Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Roundup: This Week's Wildlife Links (August 28th, 2013)

Cool pic. When your catch becomes bait or, a shark within a shark.

Cooking invasive species. Includes a recipe for Nutria egg rolls, which caused me to wonder for a moment what a Nutria egg was.

Bears are suffering worldwide because of the demand for their gallbladders.

The end of Finding Nemo II will no longer have the characters living in captivity.

Somehow, a co-worker once convinced me that Velvet Ants don't sting. Boy, did I ever find out she was joking. An article about the incredibly painful stings of this animal.

A few religious people in California are excited about a tree weeping tears from their deity of choice. Actually, the tears are just excrement from insects. Close your mouths, folks.

Gray Wolf confirmed killed in Kentucky. Anyone have more details about this?

Penis snake discovered in Brazil. Found to be a bit of a misnomer.

It's been a while since we've had a Ratsnake Freakout. Missouri Illinois residents terrified of harmless snakes. Of course, locals believe they are Cottonmouths.

Hellbenders are being reintroduced in New York.

Male rattlesnakes may engage in ritualized combat over mates. It's an incredible behavior that is a combination of both dance and wrestling. It's also often mistaken for mating, such as in the case of these two Timber Rattlesnakes observed in Alabama.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Readers Write In: Is this a Pickerel Frog or Something Else?

Hey David –
My budding herpetologist and I are looking for your help again.
My daughter found this little girl the other night and we can’t figure out for sure what type of frog this is. I was leaning towards a Pickerel Frog but the edges of the spots aren’t as defined as I see in our frog book.
Our location is about 15 miles north of Atlanta. We are on a three acre pond but this frog was actually up by our backdoor near our garden if that helps at all.

Jeff G.
Roswell, Georgia

    By looking at the body shape of this frog, we can quickly determine that it is of the Lithobates genus, these are considered the "true frogs". When you ask most people to close their eyes and imagine a frog, they will think of a Lithobatid frog. Notice the large powerful legs (for leaping), robust body, and the long toes. This is definitely not a treefrog.

    Lithobatid frogs include the well-known species like Bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus) and Bronze Frogs (also known as Banjo Frogs, Lithobates clamitans). The distinct markings on this frog eliminate those relatively drab and un-patterned animals and quickly lead us to one of two suspects.

   The Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris) can be found in the northern half of Georgia and the Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus) is found throughout the State. At first glance, they can seem quite similar. Leopard Frogs are generally more common and you can hear their chuckling calls at just about any time of year. Pickerel Frogs, on the other hand, have more specific habitat requirements. In some regions, just about the only place you can find them are in caves! But, they are not limited to these habitats, this spring I heard a few uttering their long, snoring-sound calls from the pond in front of my previous home in southwestern Virginia.

    Pickerel Frogs have two rows of square-like spots running down the back of their body while Leopard Frogs have spots that are generally circular and not always in rows. Pickerel Frogs also have bright orange spots on the back of their legs that Leopard Frogs do not have, but that doesn't help us here. As noted in a previous post, night photography can be tricky and deceiving. Similarly, Leopard Frogs generally have a light-colored spot on their tympanum (ear drum) but we can't see it from this angle.

   I have my guess, what is yours? I think this identification might be a little tricky because the patterning on this animal is a little unusual but I am confident we will come to a satisfying answer. If you have any, please share your tips for differentiating Pickerel Frogs from Leopard Frogs.  Guesses are welcome and encouraged!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Indigo Success

By Jim Godwin

    It’s the end of another season of monitoring of the Eastern Indigo Snake reintroduction project in Conecuh National Forest. During the winter months biologists and experienced volunteers have been systematically scouring the sandhills and longleaf forest for indigo snakes, using Gopher Tortoise burrows as cues in their searches. With the close of this round of monitoring we have documented a score of males attending females, multiple gravid females, and a few juveniles. Supplemental snake releases have been curtailed as the number of sightings of snakes has increased in the past few years and solid documentation of reproduction, population growth and expansion is now a fact. The Eastern Indigo Snake reintroduction into Conecuh National Forest is a biological success.

    Okay, so the preceding paragraph is a complete fabrication, but this is the level we wish to reach before we are confident that our efforts with the indigo snake have been successful. 

    In a previous blog post a question from a reader was put forth, how do we measure success of this indigo snake reintroduction? The question is simple, the answer is not. Our ultimate goal is to establish a self-sustaining population of the Eastern Indigo Snake in Conecuh National Forest, that is, a population that can maintain itself without human intervention. So, how do we know when we have reached that goal? And are there other measures of success to this project? 

    The simple indication that we are on the road to having a self-sustaining and reproducing population will be with the first capture of a snake lacking a PIT tag; each snake that we have hatched in the lab has received a PIT tag. PIT is an acronym for Passive Integrated Transponder. Every PIT tag, about the size of a grain of rice, carries a unique code, such as 3D9.1C2D31F90F. PIT tags never wear out, thus will last throughout the life of a snake. But to know the code carried on a PIT tag a PIT tag reader must be used. The reader sends a signal that is reflected from the PIT tag which is then shown on the screen of the reader, thus allowing a researcher to know the identity of the snake. 

    But merely finding one snake lacking a tag is not sufficient evidence that we now have a viable population, but it is a good first step. The real answer to the question may not come for decades. The key to this is, of course, reproduction, and this begs the question - can the snakes reproduce in the wild?  Keep in mind these snakes, until being released, have spent the entirety of their lives in isolation in a small plastic tub. And this leads to another question – has captivity altered their instinct to reproduce? I’ll answer the questions with a few examples. 

    Radio-telemetry has been vital tool in researching the fate of the released snakes. With the first three releases most of the snakes contained a radio transmitter, and due to the small size of the snakes the transmitters had to be small. The transmitters run on a battery and the small transmitters initially used had a battery life of less than a year. Snakes were released in the spring and had to be recaptured after the first winter of living in the wild because we wanted to replace the small transmitter with one with a longer battery life. 

    In the spring of 2011 we brought the 2 ½ year old snakes back into the lab for transmitter replacement. One female (A6) had a “dead” transmitter, yet when we scanned for her PIT tag we realized that this was a snake we thought had  died the previous summer. Huh!?!? Back in the summer the transmitter belonging to A6 was found lying on the ground therefore we assumed she had died. Yet some months later her PIT tag tells a different story and we began to suspect that she had lost the transmitter. To confirm this we had her x-rayed and, yes she was missing her transmitter, but surprise! she was also gravid (carrying eggs). 

    Now, this finding of a female snake with eggs was a year earlier than expected, and while none of the eggs were viable this was an indication that the snakes were capable of at least attempting reproduction. One year later, the spring of 2012, was the time when we discovered that females were becoming mature at 2 ½ years of age and that mature males were roaming the woods. At this time we captured two females, one 2 ½ years old and the other 3 ½ and both laid clutches that produced young. From this we know that these snakes can perform this most basic aspect of their biology.

    We have had to trust that these lab-raised, perhaps ecologically naïve, snakes would possess the innate behaviors needed to integrate into the natural framework of finding shelter, avoiding predators, foraging and capturing prey, surviving the winter, reaching maturity, finding mates, reproducing, and so forth. Thus far the indications are that the snakes are hitting the ground with the needed intrinsic behaviors.

    We can also view this reintroduction to be successful on a partnership level. Academic institution, state and federal agencies, and non-profit conservation and educational organizations have come together for the benefit of the eastern indigo snake. Auburn University has been at the center with research and implementation but the project would not have been possible without support and contributions from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, The Orianne Society, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, Zoo Atlanta, and Ft. Stewart (U.S. Army). 

