Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 19th, 2012, 2:41 pm

The Jake-Man wrote: the more open canopy dens there are, the better.
I agree with jimoo. The dozen or so hibernacula I know of are all open canopy. I know closed canopy forest is essential to rattlesnakes after the spring dispersal, but the more open canopy dens there are, the better.
I don't doubt the open canopy dens make the snakes easier to find. The question is whether the canopy has an impact on the snakes biology. Some people argue that dens can become too shaded others argue that since the snakes emerge before leaf-out canopy cover doesn't effect hibernacula. For gestating females I have no doubt that open canopy areas are important and hibernacula often serve as rookeries.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by incuhead2000 » September 19th, 2012, 6:31 pm

Bryan Hamilton wrote: I don't doubt the open canopy dens make the snakes easier to find. The question is whether the canopy has an impact on the snakes biology. Some people argue that dens can become too shaded others argue that since the snakes emerge before leaf-out canopy cover doesn't effect hibernacula. For gestating females I have no doubt that open canopy areas are important and hibernacula often serve as rookeries.
Many of the Timbers around here have also adopted power line clear cuts as dens. Score one for that aspect of clear cutting when it comes to inadvertently manipulating the habitat in the favor of snakes. I wish there was a way to see what this habitat was like prior to this activity or to know if these are historical dens or ones the animals moved into over time as other dens in the forest were shaded out.

Does anyone have any idea where one can obtain historical data, say prior to 1900, on the primary make up of the appalachian forest prior to the chestnut blight? I'd prefer books over wikipedia.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by ugh » September 20th, 2012, 2:44 am

I’m bothered by the lack of anyone with extensive experience with Timber rattlers in the northeast commenting here.......... No one with any extensive amount of time in the field in the northeast that has worked with this species will ever argue that canopy closure is a not a MAJOR PROBLEM facing the species- no one that I can find, at least lol. In fact many I have spoken to- most of these are published biologists (since those are the only ones with any valuable say on the matter of course :lol: ) that have spent several decades working with them almost exclusively- say it may be the number one factor contributing to the species' demise.


Interestingly, this problem is NOT limited to areas of viable habitat that are suffering fragmentation by roads or encroachment from significant development (though those are of course suffering from these huge additional stresses); the snakes do not simply crawl to a road edge or farmer’s field and continue as if all is well.

Vital are not only proper basking temps, but also a safe/secure structure/crevice, etc., I think this latter point is understated….They will keep ‘holding on’/returning to the whatever rock crevice( secondary, but inferior, would be a log or other wood structure) offered a secure and successful birthing site until it becomes so shaded out as to no longer allow successful birthing. Then the population gradually dies out from lack of recruitment; pretty simple.

I am not surprised by the individuals that seem to doubt this lacking experience in this part of the species’ range. That said, it may not be limited to this region, just seems to be most obvious of a concern here. I say the mid-atlantic and esp. the northeast (and that’s the only places where I can comment of from my own experience) but I wouldn’t doubt it being an issue be throughout the entire Appalachian corridor for all I know; I don’t know of any reason why it wouldn’t hold true in the southern Appalachians.

Historically of course the species didn’t have such limitations as we are putting on them today/the last couple hundred years ( increasingly/more accurately, the last 5 or 6 decades); remember these are relatively speaking very new COMBINED pressures being faced by these snakes so I think that's why so many are lulled into a mindset that 'the snakes are still here after this long, so they'll be fine no matter what', or as long as we don't run them all over,or whatever lol.



Bryan Hamilton wrote:You guys are slightly overstating the importance of fire in eastern hardwood forests....
jimoo742 wrote:I, personally, consider canopy closure to be akin to habitat loss. It is just another form of it.
Really? Timber rattlesnake's preferred habitat is closed canopy forest. Canopy closure is a problem (arguably) for gestating females. Mature forests are absolutely vital to the species.
...

Bryan technically you’re correct here but I’d say for the wrong reason. Fire may be overstated as the ONLY NATURAL MEANS of canopy openings, putting sun on the snakes.
What is UNDERSTATED is the importance of said canopy openings to the longterm survival of the snakes. You and others keep stressing this term 'closed canopy forest' and it's one of the biggest minomers-very misleading. Yes the snakes spend huge amount of their time under a closed canopy; mostly individuals NOT gravid/gestating- a pretty important disclaimer to overlook.
I would argue a more accurate term is hardwood forest.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by incuhead2000 » September 20th, 2012, 4:42 am

John Vanek wrote: This is the issue. We ASSUME snakes require large open areas for birthing at high latitudes/elevation. Is it plausible? Sure. Probable? Perhaps. This needs to be tested, though.
Agreed. These ectotherms need to thermoregulate to properly gestate their young. During the heat of summer gestating females actually move farther underground seeking cooler temps because too much heat can cause issues with their internal gestation. When you look at the species as a whole and note their entire range and variety of habitats they occupy they are very adaptable.

