Results of Monthly Snake Cover Board Inspection

Currently there are twelve snake cover board sites on White Memorial Conservation Center’s forested land. Over the next couple of weeks we plan on multiplying these cover board sites in order to really discover snake diversity and population status of established species at WMCC. Also, by setting the cover boards in varying habitats, such as at high elevations or sandy fields we can learn more about snake habitat and areas with high snake density.

The cover boards typically consist of about 45 pieces of 3-4 feet long hard or soft wood boards that are layered loosely on top of one another. The stacking of the boards creates a cool, dark, and damp habitat that snakes typically prefer to live in. The wood also attracts many insects, such as earthworms, slugs, and beetles, as well as salamanders that the snakes consume. 
Typical snake cover board pile.
On Thursday May 17th, Jamie Fischer, Jared Franklin, and I went to every pile and gently removed each piece of wood in hopes of finding snakes. The weather could not have been any more perfect, with clear skies, little wind, and temperatures in the upper 60s. Three of the cover board piles were successful and had snake inhabitants. The first cover board pile that we checked at the Apple Hill Lower Field had both an adult common garter snake (Thamnophis s. sirtalis) and an adult ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii). At the Solnit Parcel we discovered one adult garter snake, one juvenile garter snake (less than 15 inches long), and pieces of an adult garter snake that was likely a leftover meal from a short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda) that we found scurrying in the pile. Finally, the cover board pile at Old Camp Townsend generated one adult garter snake.

Adult common garter snake
Adult ring-necked snake
It is noteworthy that the piles we found snakes at were all checked between 9:30 and 11:30 am, when the air was cooler, in the low 60’s. The next time we check these piles, we thought it would be interesting to reverse the order, and check the piles in the mornings, that were checked this time in the afternoon. If we yield any snakes, then it can be hypothesized that time of day or temperature may affect the encounter rate of snakes. 

No comments: