Friday, December 25, 2015

What Animals Went Extinct in 2015?

    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 2014, 2013, and 2012 editions. Given the feedback (and trolling) that last year's edition received, I want to address a few common comments/criticisms before we get into it.

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.

    Okay. I kind of have some good news: when the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) released their 2015 Red List update, they did not change the status of any species to extinct or extinct in the wild! So, there are no official global extinctions in the last year but again it is important to note that although there were almost definitely a lot of biological extinctions we just don't have enough information to make it official.  Over at Scientific American, John Platt summarized the species that the IUCN decided were critically endangered and possibly extinct in the wild. This list of species is mostly made up of plants in Hawaii but also includes a South American lizard and frog.


Image Courtesy of FCIT
    So what do we have left to talk about? Well, after a four-year review, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed declaring the Eastern Cougar extinct. This is an interesting and controversial development. For one, it is not possible to say anything about the Eastern Cougar without someone telling you a story about how they, or someone they know, has seen one. A lot of these stories are bogus or misidentified bobcats (or house cats), but not all of them. For example, three cougars have been confirmed in Tennessee in the last three months. Maybe these animals have migrated from populations out west; we will learn more about their status in the coming years.

    The Sumatran Rhinoceros is probably extinct in the wilds of Malaysia. There are still some in Indonesia (considered the same species) and a few in captivity so hopefully there is a future for this animal; but, it is desperate times. The Cincinnati Zoo, which is the only institution in the United States that has successfully bred the species, has sent their last rhino to Indonesia to help with their captive breeding efforts.

    People often ask me if there is reason for hope despite all the doom and gloom. Absolutely! There are many passionate people fighting hard to conserve the natural world. And, they are succeeding: I could provide links to lots of stories about the creation of new large reserves, new protections for many species, and reintroduction efforts that are bringing species back. We are in the midst of an alarming and global extinction crisis, but the end is not a foregone conclusion for most species.

    Did I leave out an extinction? Let me know below.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Readers Write In: How Would You Like to Identify These Snakes?

My guess is that the one in the road is a copperhead (it was about 3 feet long, you can see a car had run over the back part of it) and the one in the sticky trap--less than a foot long--was a brown snake or some other non-venomous one, but please let me know what you think. (And I think that is a wolf spider in the other trap, right?) The traps were on the floor in the garage, right by thentrance from outside. Why do you think the snake ventured inside? We are just moving in, and the house and garage are still empty so can't imagine there was a food source he was after....? 


Bill W.
Maryland













Thank you so much for helping me figure out what kind of snake this is. The scales on the belly go strait across, they are not in a brick pattern, if that helps any

Brandi M. 





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, December 11, 2015

Readers Write In: Watersnake? Cottonmouth? And more to ID

Hi -


First, I found a snakeskin in my garage about 2.5 feet long.   Maybe a month or so later, I saw a snake emerge from that same side of my garage after I had been making noise in the area -it was about 4 feet long.  Haven't had success identifying it yet. I am in the the Catskill Mountain area in New York State. Sorry the photo isn't the best.   Would you help to identify please?

Thank you so much!

Mick
New York

Hello, sir. 

I found your site while trying to identify this snake. It's markings are mottled and don't seem to resemble pics of the water snake or cottonmouth. It was sunning on a dock just south of Orangedale, Florida, which is located south of and across the St. John's River from Green Cove Springs. Thanks for your expert help. 

Ray L.
Florida

What type of rattle snake is this
Denny

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, December 4, 2015

Readers Write In: Three Different Snakes from Nevada, Georgia, and North Carolina to ID

This beautiful snake was found in a canyon right behind our rental home, about 1/4 mile off Highway 208, Wellington, NV. Stumbled upon it on one of our morning hikes with our Daschund/Beagle dog.



It waved the tip of its tail like a rattle snake briefly.
Length : about 1.5ft.
Thickness : about the size of my thumb

May G.
Nevada








Can you help me and my grandchildren id the snake we have just seen crossing our yard in the rain in Atlanta. It was about a foot long and slowly slithered to under stairs.

Mike F.
Georgia







Found in charlotte, nc. Its a baby, about 5 inches long. Thanks for helping out!

Ryan E.
North Carolina

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.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Readers Write In: Little Brown Snakes to Identify




Dr. Steen:


We live in Bethesda, MD - very close to C&O canal and the Potomac River. Neighborhood has lots of kids, dogs, other pets, etc. Lots of black snakes too, but this was something different. Picked it up and moved it out of the road - but curious to know if it were something about which we should be concerned. Grateful for any thoughts. Thanks.

Adam C.
Maryland





Hello
,

I saw this snake on a walk in Goderich, Ontario, Canada. Any idea what it is?

Thanks for your help.

Cathy S.
Ontario




Good Morning-

I have a snake and I am not sure what it is and was hoping if I emailed you the picture you could help.

Amy B.



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.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Readers Write In: Snake ID from Maryland to Texas



I took a picture of a snake near my home in MD today but can't identify it.  It may be a common garter snake, but I'm unsure.  Is it possible if you can suggest what type of snake it is?  Thanks!

Mark Z.
Maryland








It looks long in pic but is only about 12" long i had just saved it from my pool skimmer.

Jon
Arkansas









Hello again--

    I thought this picture from early last spring (in SE Texas) was a blotched water snake because they are reputed to have nasty dispositions, but I am tempted to reconsider after noticing the nostril-ish pit on the face. Am I right? Thanks again for your help.


Cathy N.
Texas

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.