The major reason their range has decreased is due to habitat loss and extirpation by humans from their former range. The Timber rattlesnake used to occur on much of the coastal plain in the North East but due to overall human presence they no longer occupy the area. I'm sure when you get to the northern most extent of their range where breeding season and gestation time is shorter open canopy would be an absolute must but as you get farther south it may become less and less critical to development.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by jimoo742 » September 20th, 2012, 5:18 am

John Vanek wrote:

What was keeping these highly philopatric serpents from being subject to natural succession? Was the fire interval that great as to prevent these dens from being shaded out? If not, what was? Were they simply finding news dens when the shade came? I find this unlikely. We are missing a piece of the puzzle here.

Wait a second. The landscape today is far more fragmented and far more dominated by humans in some respects, it is also (in the Northeast) more forested than a couple of hundred years ago. Not only were there more fires, but in the past couple of hundred years more grazing (including on slopes) which kept vegetative growth down. There were also more animals with more dens, so a greater ability for animals to populate and repopulate dens that were going through the successional cycles. Now the habitat is fragmented, more forested, less fires, less grazing, less ability to travel between potential den sites (and it the past 50 years a rebounding of raptors and turkeys, both predators)... well shoot. (Sure, some animals don't relocate, the den dies out, but new ones are "born" with genetic stock from the dens that "died", it is an ever changing dynamic, there was the landscape for that dynamic to occur, there isn't now). The myriad of hurdles is pretty painfully obvious to me (and yes, these have scientific documentation as well).

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by incuhead2000 » September 20th, 2012, 5:29 am

jimoo742 wrote:

Wait a second. The landscape today is far more fragmented and far more dominated by humans in some respects, it is also (in the Northeast) more forested than a couple of hundred years ago. Not only were there more fires, but in the past couple of hundred years more grazing (including on slopes) which kept vegetative growth down. There were also more animals with more dens, so a greater ability for animals to populate and repopulate dens that were going through the successional cycles. Now the habitat is fragmented, more forested, less fires, less grazing, less ability to travel between potential den sites (and it the past 50 years a rebounding of raptors and turkeys, both predators)... well shoot. The myriad of hurdles is pretty painfully obvious to me (and yes, these have scientific documentation as well).
Good point, but the original decline of these two predators you mentioned were also at the fault of humankind so their rebounding should be all around seen as a good thing. These snakes do have a lot to overcome and they still hang on in our wildest frontier areas, which in truth are the areas that need just as much protection and preservation as the fragmented areas where we find them still surviving, if not thriving in today.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by jimoo742 » September 20th, 2012, 5:36 am

incuhead2000 wrote:

Good point, but the original decline of these two predators you mentioned were also at the fault of humankind so their rebounding should be all around seen as a good thing. These snakes do have a lot to overcome and they still hang on in our wildest frontier areas, which in truth are the areas that need just as much protection and preservation as the fragmented areas where we find them still surviving, if not thriving in today.

I'm not saying the rebounding of hawks and turkeys is a bad thing, but when you have an artificially suppressed population (if you consider human predation artificial), a slow to sexually mature species with a low reproductive rate, and a rebound of predator levels at the same time potential habitat is not expanding. Wow. It is amazing they're persisting at all, really. And a chunk of that persistence is that they are so long lived that biologically dead den sites still hold animals. Again, not the NE, but in WI many of the "new" den sites we had shown to us (while at the DNR) from outreach to snake hunters were dens that were becoming very shaded and only held older males. No new recruitment. To the layperson it was a timber den, to me it was effectively a dead den with a few remnant animals.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by incuhead2000 » September 20th, 2012, 6:26 am

jimoo742 wrote: I'm not saying the rebounding of hawks and turkeys is a bad thing, but when you have an artificially suppressed population (if you consider human predation artificial), a slow to sexually mature species with a low reproductive rate, and a rebound of predator levels at the same time potential habitat is not expanding. Wow. It is amazing they're persisting at all, really.
You are absolutely right. If you factor in everything that humankind has done to the environment it's amazing any animals are left at all. Are we seeing the last of the timbers holding on to historical dens waiting for a genetic bottleneck to wipe them out with virtually no new recruitment, possibly. If that is the case artificially manipulating the habitat by opening the canopy is only delaying the extinction of that den. Is anyone involved in trying to reintroduce this species anywhere within its range where this loss may have already occurred?

The average Timber Rattlesnakes home range is about a maximum of 100ha. If there is a den with no other dens within that range, is it safe to say it will eventually collapse due to no new gene flow or will nature surprise us and a male snake will travel that extra distance to introduce new genetics and further preserve that den?

