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 Post subject: America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattlesnake
PostPosted: May 31st, 2016, 6:44 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
http://www.amazon.com/Americas-Snake-Ri ... 9_g14_i3_r


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 Post subject: Re: America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattles
PostPosted: June 2nd, 2016, 6:34 am 
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Joined: July 12th, 2010, 2:29 pm
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Location: south-central Texas
A great book that concentrates on the northeastern segment of the species' distribution where it is most critically endangered due to the human population density in that area. It does take some disparaging swipes at "fieldherpers," considering them to be among the most significant threats to the local denning populations, which may be true in those particular areas, but certainly untrue over the vast majority of the range.


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 Post subject: Re: America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattles
PostPosted: September 19th, 2016, 6:27 pm 

Joined: May 12th, 2013, 5:47 pm
Posts: 111
My library just got this book, and I've just started reading it. I have some questions... I'm not a biologist, I'm a trumpeter/librarian, so forgive my silly questions.

The author says at one point that someone is studying Timber Rattlesnakes, and has identified a 45 year old female that is still reproducing. I believe the author says the researcher caught the snake while it was gravid. How long can rattlesnakes, timber or other, live? I realize in the wild, that many don't make it very long, but I am stunned by the idea of a 45 year old snake. How long do garter snakes live? I know, a car can squish 'em annd a hawk can eat them, but how long does one that lives a good, long life live?

The book says that a female Timber Rattlesnake starts to reproduce at about age 5, and sometimes not until she's 10. And then, only every five years or so. He makes a point that this is the slowest reproducing snake (maybe in the US, but maybe everywhere--I forgot). He also says that the female who is about to have young may spend 5-6 weeks not eating, but rather, just basking, and that takes a toll on the female. That's why she only has young every five years, or so. How different is that from other snakes? How long is it before a garter snake begins to reproduce, and how often do they usually have young?

The author says, on page 64, that a rattlesnake was "happy." He goes on to say, "His brain is the size of a micron or whatever it is--very small." So for someone who has actually seen a rattlesnake brain, I envision it as being about the size of a walnut... Am I close? That brings up a related question, when the snake grows, its head grows. Does its brain grow, too? If not, what fills that extra space? (That probably wins the most Uninformed Question, EVER, Award.). I assume that really big snakes, that have really big heads, have bigger brains. But I also assume that extra size does't make them any smarter--just like big people aren't necessarily any smarter than the rest of us. Does a really big rattlesnake still tend to have the same 3 oz or 5 oz brain that the rest of the snakes of his/her species have?

Thanks for any answers.

Beth


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 Post subject: Re: America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattles
PostPosted: September 19th, 2016, 8:30 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:14 pm
Posts: 522
Beth,
I am not up on what is contained in the scientific literature with respect to the life history of various species of snakes. But from what you mention that is reported about some of the life history aspect of the Timber Rattlesnake, your information pretty much is the same as for the species of snake I have studied over the year, the Rubber Boa here in western Oregon.

On the average, male Rubber Boas reach mature status here in W. Oregon in about 5 – 6 years with female attaining maturity an average of about 2 years later than males. I have recapture information on one (possibly two), females that did not reach mature status until she was 13 years of age.

From recapture data, litter frequency of the boa here in W. Oregon is about once every 4+ years. And since the mean litter size is a shade above 4 per clutch, that translates into an average of about one neonate / year per pair of boas. Since the Timber Rattlesnake likely has larger litters, the mean number of neonates / pair of Timber Rattlesnakes may be somewhat greater than the Rubber Boa.

As for mean and maximum longevity, that sort of information might be ascertained from the information I have accumulated over the years but would take a professional to make such a determination. Just from an extrapolation of female boas of various sizes recaptured over many years, it is my position that the species has the capacity to live at least into the 50’s and quite possibly into the 60’s, 70’s and perhaps older. I suspect that same scenario may apply to the Timber Rattlesnake and perhaps many other species of snakes.

Richard F. Hoyer (Corvallis, Oregon)


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 Post subject: Re: America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattles
PostPosted: September 20th, 2016, 4:22 am 

Joined: May 12th, 2013, 5:47 pm
Posts: 111
Thank you for your informative response, Richard. I would have never guessed that ay snake would live for decades, and I would have never guessed that they reproduced so infrequently. Does anyone know if garter snakes are of a similar age before they reproduce, and if they can also live for decades?

Beth


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 Post subject: Re: America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattles
PostPosted: September 20th, 2016, 8:12 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:14 pm
Posts: 522
Beth,
As for longevity in snakes, I believe there are some published records on captive specimens that provide a clue as to the inherent capacity of life span for the different species. I believe someone who was connected with the zoo in Seattle, Frank Slavens?, use to publish such information.

It is my understanding that garter snakes exhibit fairly rapid growth. Therefore, they could reach mature status in a shorter amount of time than say either the Timber Rattlesnake or Rubber Boa. My guess would be that perhaps in some species of garter snakes, males may reach mature status in 1 1/2 - 2 years and females in 2 – 3 years. Perhaps there is some published literature on that very topic.

And it is my understanding that most species of garter snakes have a litter frequency greater than that of the rattlesnake and boa and on the average have larger litters. Should that be the case, that then suggests a shorter average life expectancy for garter snakes. But garter snakes may still have the inherent capacity to live decades as well.

The only other species of snakes in which I have acquired data from a sizeable number of recaptures is the Common Sharp-tailed Snake, (Contia tenuis), a very small and obscure species that occurs only here on the west coast. Such recapture data demonstrates that both sexes of Contia possess the ability to reach mature status in about one year or less with males, on the average, achieving maturity ahead of females.

