remember, the person that sent me the picture is probably reading your comments. Although it is frustrating to know that many of these snakes have been killed, these people do want to learn more about them. More snake knowledge will lead to fewer snakes being killed. Don't hate, educate.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Week's Snake Identification Challenge (Dead Snake Warning): Closely Related Snakes Require Checking Details and Location - Good Luck!



Could you help identify this snake? See attached. It was 
found last week by Cook’s Pest Control at our gameday house in Auburn.

David J.
Alabama











Greetings,

This snake was going across the street when it was ran over.
 The street is close to my house and I have grandkids so I'm very concerned. Please help and identify this snake in TN.


Tina L.
Tennessee









Can you identify the attached snake?

Thank you

Janet B.
No Location











What kind of snake is this? I live in Oklahoma.

George S.
Oklahoma




What Are These Snakes?
-----

Snake Identification Post Ground Rules

-Guesses are welcome and encouraged. Don't worry if you're not an expert, wrong guesses allow us to talk about how to distinguish between the various species and that's why I run these posts.

-If you can't explain why you think a snake is a particular species, go ahead and just say what you think it is. But otherwise please do let us all know how you identified the animal. If you're wrong, we can explain why. If you're right, this helps everyone learn how to identify snakes, which is the point of these posts.

-This is not a pop quiz, any kind of research is encouraged and I hope you will engage with other commenters to try to figure these snakes out. I will eventually chime in with my thoughts.

-Assume I know what kind of snake is in the picture. I run these posts because they are outreach opportunities. Please don't send me private e-mails with your guesses, include them below.

-Remember, the person that sent me the picture is probably reading your comments. Although it is frustrating to know that many of these snakes have been killed, these people do want to learn more about them. More snake knowledge will lead to fewer snakes being killed. Don't hate, educate.

Friday, October 28, 2016

This Week's Snake Identification Challenge: One Of These Baby Snakes Is Not Like The Other





Good afternoon

I am writing in regards to a species of snakes that I have noticed around my yard here in North Miami Florida. I have attached some pictures to see if maybe you can educate my family and myself on what species of snake this is. The pictures are of baby snakes I believe, but my mother states she has seen a much larger one that we think may be the mother. We would greatly appreciate any advice you have to offer along with any idea of what kind of species this might be.


Thank you,
Elizabeth C.
Florida





Hello

I live in Ft Lauderdale and found this guy in my driveway 
dead - I have to assume I ran over him. Although I am on a dry lot- I am 3 houses from the river. I'm thinking this maybe a young water snake based on color. Since I have dogs - I am concerned if this could be dangerous and need to keep a closer eye on my dogs when in the yard. Thank you for your assistance.

Regards,
Brenda H.
Florida

 





Can you id this snake found in my garage in clermont fl

Thanks

Susan
Florida

















Please tell me what is the snake. I'm sure it's not poisonous but I still wanna be sure. Thank You.

Leon C.




What Are These Snakes?
-----

Snake Identification Post Ground Rules

-Guesses are welcome and encouraged. Don't worry if you're not an expert, wrong guesses allow us to talk about how to distinguish between the various species and that's why I run these posts.

-If you can't explain why you think a snake is a particular species, go ahead and just say what you think it is. But otherwise please do let us all know how you identified the animal. If you're wrong, we can explain why. If you're right, this helps everyone learn how to identify snakes, which is the point of these posts.

-This is not a pop quiz, any kind of research is encouraged and I hope you will engage with other commenters to try to figure these snakes out. I will eventually chime in with my thoughts.

-Assume I know what kind of snake is in the picture. I run these posts because they are outreach opportunities. Please don't send me private e-mails with your guesses, include them below.

-Remember, the person that sent me the picture is probably reading your comments. Although it is frustrating to know that many of these snakes have been killed, these people do want to learn more about them. More snake knowledge will lead to fewer snakes being killed. Don't hate, educate.