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by muskiemagnet » September 20th, 2012, 6:33 am

this debate is never going to end, you all do realize this, right? it's kind of like a conversation about the origins of, dare i say it, the coastal plains milk. i like the conversation. it has stayed civil, and i think a lot has been said to allow me to have more information to think about.

as far as wisconsin is concerned, hopefully once this paper was published, the snakes were not forgotten about. somehow i doubt it. i think there will always be active citizens and scientists alike to at least observe. it's no different in observing trends at your bird feeders. it will be interesting to see what happens in the next ten to twenty years. maybe this is a good argument to make turkeys small game here in wisconsin. there are way too many of them.

i wonder if we could have any impact on the dot to start building roads with travel paths for small animals. carefully placed brush piles to create potential travel paths in residential areas could also be valuable to aid in coexistence.

keep discussing, i'm enjoying following this thread.

incuhead- there has been a project/study to relocate an entire den. so far, it looks like it was pretty successful. i'm going to look into what the long-term results were. i do think it is possible to do what you mentioned. there is a lot involved, and timing is critical.

-ben

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by justinm » September 20th, 2012, 9:01 am

Ben,

Are you talking about the Lenexa Snake project? This was a well documented den relocation.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 20th, 2012, 9:52 am

incuhead2000 wrote:You are absolutely right. If you factor in everything that humankind has done to the environment it's amazing any animals are left at all. Are we seeing the last of the timbers holding on to historical dens waiting for a genetic bottleneck to wipe them out with virtually no new recruitment, possibly. If that is the case artificially manipulating the habitat by opening the canopy is only delaying the extinction of that den. Is anyone involved in trying to reintroduce this species anywhere within its range where this loss may have already occurred?

The average Timber Rattlesnakes home range is about a maximum of 100ha. If there is a den with no other dens within that range, is it safe to say it will eventually collapse due to no new gene flow or will nature surprise us and a male snake will travel that extra distance to introduce new genetics and further preserve that den?
What your talking about here is a population viability analysis. I think most states have done this and there might be a report out there on it.
ugh wrote:I’m bothered by the lack of anyone with extensive experience with Timber rattlers in the northeast commenting here..........
You're right that I don't have any experience with timbers in the NE. My experience is in areas that are heavily logged. Closed canopy isn't a problem there. More of a lack of closed canopy.

You seem to have a lot of valuable insight and experience. I know we've been throught this before, but if you used your real name and introduced yourself, you would gain some credibility.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by jimoo742 » September 20th, 2012, 9:54 am

Bryan Hamilton wrote:

You seem to have a lot of valuable insight and experience. I know we've been throught this before, but if you used your real name and introduced yourself, you would gain some credibility.

You seem to be hung up on this for some reason.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by Jimi » September 20th, 2012, 1:48 pm

i wonder if we could have any impact on the dot to start building roads with travel paths for small animals
The answer is YES. Timber rattlesnakes included - especially in those states where they are a conservation priority.

But your odds are way, way better working through your state DNR or "fish and game", than they are with approaching DOT as a herper group. Highway impacts to wildlife and habitats, and avoiding, minimizing, & mitigating those impacts, has exponentially grown as a topic of discussion and positive action over the least decade. SAFETEA-LU (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/safetealu/summary.htm) signed in 2005 was a game-changer. An excerpt from that site:
The Secretary is to conduct a Wildlife Vehicle Collision Reduction Study of methods to reduce collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife, and report to Congress within 2 years on causes, impacts, and solutions. A manual of best practices is due 1 year after report to Congress. The Secretary is required to develop a training course for transportation professionals.
In a lot of states the conversation is still about deer-car collisions and such - mainly about human safety. But in some more progressive states, absolutely, small critters, and wildlife population viability, are getting some attention. (And this is generating some push-back. Anybody remember a couple years ago when some so-called budget hawks in Congress singled out the turtle roadkill reduction project - not a study, a highway project - at Florida's Lake Jackson as an example of "government waste"? Ask Matt Aresco.)

Transportation is a place where organization and sustained engagement are crucial, because the planning horizons are so long, and the costs are so high. The time to get wildlife considered is before highways are built, or when they're being improved or rehabbed. In Utah, in the last 5-6 years we've gotten dozens, probably almost a hundred by now, of crappy little pipe or box culverts upgraded to big arches with natural-substrate bottoms, nearly a dozen completely replaced with bridges, and lots of miles of highway fenced to keep tortoises, deer, etc. off them, and pointed towards the new underpasses.

In many cases, if you get involved early enough, it's possible to add in little design or location tweaks, at low or no cost, to squeeze more benefit out of initial proposals - to add value to the deer or bear crossings, for example, to benefit box turtles or snakes.

