Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Taking America's rarest snake back to the woods

Date:
May 7, 2012
Source:
USDA Forest Service ‑ Southern Research Station
Summary:
Biologists have released seven young Louisiana pine snakes on a restored longleaf pine stand in the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana. The release is the fourth in two years, part of a plan to restore a very rare snake to its range in Louisiana.

Louisiana pine snake.
Credit: Photo by Dan Saenz.

On May 1, USDA Forest Service, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Memphis Zoo, and other partners released seven young Louisiana pine snakes on a restored longleaf pine stand in the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana. The release is the fourth in 2 years, part of a plan to restore a very rare snake to its range in Louisiana. Last year the partners released 20 newly hatched snakes; this year's snakes are 6 months old and about 3 feet long.

Four to 5 feet long as an adult and covered with a striking pattern of black, brown and beige, the Louisiana pine snake is a rare sight in its native range in east-central Texas and across Louisiana. Craig Rudolph, Forest Service Southern Research Station research ecologist and a member of the reintroduction team, has monitored the species for decades, and concurs with other herpetologists that it well may be one of the rarest snake species in the United States. Snakes released for the restoration effort are hatched and raised in zoos, and are the offspring of Louisiana pine snakes captured from the wild.

Already listed as threatened in Texas and a candidate for listing under the Federal Endangered Species Act, the Louisiana pine snake population has declined because of alterations to the its native pine longleaf pine habitat and that of its prey.

A nonvenomous species, the Louisiana pine snake spends most of its time underground in burrows of its favorite prey, the Baird's pocket gopher. The ideal habitat for both species consists of dry, sandy-soiled ridges covered with longleaf pine trees and an open understory of the grasses and forbs the pocket gophers feed on. This habitat largely disappeared due to commercial logging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and subsequent fire suppression. "Without fire, these upland pine savannahs rapidly develop a midstory that shades out the grassy understory that pocket gophers need," says Rudolph. "The release site on the Kisatchie, which was intentionally restored for red-cockaded woodpecker habitat, should also support pocket gophers and Louisiana pine snakes."

Only time will tell whether the Louisiana pine snake can be sustainably restored to longleaf pine ecosystems in its native range.

Researchers implanted each of the snakes released on May 1 with a passive integrated transponder (PIT) that allows them to be tracked by recorders installed on the site. "So far we've not had much success with the recorders, which are dug into the ground in four places on the release site," says Rudolph. "We've recorded activity in the first weeks, but nothing later on. This is not unexpected, since these snakes have a large home range and probably leave the immediate area. We need to get good population estimates for the areas we've released in, but the only way to get data is by trapping, which is very time-consuming and expensive."

The animal's biology presents another constraint to its survival. While most other snakes produce large clutches of eggs, the Louisiana pine snake lays only three to five eggs, and in captive breeding programs, sometimes only one or two eggs per clutch hatch. This low reproductive rate means that the species might not recover quickly in the wild. Rudolph worries that breeding programs, which rely on the progeny of only 16 founder individuals caught in the wild, may be producing snakes that are not genetically diverse enough to survive when released. "In the best-case scenario, there would still be Louisiana pine snakes out there that we've never caught that can breed with the released snakes," says Rudolph. "We have traps operating for thousands of trap days a year in Texas, for instance, and haven't caught a single snake in three years. When we find better ways to monitor our releases, perhaps we'll find some additional populations."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by USDA Forest Service ‑ Southern Research Station. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

USDA Forest Service ‑ Southern Research Station. "Taking America's rarest snake back to the woods." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120507165555.htm>.
USDA Forest Service ‑ Southern Research Station. (2012, May 7). Taking America's rarest snake back to the woods. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120507165555.htm
USDA Forest Service ‑ Southern Research Station. "Taking America's rarest snake back to the woods." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120507165555.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins