Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Roundup - Hellbenders in Georgia, Frogs in New York City, and Rattlesnakes Nowhere to be Found

Hellbenders re-discovered in northwestern Georgia. A few years ago, I wrote about an unsuccessful trip to northern Alabama to look for Hellbenders, Cryptobranchus alleghaniensis. For a population of these large salamanders to survive over long periods of time, they need clean and undisturbed streams with lots of large rocks. Because of pollution, agriculture, and siltation, there are few of these streams left in Alabama. Hellbenders were never common in the State but, after a series of surveys for the species in the last few years, researchers concluded that they were gone. Extinct in Alabama.

But wait a minute...many people said the same thing about Hellbenders in northwestern Georgia, not far from the Alabama border. And, last month, a 14-year old kid fishing for catfish found a Hellbender on his line instead. Let's not start celebrating yet, a single salamander doesn't mean that there are many more animals in the area; we don't want to get excited before we know whether this is just a single and lonely individual or, better yet, representative of a thriving Hellbender population. But, in any case, it's encouraging news.

Lots of Excuses for Few Rattlesnakes. A couple weeks ago, rattlesnake roundups in Texas were quoted as saying that there were few rattlesnakes being rounded up. So few, in fact, that they felt the need to increase the bounty they paid for them. It didn't work. Roundup organizers said they were getting fewer rattlesnakes than usual because of the dry weather. Now Opp, Alabama has had to come up with a few excuses of their own. They are blaming their low numbers of rattlesnakes on warm weather. Dry weather, warm weather, drought, seems that some will go to great lengths to explain away rattlesnake declines as just another natural cycle. Time will tell whether the habitat destruction that we are causing (not to mention the roundups themselves) is having the bigger impact on rattlesnake population trends.

Alabama Turtles Protected. A few weeks ago I wrote about how Alabama herpetologists had sounded the alarm for freshwater turtles within the State. Throughout the southeastern United States, freshwater turtles were being targeted by commercial harvesters that intended to sell the animals for meat overseas. In response, several states, like Georgia and Florida, enacted rules to protect turtles from this type of harvest. Now, Alabama joins them.

Not a New Species
Alabama Researchers Help Discover a New Frog Species...In New York! We don't have to mount expeditions to South America or Africa for adventure or to find new species. There is plenty we don't know about or don't understand right under our noses. Recently, researchers investigating a frog making some weird-sounding calls determined this this frog, although it looked almost identical to other frogs in the region, was a new species. Get this, it lives in New York City.

Want to Learn More?

S. P. Graham, & et al. (2011). Conservation Status of Hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleghaniensis) in Alabama, USA. Herpetological Conservation and Biology, 6 (2), 242-249

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