Look into what's happening in your state. If projects are using federal dollars (and nearly anything bigger that filling potholes is using federal dollars), they need to be paying attention to wildlife. It's not just ethics - it's the law. How they pay attention depends in part on you. It's entirely possible that your "fish and game" folks who are tasked with talking to your DOT folks are more focused on deer and turkeys, than on herps. You can help fix that. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Cheers,
Jimi

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by Jimi » September 20th, 2012, 2:17 pm

Something you all may find interesting about horridus space-use in Vermont:
http://www.oriannesociety.org/blog/unex ... gs-vermont

Lots of other cool blogs there.

cheers,
Jimi

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by incuhead2000 » September 20th, 2012, 4:24 pm

Thanks for sharing, I think Kiley is also a member here on the forum. Interesting finds on the wetland habits of these animals in Vermont.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by jimoo742 » September 20th, 2012, 5:09 pm

Yeah, thanks for the post. The wetland thing is interesting. One of the snakes that was on air in SW Wisconsin in the late 90s pulled an odd/similar stunt. It was a male and it spent most of its summer in a wetland, and about half the time it was up in a tree. It was a topic of much conversation.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by ugh » September 20th, 2012, 5:51 pm

I was hesitant to write my last post here for this very reason, uninformed individuals speaking with implied authority which the readers will not know better than to dismiss as crap or at least filter through it.

Incuhead can you tell us a little more about these females ‘going further underground’ – that’s slightly vague, what are you basing this on? What species are you talking about here?

John Vanek- I think it’s important to remind the folks here that you are basing your remarks on 6 months total personal experience with the species. In INDIANA.
INDIANA.
That’s really apples and oranges- I'm assuming you know that- and I won’t go into why.

But you’re going to go with that and really say there’s ‘only a few people actually studying them’ in the northeast, huh? LOL nice.Very insulting.
Hey you’re probably right, my 9 years with a few thousand observations or so, and the 150 to 200 cumulative years’ experience of the several folks I referred to, doesn’t probably count for anything. I mean, we probably don’t really even know what we’re talking about. Regardless even if you were unaware of the major differences within the species' range between the montane northeast and the midwest populations that's a ridiculous, arrogant, and ignorant comment. No excuse.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by gbin » September 20th, 2012, 7:30 pm

John Vanek wrote:... There is nothing wrong with wanting to actually use science to study something and not just base management decisions on observations and opinions.
Well said, John. :thumb: You probably don't need to be warned, though, that there are people out there who believe their own anecdotal experiences are far more meaningful than any proper scientific studies could ever be because, well,... they're theirs! And of course these people will quickly make such things personal for the very same reason.

Gerry

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by ugh » September 20th, 2012, 8:20 pm

Wait, let’s be clear- you mean the only way to actually ‘study’ them is jumping at the chance to radio track animals implanted for someone else’s research project, either for free or minimum wage, or whatever……..?

ok.

Yes, in that case I don’t study these animals! I'll have to inform the others too, we're wasting our time. Lol
And re: radio telemetry, there are more than a few doing that up here anyway.

If I may be frank here- Vanek, pull your head out of your ass, seriously.
And don’t give me that ‘please don’t disrespect me’ bullshit when you do just the same in a barely more subtle way, ok?

And Gbin- I don't think my observations are more meaningful than anyone's, as long as we're comparing apples to apples!
This was a discussion of rattler basking habitat in the northeast and central Appalachians, that's it.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by The Jake-Man » September 21st, 2012, 2:42 am

Mr. Vanek, you're never going to win an argument against ugh, no matter how respectful and rational you are. I learned that my first week on the forum. :lol:

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by ugh » September 21st, 2012, 3:50 am

Jake man, you’re gonna miss your school bus, get out there lol.
Guys this is not about winning anything, or being right,etc... try to understand that?

Most of the replies here are what I expected, so that’s fine. Vanek you need to be aware you come off as dismissive to others studying these animals in ways not identical to yours- surely you can see that, your words are pretty plain. Your scope of scientific study is limited, simple as that. Legitimate as your background is, you don't have the experience to comment much on this issue, I feel. The region in question is too different from where you radio-tracked. Yes that’s just my opinion though.

This topic of shading out of basking sites has been studied in depth(not enough I feel), and published but it is still not as much on the forefront of people’s minds as I think it should be. Just trying to raise awareness here because I know people are ‘sleeping on it’.