    Eastern Indigo Snakes freely roaming the forest have opened up an avenue of educational opportunities. Snakes, nor any other organism, recognize artificial human boundaries, and our indigo snakes have on many occasions made this very evident. Not too distant from the release area is the Blue Lake Camp, a rustic camp of the United Methodist Church. Within a few weeks at least one snake found their way to the camp. As readers of this blog know, the appearance of a snake on a property is often met with a hoe, shovel, or firearm, but not in this instance. Having a radio transmitter allowed Jimmy and Sierra, our Conecuh ambassadors of snake education, to locate the snake(s) on the property, speak with managers of the camp, and illuminate the importance of the snakes. The fact that they eat Copperheads was not downplayed. 

    Ultimately the Eastern Indigo Snakes must be accepted by the human visitors of Conecuh National Forest. Being a national forest dictates a multi-use approach, and the visitors to the forest span all of society. Signs have been posted within the forest to alert and educate visitors of the presence of the indigo snake. Some will see the presence of the indigo snake as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience first-hand an iconic ruler of the longleaf pine ecosystem, others, unfortunately, not so much. But when we set forth with this reintroduction effort we made the decision that snake persecution would be a real possibility and that information and education were the best tools to combat it. 

    The overall success of the Eastern Indigo Snake reintroduction into Alabama depends upon a patchwork of success of seemingly unconnected areas spanning ecological, bureaucratic, and societal realms.

You can view previous blog posts about indigo snakes here and you may be interested in the following scientific article:

J. W. Gibbons, & K. M. Andrews (2004). PIT tagging: simple technology at its best BioScience, 54 (5), 447-454 DOI: 10.1641/0006-3568(2004)054[0447:PTSTAI]2.0.CO;2

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Roundup: This Week's Wildlife Links (August 23, 2013)

New mammal species in South America, here and here (thanks Alyssa)

A summary of ongoing Pinesnake research in New Jersey.

Shark Week Controversy:

Does film fakery hurt conservation?
Discovery's non-pology about the Megalodon "documentary".
Finally, an overview by David Shiffman.

More shark news: a new species of hammerhead from South Carolina has been described.

Awesome photos of Serengeti lions.

Is there hope for tigers given the way we use the land?

Speaking of sharing the land, living alongside Grizzlies in Alberta.

Critically endangered eel conservation in the UK.

Everything you ever wanted to know about tapir attacks.

Which snakes should represent each of the States?

Rare shots of weasels taken with video camera traps.

Chinese Alligator genome sequenced.

Why do mosquitoes like me and not you? Hard to say.

Sweden men warned of testicle-eating fish. Oh, that scientist you quoted was just joking?

More bizarre news: Boy gets cut in German lake. German zoologists examine bite and claim it is from an Alligator Snapping Turtle, a species that does not occur in Germany. No turtle was observed. So they drain the lake looking for this mystery turtle?!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Readers Write In: Is This a West Virginia Copperhead or Something Else?

    A friend of mine caught this snake in a field about 30 yards from a small creek outside of Milton, Cabell Co. West Virginia. He sent me the photo and asked if I thought it was a Copperhead. I asked him to bring it to me so I could see it and help figure out what kind it was. I have caught and released a few snakes in my life, but I haven't come across a snake that is as heavy bodied as this, except a Timber Rattler. 
    The snake is about 40" long. My hand could only wrap around its body at the head and tail, and I would guess its weight to be between 6 and 8 pounds. In a feed bag, it felt like a gallon of milk. Maybe it is still carrying its young or full of Bullfrogs. It was captured and released the same day it was caught on the same farm. Can you help ID this snake? 
    Thank you for your time and helping solve this small mystery. I really like the website and have enjoyed reading about the different things on it. I have shared it with a few friends. Thanks again and have a great Friday and coming weekend. 

