Monthly Archives: July 2013

Running Snakes

I run. I really enjoy it. Running helps me think, reduces stress, and gets me outdoors one days without field work. I try to run where I will find snakes. I also run with my phone to record my path and in case I need to photograph a snake. Today’s lunch time run took me along the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in downtown Denver. My route today always has a good chance to find a snake and today’s run did not disappoint.

One mile into today’s run, I found this Wandering Gartersnake crossing my path. While a very common snake, I still welcome finding these gartersnakes in Denver. They give me a sense of security that some snakes are capable of surviving in even the most heavily human-impacted areas. Very few species of snake can truly be called “Urban Snakes” and this species is definitely one of them.

Today’s snake was also special because a walker stopped while I was photographing it. I was able to tell him a little about the snake and there existence in Denver. He even took a picture to share with his friends. Conservation Through Education.

Do you run? Please feel free to share your “running snake” photos and stories with me and the Center for Snake Conservation via email at snakestories@snakeconservation.org. I hope you can enjoy this snake as much as I did even if I can only share its story and photo.

Cameron
Center for Snake Conservation

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In Situ Snakes

Midget Faded Rattlesnake – in situ

in situ snakes – what does this really mean? To me it means “as found” but literal translation from Latin means “in position”. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines in situ as “in the natural or original position or place”. So what does this mean for snake conservation?

Let’s use rattlesnakes as an example for what in situ means for snake conservation. Popular media sources tend to only use photos of defensive rattlesnakes because these are the exciting photos. These photos are rarely of snakes as they were found but rather of a snake that has been harassed into posing, striking, and rattling. Even in video sessions, the photographers are trying to get the snake to strike the camera. THERE IS NOTHING “AS FOUND” IN THESE PHOTOS! The truth of the matter is that in situ rattlesnake photos are boring to most people because they do not instill fear and danger – they simply show the snake “as found”. These boring photos and videos do not sell so photographers don’t take them or don’t share them. In addition, the vast majority of snake photos are “nature faked” and really don’t show us much about the snake’s habitat, behavior, or precise posture while in the field. Photographers do this to eliminate shadows, bright light, ugly backgrounds, and a whole host of other reasons. I love to spot the same background in two different (or more) photos of different snakes – these photos tell me that someone used a controlled setting to get the right photo. This was a common practice back in the film and slide days when photography was expensive.

THIS IS CHANGING!!!!! With the advent of digital photography and social media, photographers are taking and sharing more photos than ever before. We have “find the snake” contests and other avenues for showing rattlesnakes “as found”. People are enjoying seeing rattlesnakes as they typically are found partially hidden and quiet rather than defensive and scary. This is very, very good for snake conservation! Photos can and do dispel myths about these snakes. We just need to show people how rattlesnakes typically behave and it brings a new appreciation to snakes that otherwise is covered by the fear generating “striking” photos. New videos are showing the amazing behaviors of rattlesnakes such as maternal care, interspecies interactions, and predation – please go check out Social Snakes (www.socialsnakes.org) for some world class examples of what we can learn from rattlesnakes if we just slow down and WATCH them.

So, the Center for Snake Conservation is always looking for more in situ photos and could use your help. If you have some you want to share – please email them to cscphotos@snakeconservation.org and we will certainly give you photo credit.

Below are a few “as found” (in situ) photos that I took of snakes for you to enjoy.

Until later,

Cameron
Center for Snake Conservation

Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnake

Eastern Gartersnake

Prairie Rattlesnake

Prairie Rattlesnake

Eastern Kingsnake

Eastern Kingsnake

Rough Greensnake

Wandering Gartersnake

Wandering Gartersnakes are known to occur at high elevations even up to heights above 13,000 feet. This one was found on a family hike to Bierstadt Lake which is 9,416 feet high. Amazing little snake.

Cameron
Executive Director
Center for Snake Conservation

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Google Earth Pondering #1

Google Earth is an incredible tool for scouting new areas and checking out your own areas while stuck in the office all day. With the latest aerial update, I found out that you can spot coverboard arrays on Google Earth. Check out this photo of one of the Center for Snake Conservation’s research sites where we have coverboards placed for optimum snake attraction. Lots of possiblilities with these boards.

Google Earth Coverboard Array

I wonder if you can spot a snake crossing the road with Google Earth?

Cameron
Executive Director
Center for Snake Conservation

Blogs, blogs, blogs

Blogs.  Yes, I need to starting blogging.  As the Center for Snake Conservation continues to grow, I want and really need to record its milestones here for everyone to read, share,and comment on.  Plus – YOU DESERVE TO BE INCLUDED IN OUR SUCCESS! I will strive to write a daily blog (maybe even more than one a day) to inspire us all to promote snake conservation in our lives.  With this blog, you will get to know me, the other folks behind the Center for Snake Conservation, what we are doing DAILY for snakes, our dreams, our wishes, and our plans. I certainly will enjoy this journey with you!

Cameron
Executive Director
Center for Snake Conservation

Is there a question you are just dying to ask about snakes? Send it to blog@snakeconservation.org and maybe I will pick your question to discuss and enjoy.

Here is a quick photo for you to enjoy while I work on new blogs – a very pretty Eastern Mudsnake taken by JD Willson. Mudsnakes are amazing predators that eat giant salamanders called amphiumas. They occur in the southeastern United States.

Eastern Mudsnake

Snake Pinwheel:

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Bane, a creature of habit

Meet Bane – an adult male Arizona Black Rattlesnake from the Muleshoe Ranch

Rattlesnake Research at Muleshoe Ranch

Although Bane (adult male Arizona black rattlesnake) didn’t enter our radio-telemetry study until 5 August 2012, we first met him during last year’s Spring Snake Count. I had led a group of Snake Counters to Secret Springs, a warm-spring-fed pond that was formerly a cattle tank. One of the Snake Counters encountered Bane on the far side of the pond, where he was drinking.

Since we began tracking Bane with radio-telemetry in August, he has not returned to Secret Springs. He spent most of this spring near the Nature Trail, making him the perfect snake to track with preserve visitors. Anyone who wanted to track a rattlesnake this spring April has met Bane.

Snake Count weekend was no different. We visited Bane two or three times with Snake Counters, who got to meet Muleshoe’s largest Arizona black rattlesnake. As usual, he was just off the Nature Trail on Friday and…

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Weighing Rattlesnakes Safely

Weighing Rattlesnakes Safely

By using a large container and a digital scale, the Center for Snake Conservation is able to accurately record weights of rattlesnakes safely in the field. We simply substract the mass of the container to determine the mass of the snake.

Photo by Kevin Urbanek