Let me try simplifying it like this, this much is already known/indisputable(may or may not apply in Indiana...?):

-the snakes are somewhat limited at where they bask by the distance from the hibernacula;
-where they can go is in most cases limted to varying degrees by human development and activity;
-Suitable habitat in general is increasingly limted and this is a relatively new challenge facing the snakes, say from the past 120 years; more dramatically so the past 50 years or less.
-Human activity continues to increase in nearly all of these areas inhabited by the snakes.
-IDEAL( = facilitating earliest birthing, allowing the postpartum snake time to forage and eat after birthing to recoup energy lost) for the snakes’ gestation is immediate access to full sun, all day. Admittedly this is not typical.
-forest fire is no longer a reliable means of opening the canopy for the snakes, again, due to fire suppression.
-The inevitable forest succession in these basking areas rapidly reduces and ultimately eliminates the sufficient heat for successful birthing
-Lack of sufficient heat will delay and ultimately prevent successful birthing in the snakes.
-without successful birthing the population will die off due to lack of recruitment.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by justinm » September 21st, 2012, 7:54 am

John,

Ugh is a xenophobic troll. Just let it go... He's a fake name on the internet. F%$k 'em I say. I'm sick of him acting this way and hiding at the same time. Let it go, let him be an internet hero.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by joeysgreen » September 21st, 2012, 8:38 am

Has anyone suggested working with the state biologists to perhaps start a den management plan? I think that might be the best of both worlds, negating the need for vigilantism.

Ian

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 21st, 2012, 9:09 am

John Vanek wrote:It all comes down to funding, and in this time of economic austerity, non-game rarely gets money.
There is truth to this but...

we're talking about pretty small scale projects. I wonder if it would be possible to organize volunteers to do the tree cutting and monitoring? It would take some coordination and work. The Nature Conservancy has been pretty successfull at using volunteers to remove woody vegetation from many of their preserves.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by pete » September 21st, 2012, 11:03 am

The sad thing is that volunteer efforts are often disregarded by state agencies,especially when venomous species are concerned. The liability factor of a volunteer being bitten outweighs the good that could come from such efforts.

There has been a lot of talking about the need for more studies of northeast timber populations. Telemetry studies have shown that timbers use a variety of unexpected habitats. They have also shown that gestating females need open rock with suitable crevices to successfully birth. Not sure why the pissing contest continues when that is the whole point of the thread in the first place. There is less available habitat because of forest succession and lack of logging or fires to keep these rookery rocks open. Most of the dens I know of in new england are heavily shaded during the summer months but receive adequate sunlight in the winter months due to annual foliage loss. Maybe the female snakes will find a new way to keep warm when gravid, but I doubt that will happen. So the populations will continue to dwindle away quietly.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by joeysgreen » September 21st, 2012, 2:17 pm

Ah, yes funding. That's always in the way isn't it :)

I suggest anyone that wants to pursue something contact Northeast PARC (Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation). Here in Alberta there is room for motivated people to make a difference if they follow the proper channels (ie, getting the permits that pass Animal Care Committees etc). I'd hope the same would be elsewhere but I certainly could be wrong.

Ian

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by muskiemagnet » September 21st, 2012, 4:38 pm

holy crap guys, i'm sick right now and do not have the energy to read it all. i read a few and love where this is going. i will respond to those i read, and will get through it as soon as snot stops dripping in my lap or on to my keyboard.

justin: yes lenexa. do you know how it has turned out? from what i got out of it, they stopped tracking after two years. i may be wrong.

jimoo: you mentioned central sands. i've been going over a USFWS evaluation from a "few" years ago for saugas. lots of good looking habitat in that area. large area to say the least. private land, fed land, state land. it's big. i mentioned to armund bartz of my intention to explore historical sauga areas in wisconsin. he told me to keep him in the loop as to whether i find anything or not. i wouldn't mind discussing this via pm if you are willing. i'll send you one in a few days. too sick to think deep at the moment. you mentioned a timber that spent a lot of time in a swamp and a tree. i remember matt heeter telling me about that one while we drove down 35 on the way to one of the spots.

jimi: it's funny when you say the squeaky wheel gets the grease. i recently had a county road worker say this to me. there was a news story here the other day. about ten million dollars spent on beautifying a large highway project. seriously stupid stuff. a few mill on ornamental plants and such. what happens when all the salt comes out in the winter? sounds like passing the wealth to friends. this may be a good cause to start squeaking. they'll just keep replacing said plants every time they die. all that money could have been spent for travel corridors.

bryan: in some ways i agree with you on the name thing, but i'll side with jimoo. my thought is to just read, and evaluate to determine who is credible or not. a name ain't going to tell you that anyways.

i'll read the rest the next few days.

-ben

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by incuhead2000 » September 21st, 2012, 5:13 pm

Back in college we had Susan Hagood (wildlife expert with HSUS) visit our Wildlife Management class and discussed the projects for roadway crossing primarily involving box turtles and deer during the ICC construction project. For those who don't know this is a new major highway built over the last several years here in MD. Somehow, they convinced the state to allocate a lot of money to help with the construction of critter crossings. They also tried to relocate many of the turtles to the Rachel Carson Environmental area, which if I remember correctly ended up failing because most of the turtles tried to migrate back to where they were originally moved from. Many of these turtles were ones I probably grew up seeing as a kid since I lived there most of my life and the highway is now complete right near my parents backyard. Sad to see them go but I always hoped for the best. I know it's like comparing apples to oranges but what are the chances if you relocated a snake that it would take to its new home? I'd also be interested in hearing more about the snake relocation project if you can pass along any info!