Paul and Ryan
Milton, West Virginia

    I've recently been spending time on Twitter helping people identify snakes (you can follow me by clicking on the button on the right sidebar). When I started, I thought I would see many cases of these animals (i.e., the species pictured above) being mistaken for Cottonmouths. But, I was surprised to find out that these animals are actually more often mistaken for Copperheads. Unfortunately, either way they are often killed as a result of this mistaken identity. 

    Kudos to Paul and Ryan for releasing this animal unharmed; I wish everyone thought of snakes the same way.

    Readers, what is this snake and how can it be differentiated from both Cottonmouths and Copperheads?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Two Trips to the Rainforest

    Growing up, a summer-time ritual in our family was to visit the zoo. Most of my younger years were spent growing up in the greater Detroit, Michigan area, and the Detroit Zoo was a staple in our summer circuit of activities. While visiting the zoo during the dog days of summer, my favorite exhibit to see, without a doubt, was the Penguin House. These strange little birds had such marvelous personality to us kids, and we spent hours watching them. At first glance they seemed clumsy while waddling around on land…but after a quick slide into the water, my brothers and I were marveled as these birds swam impressively through the aquaria -- such charm! And on hot summer days, perhaps the coolest part about visiting the penguins was that the rooms were cool (literally chilled!). 

    Another typical summer-time activity was to travel to greater Cleveland, Ohio to visit family. However, in the summer of 1995, we caught wind that the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo had opened a new, enormous exhibit, featuring tropical plants and animals from around the world. My bros and I were extremely eager to visit this new ‘Rainforest’ exhibit, so we took a day off from the grandparents, loaded our baby-blue Astrovan full of Capri Suns and sandwiches, and took a day trip into the city, to visit the rainforest. 

Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodylus), a Central
 and South American crocodilian. Jason Folt photograph. 
    And the Rainforest was well worth the trip. This expansive new display featured incredible biodiversity from tropical rain forests throughout the world. Our family of five walked slowly walked through the exhibits, marveling at golden marmosets, scarlet macaws, poisonous frogs (‘WHAT?! POISONOUS FROGS?!’ –my eight-year-old self), saltwater crocodiles, and the fan-favorite orangutans.

    All told, the Rainforest exhibit was phenomenal then, and still is today. It tells the tremendous story of tropical biodiversity, of the fascinating plants and animals that make their living in the wet tropical biomes, where species exist in greater density than anywhere else on Earth. This was my first visit to the rain forest, and, little did I know, it would not be my last.

    Of this entire exhibit, the most profound demonstration occurs at the very end. After drooling over various enclosures featuring the likes of venomous snakes, fruit-eating bats, and bat-eating snakes, the final diorama is perhaps anticlimactic to the observer. This final diorama describes a map of the world, highlighting the areas of the planet that support these magical rain forests. The map provides the observer a few moments to consider all the incredible biodiversity recently witnessed while inside the Rain Forest exhibit….but, slowly, huge areas of the map fade away. A speaker describes massive deforestation of tropical rain forests, and a ticker emerges, counting down the acreage of tropical forest cover being destroyed, every second, worldwide. Upon leaving the Cleveland Zoo’s Rain Forest exhibit, one departs with a terrific sense of marvel about the biodiversity of the Earth…but also bitterness and sadness at its destruction. 

Parachuting Red-eyed Treefrog (Agalychnis saltator). J. Folt.
    Sadly, tropical deforestation hasn’t improved much since 1995, and tropical land conversion continues to provide an alarming concern for the maintenance of high tropical diversity. Rates of deforestation are highest in the western hemisphere, where rain forests in Central and South American are disappearing more rapidly than anywhere else. Forests are being cleared for lumber, paved away for commercial cattle, fruit, and tree operations. In Sumatra, slash-and-burn practices blaze away intact forests to make room for palm-oil plantations, destroying precious habitat for the critically-endangered Sumatran Tiger (among countless other species) and simultaneously smogging the island of Singapore, one of the densest human populations on Earth.