Richard F. Hoyer


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 Post subject: Re: America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattles
PostPosted: September 20th, 2016, 12:25 pm 

Joined: March 18th, 2015, 7:06 pm
Posts: 35
My Jamaican Boa (Epicrates subflavus), on a long term indefinite loan to a select endangered species AZA breeding project, is more than 25 years old and still an active breeder.


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 Post subject: Re: America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattles
PostPosted: September 20th, 2016, 7:20 pm 

Joined: May 12th, 2013, 5:47 pm
Posts: 111
Thank you both for your answers. I'm really surprised at how long snakes can live. I never really thought about it until the author brought it up. That reminds me, I've got to get off the Internet and go read the book. :-).


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 Post subject: Re: America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattles
PostPosted: September 21st, 2016, 6:46 am 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 3:03 pm
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Some facts that might not be in the book.

The overall Timber rattlesnake population is in the millions. A species whose distribution range comprises almost half the landmass of the contiguous United States. The focus of the demise is almost always in the North. Even by the most parsimonious estimate, there at 10's of thousands of Timber rattlesnakes in New York, Pa etc. Very heathy numbers. With most safely tucked away in the mountain's and state protected parks. Den exploitation by poachers is always listed as a major threat and cause to the rattlesnakes demise. This is absurd but due to the obvious nature and how simple it is to digest for the average person. This falsehood has been promoted ad nauseam by biologist. Ultimately the argument becomes self-refuting. We are led to believe that the rattlesnakes have so declined that they are on the brink of extinction but the rate of encounter has not yet plummeted so far that people cant easily find rattlers and purge them in numbers.

Biologist Dean Ripa put in the time to unlock the many myths pertaining to the Timber rattlesnakes reported demise. To paraphrase Mark Twain, The reports of the Timber rattlesnakes death have been greatly exaggerated.

The Brown referred to is biologist Bill Brown, a guy whos made a nearly 40 yr career out of..cough.."saving Timber rattlesnakes".

Quote:
When Brown (1993) and associates inform me that overall rattlesnake populations are shrinking in the northern states (which has its own mountain habitat) simply because the populations of the den sites they have observed are shrinking, I wonder their audacity and gall. Why do they think they know where all the dens are? Why do they think the exploiters know where all the dens are? Why do they think the rattlesnakes are wintering only in communal dens, or in only the dens they have found? How have they managed to divide themselves so many thousands of times in a single spring period in order to count the emergence of the snakes from all the thousands of den sites in several states simultaneously? More cogently: Why have they lied to us about doing things that are clearly impossible? For Brown, Stechert, and Martin each claim to have estimated the numbers of snakes in hundreds of different dens! New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, West Virginia . . . They know where the dens are and they have been to all of them; they tell us they have counted the snakes and they uniformly conclude: "decline!"

Shrinking den populations may be significant of a decline in some localities (and obviously these communal dens areas are the very localities where most studies take place: their reliability has put them on the biologist’s map) or it may result from other factors, but ultimately the disintegration of a particular den site is of little significance overall if the majority of snakes are simply not using large communal dens, and hibernating singly or in small numbers. Because these dispersed wintering sites are not on the biologist’s map, they go unremarked by the biologists, whose studies depend on being able to reliably locate the sites (not the snakes) from year to year.
In this con game you can get away with anything so long as there are enough liars in the same profession to back you up. And so they have each other.


Id say that at best some of what is written in that book about timber rattlesnakes (or just about anywhere) has to be taken with a grain of salt , considering the amount of BS that's been written about Timber rattlesnakes and their decline. I know about this first hand. Guaranteed the author's information is taken from very biased sources placed in an off center context. They love to promote the jeopardy that this common and widespread species is in. The books title alone confirms this.

The timber rattlesnake is not the slowest reproducing snake. The rate a timber reaches maturity and reproduction rate is like all snakes dependent on environmental condition's. Timber rattlesnakes are found from northern mountains to southern swamps. So the rate of maturity and reproduction is variable. It could be two years for one population, 6 years for another. Then there's local variances in the weather that further alter the time frames. Mild winters, harsh winters, extended dry periods, lots of rain. It all plays into growth to maturity and reproductive rate. There is no set time frame for a species that is so wide ranging and occupies such a wide range in habitats to reach maturity or its rate of reproduction.

Keep in mind that 7 yrs to a rattlesnake in the frigid mountain's of up state New York is not the same as it is for a rattlesnake in the swamps of South Carolina. Depending on the severity of the winters 7yrs in the North might only equal 3yrs of actual activity. The rest of the time the snake is dormant. Time to a dormant reptile has no meaning. You can see how this can skew the time between clutch's in a sense. Making it seem as if it takes a long time for the females to recover and reproduce when in fact its simply a matter of not being active. The time a gestating female snake spends "off feed" generally is not very taxing on the animal providing the animal was in good shape as most are. Again it comes down to food and climate conditions .

Ernie Eison


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 Post subject: Re: America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattles
PostPosted: September 21st, 2016, 4:39 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:30 pm
Posts: 410
Location: St Louis, MO / Hartford, CT
There are dens where bounty hunters operated for many years taking as many snakes as they possibly could and never managed to wipe out the snakes, so to now say that some guy taking a photo of them will do them all in seems a little absurd to me. Of course, those people always exempt themselves from the "problem" of being disturbing the snakes :P I would imagine the number of unlawfully taken timbers is so low it's not even worth thinking about.


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 Post subject: Re: America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattles
PostPosted: September 21st, 2016, 7:33 pm 

Joined: May 12th, 2013, 5:47 pm
Posts: 111
Thanks for the replies. I really appreciate the time you take to explain things.

Do any of you have a picture, or a link to a picture, of one of the piebald snakes the author talks about?

I'm really enjoying the book. I don't believe all of it, but it generates a lot of curiosity about the timber rattler, and other snakes. Things I never thought about before.


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