I have also noticed a lot of very open rocky outcroppings are very popular people hangouts and I'm sure were historically Timber Dens at some point. What are the chances of getting certain areas closed off to human activities and perhaps relocating snakes into areas where they most likely used to be...I'm guessing probably close to zero but this could be an alternative to further manipulating habitat. I personally think giving back to the animals is more important that someone getting a nice view of the countryside.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by ugh » September 22nd, 2012, 3:34 am

Lol hey thanks JustinM! :lol:

As much as we still don’t know about this snake, we do know a HELL OF A LOT about them. And currently that knowledge is WAY WAY ahead of our land and habitat management practices in I’d say every frickin’ state the montane TR still occurs in. And that needs to change, there’s no excuse for it at his point, IMHO. I mean some of this is really simple stuff to implement, considering how complex and fascinating the species itself is.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by dragoncjo » September 22nd, 2012, 4:15 am

Mike, relocating timbers is real tough. From my experience in a atypical area, its almost impossible. I say this to lots of people but this species were I live (and I'm sure everywhere) is incredibly robotic and hardwired. They are a stubborn snake. You can move them but they are going right back to where they came from because there are generations of scent trails, rook sites, dens, etc mapped in their brains. I will say that they will take to newly cut areas real fast. They seem to have an incredible ability to find a freshly cleared area of trees, I truely have no idea how they do this though.

I like the idea of this opening of the forest manually, I think it was done with good intent. Maybe it was a bit sloppy looking but I don't think it harmed any other species. Where I live similar underground cutting has really attracted the species, in one particular spot we had 5 gravid females show up a few years back right after the cutting was done. Where I live that is a ton of gravid snakes for one spot, I have to think that den was starving for a good rook site and this females poured into it.

One last thought, I don't post on the 'big' forum ever, mostly to avoid the egoe driven bitch fest (for which I very much enjoyed at one time). But many of you guys have great knowledge, and others that don't, really want to learn and help. Instead of whinning to eachother on an internet forum why don't you start making in roads with conservation groups, DEP, DNR, etc? Start building a relationship with these people, you may have to park your egoes for a bit, but if you truely love reptiles why not do it? Many of these species really need human intervention to help because we've messed things up for them so bad. Why not take all your knowledge send some emails, make some phone calls and get involved. I know most herpers like to be totally rogue, i get that its our nature, but if you truely like reptiles get out there and do something. I've seen firsthand why a couple like minded good natured folks can make a huge difference in an area. If areas need to be opened up get out there and talk to people to get it done and stop arguing here, its a total waste of time and energy.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by kyle loucks » September 22nd, 2012, 3:24 pm

Gestation area - Indiana Pennsylvania.

Image

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by incuhead2000 » September 22nd, 2012, 3:31 pm

Thanks for the info dragon! I have been getting more and more involved with the state as time moves along and hope to have a bigger influence in the future. I will keep an eye on these sites and protect the snakes, even if I feel the job of habitat improvement could have been done in a more responsible manner. There are a few sites that I've never seen snakes at, the interesting thing will be to see when they show up!

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by justinm » September 22nd, 2012, 6:11 pm

@Ben,

Dr. Mindy Walker (who I've sadly lost touch with) told me that out of nearly 30 snakes monitored and relocated. They lost two. One was tracked nearly 6 miles from the den. He was likely the victim of an Owl they think. Another female that had bred the year before died and they think was predated as well, but was close to the den. The others had some interesting travel patterns. Some were going very very far for days or weeks but always returning to the main den area. Her opinion was that there is some familial patterns, and that they do well when moved if the "family" goes at once.

I read everything I can find about this species but this has been the most mind blowing information that I've seen so far. It seems like some individuals are really sedentary and some are really travelers.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by muskiemagnet » September 23rd, 2012, 4:21 am

justinm wrote:@Ben,

Dr. Mindy Walker (who I've sadly lost touch with) told me that out of nearly 30 snakes monitored and relocated. They lost two. One was tracked nearly 6 miles from the den. He was likely the victim of an Owl they think. Another female that had bred the year before died and they think was predated as well, but was close to the den. The others had some interesting travel patterns. Some were going very very far for days or weeks but always returning to the main den area. Her opinion was that there is some familial patterns, and that they do well when moved if the "family" goes at once.

