Herp Update: Snakes and amphibians on the move, Endangered Species Award, Presentation – October 6, 2023
Recent and Upcoming Herp Activity: Snakes on the move
Herpers, I used to believe that the first frosts of the fall were the trigger that initiated snakes movement back uphill to denning sites. On the first warm sunny day after the first (and second) frosts of the fall, I would take my family and/or friends out to our closest snake crossing location and we would move live snakes across the road and keep track of how many of each species (dead or alive) were on the road. For example on October 9, 1997 in 30 minutes we counted 36 dead DeKay’s Brownsnakes on the road surface and moved four living DeKay’s Brownsnakes across. On September 24, 2020 Deb Laramie counted 33 snakes of three species (DeKay’s, Red-bellieds, and Common Gartersnakes) on her walk through the same crossing area. At our crossing location here in the warm Lake Champlain Basin, peak fall movement of snakes started in mid-September and lasted through the middle of October.
This year, although we have not had any frosts here in the Lake Champlain Basin, the snakes are moving anyhow. This week I have seen DeKay’s, Red-bellieds, Common Gartersnakes, and Ring-necked Snakes on the roads. If you know of a relatively quiet road that gets lots of sun and lies between a wetland or even an overgrown field and a rocky hillside, take a walk through the area on a sunny day and look closely for small snakes crossing the road. If you find some living snakes, help them out and move them across. I would love to hear what you see. One photo of each species you find is very helpful. Even dead snakes can provide very useful distribution information. As always, be very mindful of traffic. I have pasted some photos of DeKay’s, Red-bellied (Megan Kane), and Ring-necked Snakes (Kiley Briggs) below.
Amphibians on the move as well
Although most herpers think of amphibian crossings as a spring event only, there is a tremendous amount of uphill fall movement as well. Looking at the forecast for tomorrow night (Saturday, October 7) conditions look perfect for uphill amphibian migration. With some species such as Spotted Salamanders, most seem to return to their upland forests to forage within a few weeks after breeding in the spring. But other species such as Blue-spotted, Four-toed, and Eastern Red-backed Salamanders often stay in the moist lowlands all summer to feed, and then move upland to overwintering locations on warm, wet, nights in the fall. We also see see smaller numbers of Spotted Salamanders, Wood Frogs, Gray Treefrogs, and Spring Peepers as well. Checking our database for our Morgan Road crossing in Salisbury, we have found 20 or more amphibians on short visits on fall nights starting as early as September 15 and continuing as late-in-the-season as December 6. Watch the weather forecast for rain combined with warm night-time temperatures. Any temperature over 32 F could stimulate migration, but you will find more amphibians of more species on 50 and 60 degree F nights.
The Sally Laughlin Endangered Species Award for 2023 will be given to Dr. Kilpatrick on Saturday
Dr. C. William Kilpatrick will be the recipient of this year’s Sally Laughlin Endangered Species Award. It will be presented this Saturday at 12 noon at the Dead Creek Wildlife Festival in Addison. Dr. Kilpatrick has put in decades of effort supporting the conservation of endangered species in Vermont; as chair of the Mammal Scientific Advisory Group to the VT Endangered Species Committee, as a member of the Reptile and Amphibian Scientific Advisory Group, as a researcher, as a consultant, and as a professor at UVM.
The award is given by the Agency of Natural Resources. Sadly the presentations have been sparsely attended with almost no press coverage in the past but I am hoping we can change that this year with a good crowd on site to recognize Bill’s decades of conservation work. The presentation is only 15 minutes long and you will have plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the festival (including my slide show below).
Presentation on Vermont Snakes and Lizards
I will be giving a one-hour PowerPoint presentation on Vermont Snakes and Lizards also at the Dead Creek Wildlife Festival in Addison on Saturday, at 10 AM. We will also have some of our swag (hats, posters, bumper stickers) available. I hope to see some of you there.