    Simply put, the future is bleak for species-rich tropical biomes. Because these ecosystems are home to the world’s most species-rich assemblages, habitat loss and conversion to anthropogenic landscapes threatens more species in the tropics than anywhere else. Given the ‘high-stakes game’ that is conservation in the face of tropical deforestation, a pressing need in conservation biology is to better understand how species respond to increasingly fragmented, human-modified landscapes.

    This topic is not foreign to the Living Alongside Wildlife blog. Although not tropical in nature, one recent essay by David Jachowski discussed this theme, citing an example where elk, once abundant but long extirpated from the eastern United States, are now being reintroduced on the reclaimed devastation that are Appalachian coal lands. In this instance, optimism exists that these degraded landscapes now provide habitat for sustainable populations of economically valuable elk (although, let’s not forget that the integrity of this ecosystem was lost when the first coal was pulled from the ground). Jachowski correctly suggests that, in addition to conserving intact, undisturbed habitat, there is also great value in ‘picking up the pieces’ after human disturbances by conserving wildlife on human-modified landscapes.

    Like many children interested in wildlife, my life twisted and turned as I aged, and my interests shifted away from the natural world. I think for a little while there I was even afraid of snakes…maybe, briefly, for a month. Biology classes in high school and college along with field trips with my brother, however, rekindled my curiosity on the subject, particularly in conservation biology.

    During my senior year at Ohio University, I returned to the Rainforest, but this time I was visiting the real thing. I was working at La Selva Biological Station in the Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica. Many refer to Costa Rica as being ‘hyper-diverse’: while only possessing about 0.25% of the world’s land area, this country astonishingly accounts for 5% of the world’s biodiversity. La Selva is one of the most well-studied tropical forests in the world and home to a world-class research station. However, despite a great history of research in the wonderful forests of La Selva, biologists know next to nothing about how wildlife is responding to the massive habitat conversion at the regional level.

Primary forest at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica. J. Folt.
    Thus, in collaboration with Kelsey Reider, a graduate student at Florida International University in Mo Donnelly’s laboratory, we developed a project to study how amphibians and reptiles respond to habitat conversion to plantation monocultures in this region. Because land-use in Costa Rica is becoming increasingly fragmented by plantation monocultures of fruit, palm, and lumber plantation, we hoped our project would lend more insight to whether tree plantations provide good or bad habitats for conserving biodiversity, an especially important question in a rapidly disappearing but ‘hyper diverse’ forests of Costa Rica. 

Strawberry Poison Frog (Oophaga pumilio). J. Folt.
    We focused on the so-called ‘leaf-litter’ amphibians and reptiles: the group of species that are primarily terrestrial and occur on the forest floor. This guild is particularly charismatic, including one of my favorite childhood species from the Rainforest exhibit at the Cleveland Zoo, the Strawberry Poison Frog (Oophaga pumilio; if someone told my childhood self that my summertime job would be to catch these frogs, I would have lost my marbles!). We performed standardized surveys of these animals in replicated plantations of three tree species: Pentaclethra macroloba, Virola koschnyi, and Vochysia guatemalensis. These trees are native to the region and provide prized lumber. We also sampled the herpetofaunal community in nearby intact primary forest, beautiful mature forest of La Selva Biological Station. Our results from primary forest then provided a benchmark to evaluate whether the plantations supported assemblages of amphibians and reptiles at levels comparable to primary forest or not.

    In conclusion, the results of our study were fairly positive. In many cases, we found the native tree species plantations to support measures of biodiversity at levels comparable to nearby primary forest! Because our plantation species are variable in the fauna they support, we suggest land managers interested in sustainable lumber harvest should utilize plantation mosaics of different tree species to maximize the conservation of the species-rich leaf-litter amphibians and reptiles of lowland Caribbean Costa Rica.