I read everything I can find about this species but this has been the most mind blowing information that I've seen so far. It seems like some individuals are really sedentary and some are really travelers.

i read the paper as well. it seemed to me that it turned out well. sounded like many snakes returned. there was a lot of thought put into the project. it's awesome that it turned out the way it did. could have been bulldozed, and no one would ever have known. luckily the right people were in place for it. perfect opportunity. i'm glad they made sure to take everything into account. it all worked out too. talk about making lemonade. i'd be curious as to the long-term. results. can't imagine that they wouldn't be positive, considering most snakes came back.

-ben

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by muskiemagnet » September 23rd, 2012, 5:00 am

ugh wrote:Most of the replies here are what I expected, so that’s fine. Vanek you need to be aware you come off as dismissive to others studying these animals in ways not identical to yours- surely you can see that, your words are pretty plain. Your scope of scientific study is limited, simple as that. Legitimate as your background is, you don't have the experience to comment much on this issue, I feel. The region in question is too different from where you radio-tracked. Yes that’s just my opinion though.
so it's fine when the responses are what YOU expected? seems to be about you way too much. c'mon ugh, you can dish it, but when you get blasted, you get all defensive.

ugh- "jake man, you're going to miss your school bus, get out there lol." can you say juvenile?

ugh- "Guys this is not about winning anything, or being right,etc... try to understand that?"

ugh, heed your own advice. i'm sorry, i forgot, we must be stupid, for we don't understand.
it's funny that, in my opinion, it is you that doesn't understand. you may want to ask yourself why topics seem to transform into a pissing match as soon as you enter the arena.

two options here ugh. first is that you are a megalomaniac. the other option is that other's opinions make you question the validity of your own, and you don't want to admit that you may not know everything.

it has been my "observation" that you instigate this crap. how many times does it need repeating till "scientific evidence" can be gathered to prove it? will you believe it then?

-ben

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by ugh » September 23rd, 2012, 5:31 am

Getting back on topic:
kyle loucks wrote:Gestation area - Indiana Pennsylvania.

Image

Kyle, what makes you think the snake(s) were gestating there? and did you eventually go back and see/photograph any babies?(Assuming this is in PA; what's with the Indiana reference?)
I would guess they weren't actually gestating there, but it's possible.
Looks like it's using a fallen tree in the yard/clearing adjacent to someone's camp/huntclub, which is common.

Regardless, if the snakes have adopted that for actual gestating or even any other long term basking then they're starved for sun and I would bet a paycheck the rock in that vicinity is/has been effectively shaded out.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by kyle loucks » September 23rd, 2012, 11:31 am

Yes Justin, atypical for the area to say the least. Open field but not far from forest. I have been observing these animals at this site for the last 4 years and was privileged to find babies, pre-shed- sitting on a stump behind that tree. Mother was resting within 5 feet.

All I had was a cell phone- brick took some better shots.

Image


That was in 2009. In 2011 one of the females had her babies inside another log about 100 yards away. I missed the babies, as they had just shed, but momma was still inside the log.

Here she is about a month prior.
Image

and her youngins fresh sheds...

Image

I dont get the exposure to these snakes as you or the other guys who are up there ensuring their safety, and I am always learning something new about them.... then they throw you a curve and do something totally different like this. So, I stop scratching my head and just enjoy them.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by hellihooks » September 23rd, 2012, 12:40 pm

Had the 1st Ethics Roundtable had a subject as enthralling and controversial as this... there may been a second... :roll: interesting read. jim

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by justinm » September 23rd, 2012, 1:54 pm

Kyle,

I guess you just taught ole Ugh something. Now maybe he can stop telling us all how we don't know anything, but he does...

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by ugh » September 23rd, 2012, 3:12 pm

Kyle, thanks for the pics. Obviously a birthing site...
And btw I too above all else, try to learn something new each time out there! The day I think I know everything about anything I'm F'ed!

But I think you misunderstood me, but the whole point is, that shown in your pic is very typical, and increasingly so. Re-read my last post or two, I said it's not at all uncommon. The snakes use shitty rookeries like that only when they have nothing better, again, due to forest succession. I see log birthing sites all the time- just not when there's something better around.

Look around that site, and what rock you may find is shaded out, is it not?

I call it a shitty rookery because well, look at it. A bear could shred that thing by sneezing at it. And it just doesn't produce an EFFICIENT(didn't say sufficient) amount of heat. Wood is nowhere near as conductive as rock, nor as safe/stable. It's nonpermanent/ephemeral, gone via biodegradation in a decade or so. Not to mention such a site is obviously bringing the snakes in closer contact with humans- usually a losing propostion for the snakes of course;what's the one hardest time to argue with someone that has killed a snake, than when they had one in their yard, and "hey, c'mon I got kids and grandkids around here". Even I can only shrug when I hear that one..... Also, they would just be more visible to humans, which would lead to the general misconception of abundance.

All these are reasons I say people here, or without copious amount of field time with the species, are SLEEPING ON THE ISSUE..