Hog-nosed Pitviper (Porthidium nasutum). J. Folt.
    I will be returning to the rain forest in the future to conduct further field studies on the population and community ecological of tropical amphibians and reptiles. Similarly, future blog posts will likely discuss these subjects to greater or lesser extent, but I also hope to convey the marvels that are life in the tropics, the awesome plants and animals that attracted me as a child and continue to inspire me today. 

Want to Learn More?

Chazdon R.L., C.A. Harvey, O. Komar, D.M. Griffith, B.G. Ferguson, M. Martínez-Ramos, H. Morales, R. Nigh, L. Soto-Pinto, M. van Breugel, & S.M. Philpott (2009). Beyond reserves: A research agenda for conserving biodiversity in human-modified tropical landscapes Biotropica, 41, 142-153 DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7429.2008.00471.x

Bradshaw, C.J.A., N.S. Sodhi, & B.W. Brook (2009). Tropical turmoil: A biodiversity tragedy in progress Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 23, 261-267 DOI: 10.1890/070193

Folt, B., & K.E. Reider (2013). Leaf-litter herpetofaunal richness, abundance, and community assembly in mono-dominant plantations and primary forest of northeastern Costa Rica Biodiversity and Conservation, 22, 2057-2070 DOI: 10.1007/s10531-013-0526-0

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Readers Write In: What is this Aggressive Snake on my Patio!?


I found your website and it has lots of great info, especially about snakes. So last night I found this snake on my patio.

I live in Alexandria Virginia, just outside Washington DC. I now realize it's not a Copperhead, but also after reading your blog realize
it's not a Cottonmouth since you say they don't range up this far in VA. It was about 2.5 feet long and quite fat in the body for scale.

So is this just a watersnake? There is a small stream behind 
my house that goes through the park so it could live there. It was VERY aggressive when I tried to capture it, striking at anything/everything that I put near it. I eventually coaxed it into a cardboard box (see pic) and let it go in the park behind my house. Would love to know what kind of snake it is in case I get a re-visit.

Thanks in advance,

Steve K.
Alexandria, VA

    I told Steve that I appreciated his environmental ethic, most people would have shot first and asked questions later, especially if there was concern that the snake could be a venomous species and it looked like there was a possibility of a bite.

  The snake Steve found has a bad reputation as a stinky and bitey creature, but I like to give them a little more credit. Check out the patterning on that snake. Beautiful. And, you can't really blame an animal for reacting when you try to catch it! I prefer the term "defensive" to "aggressive" in these cases.

   What say you, Readers? Please identify this snake and while you are at it, be specific regarding why you do (or do not) believe the animal to be a Copperhead or Cottonmouth.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cottonmouths in the Ocean: Fact or Fiction?

           We know that some reptiles love the water. Alligators, turtles, snakes, the swamps are crawling with them. But what about the ocean? Are there any reptiles that use saltwater habitats?

            Of course. Sea turtles are well-known for spending their lives in the ocean (aside from their brief trips to the beach to lay eggs). Not technically a sea turtle but another turtle also using the sea is the Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemmys terrapin). Several species of crocodiles frequent salty habitats: the Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) comes to mind. There are a handful of Sea Snakes that are adapted to ocean-life, they feed on marine fish. Finally, don't forget marine iguanas. Brackish habitats, those areas where swamps and rivers meet the sea that are not quite freshwater but not quite saltwater either, may contain many more reptiles than the open ocean.

            But overall, few reptiles use salty areas. Why is that? Saltwater habitats are stressful environments. The biggest problem is the lack of drinking water. Just like us, animals needs water. And, just like us, salt water is not exactly thirst quenching. Because salt water is so…salty, most vertebrates are simply not equipped to process it physiologically; it can be very hard on the kidneys. 

           Vertebrates that live in the ocean don't have it easy. Some seals either rarely drink water or eat snow instead. We don’t even have a very good understanding of how whales and dolphins manage to get the water they need. So, it should not be too much of a surprise to hear that many species of wildlife, reptiles included, avoid these saltwater environments.

            Cottonmouths (Agkistrodon piscivorus) are an example of a water-loving species that can sometimes be found in brackish and estuarine habitats. If freshwater isn't available to drink, it’s likely that they can extract enough water from the other animals they eat. But pure saltwater is too much for Cottonmouths to handle and they do not live in the ocean.

            Or do they? A reader (thanks Shawn O.) sent me the following picture of a Cottonmouth floating in what appears to be the open ocean. Rumor has it that the picture was taken 65 miles (105 km) offshore of Alabama (let’s assume that’s true). Are Cottonmouths ocean dwellers after all? I doubt it. 

           Any animal on the open ocean is vulnerable, to the sun and to marine predators like sharks; most animals you see floating in the open ocean or either just popping up for a breath or can fly away. Cottonmouths are not deep-divers and they can’t fly either (although some commenters might disagree) so I think it is safe to say that this animal is out of its element. I think that this unlucky Cottonmouth had taken an exploratory crawl around the beach and got swept away by a wave.  Right now, it looks like it’s just floating around and not under its own power, just like the balloon next to it. Currents are probably controlling the movement of the Cottonmouth, just as they are controlling the movement of the balloon. I think this Cottonmouth’s days are numbered.

            So, what was the snake doing on the beach in the first place if the ocean is such an inhospitable place? We can look to some very interesting research conducted on the Cottonmouths of Seahorse Key, Florida for the answer. Seahorse Key, a small island off the shore of Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico, contains a very unusual population of Cottonmouths. Although the species can be found on many islands, there is no fresh water on Seahorse Key, and the Cottonmouths there are considered terrestrial.

            The Cottonmouths on Seahorse Key rely heavily on large colonies of nesting birds. When the adult birds feed fish to their young, some of the fish fall to the ground, where they are consumed by waiting snakes. This is a very seasonal resource, of course, and when there are no nesting birds, the Cottonmouths are left looking for something else to eat. During these times, the snakes may wander to the intertidal zone searching for dead fish that have washed onto shore. Because the species does it there, they probably do it elsewhere from time to time too. Cottonmouths generally don’t crawl around on the open beach or enter the ocean, they are too vulnerable to predators there. But, perhaps they are also vulnerable to being hit by a rogue wave? I suspect at least one was.

        Ever seen an animal in the ocean that did not belong there, such as a Cottonmouth? Let us know below.

Want to read more?

H.B. Lillywhite, C.M. Sheehy III, & F. Zaidan III (2008). Pitviper scavenging at the intertidal zone: an evolutionary scenario for invasion of the sea BioScience, 58 (10), 947-955 DOI: 10.1641/B581008

Rasmussen AR, Murphy JC, Ompi M, Gibbons JW, & Uetz P (2011). Marine reptiles. PloS one, 6 (11) PMID: 22087300

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Roundup: This Week's Wildlife Links (August 9th, 2013)

David Quammen describes the perilous and short lives of male lions on the Serengeti.

How to send the message to a restaurant that we are interested in knowing about where their seafood came from.

Now, how do you tie a fly that look like rodents? Voles eaten by trout in Idaho.

What is this strange fish caught in north Alabama?

Controversial techniques to breed the Sumatran Rhino. When there are only a couple left, people get desperate.

Don't ask what they do with orphan deer fawns in Vermont.

Wildlife road crossings in Montana.

Is it still research if you don't generate research findings? Controversy about long-term bear "research" project in Minnesota.

What are we missing when we think of the wildlife in North America today?

New species of shrew discovered. Is very strong.

There are lots of lobsters off of Maine now. That's good, right? Well, now they are also eating each other.

Speaking of Maine, they are making great advances in river restoration AKA blowing up dams.

Ever wonder what's in owl pellets?

The increasing popularity of cashmere is threatening snow leopards.

I'm quoted in this turtle article in National Geographic speaking about something I'm apparently an expert on: why golfers golf. Did I get it right?