Otherwise do you think I would I sit here and take such shit from justinm and benmuskymagnet, and whoever else ? lol

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kes and Forest Succession

Post by justinm » September 23rd, 2012, 3:22 pm

I'd say I have a lot of field time with them UGH, you're the one that keeps saying that if it's not the NE it's a totally different thing. I've seen them in quite a few states, and seen a variety of habitat used. I've seen the Western most specimen found to date, guess why! Because I don't have my mind made up about where they live, or how to find them. I keep learning every year, I don't know enough.

I think your ego isn't allowing you to believe that you don't know it all, and that people are seeing things that you didn't count on. These are super cool snakes, I like seeing them in the wild, i don't mess with them let them be. I've seen rocks and logs both used. I've seen logs used where there were rockpiles not that far off. I think these snakes know what is best for them.

Despite the bounties that used to be on them, and the slaughter by the hundreds not too many decades ago both in my neck of the woods and yours we're finding them regularly.

You likely have no idea how many more you're missing since you're dismissing academia and radio tracking studies. I think it's time for you to finally pull your own head out of your ass, as you directed someone recently. You're sounding a lot like Frank Reete's to me. Whackadoodle.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by brick911 » September 23rd, 2012, 3:24 pm

kyle loucks wrote:
All I had was a cell phone- brick took some better shots.
I don't have any great shots telling the story of the mama and neo timbers, but here's what I have...

Mom en situ

Image

A few moved in and out of this hole.

Image

For good measure.

Image

I have a great picture of my 8 year old son (at the time) holding like 7 of the babies. Let me see if I can find it...

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 23rd, 2012, 3:31 pm

In some areas of the midwest decomposing logs are prefered rookery sites. A big tree falls, creates an opening in the canopy, add some heat from decomposition, and some hollowing out of crevices, and abra-cadabra....

Logs are ephemeral though and only seem to be suitable for a few years.

One interesting study from Missouri showed that timbers were using corn and soybean fields. And denning in an old quarry. I think they are far more adaptable than we give them credit for.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by incuhead2000 » September 23rd, 2012, 4:12 pm

I remember years ago doing personal research on this species before seeing one in the wild and coming up with a fair amount of images of Timbers hiding away in logs. Kyle and Bob, really cool shots by the way of that behavior.

I have noticed that the type of rock the Timbers den in is not a great conductor of heat and know they use the rocks for many other reasons such as protection, rookeries, and a great place to find a humid, warm place to shed and can't forget to mention they stay a bit warmer underground during the winter months. On the cooler days in late September and October it seems that Timbers are not relying on the rocks but the leaf litter as a better heat conductor. Has any one else noticed this too? Just touching the rocks this time of year it really is surprising how cool to the touch they are in comparison to the leaf litter. So if we remove the trees and decrease the leaf litter and only have bare earth I'm assuming this would impact their behavior this time of year greatly.

As found, October 11th in MD 2010 within about 20 feet of the den before any tree cutting was done at this area this year.

Image

And Bob, he really only held seven? I'm sure he could have held more than that!

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by dragoncjo » September 23rd, 2012, 4:33 pm

JustinM, don't think ugh is dismissing academics and people doing telemtry. I think ugh supports both as he was always supportive of myself when I did telemtry. In turn I think ugh finds value in the findings of non academics. Ugh's a friend of mine and I think he occasionally struggles with the way his thoughts come out when typed and his ability to deal with disagreement. Ugh's made alot of sacrifices to help timbers. Ugh if I were you I would just avoid this site its just going to piss you off as it does to me, keep doing what your doing, no real good has every come from endless debating with folks on here.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by The Jake-Man » September 23rd, 2012, 5:03 pm

*14 :lol: :lol:

I'm just going to abandon this topic... I think all the intellectual discussion has already been had, and it's not really going anywhere good.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by gbin » September 23rd, 2012, 5:19 pm

John Vanek wrote:... I just happen to have this annoying condition in that I like to have evidence on which to base my opinions. Unfortunately, word of mouth isn't good enough for me.
I'm afraid I don't have any knowledge of the citation you're seeking, John, but I wanted to pop in to say this:

:thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:

Gerry

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by VanAR » September 23rd, 2012, 5:48 pm

On the cooler days in late September and October it seems that Timbers are not relying on the rocks but the leaf litter as a better heat conductor. Has any one else noticed this too? Just touching the rocks this time of year it really is surprising how cool to the touch they are in comparison to the leaf litter. So if we remove the trees and decrease the leaf litter and only have bare earth I'm assuming this would impact their behavior this time of year greatly.
Not necessarily. They might not be relying on conduction at all to gain heat. Unless the surfaces in contact are significantly warmer than the snake, conduction probably will not be a significant source of heat uptake. In fact, if the surfaces are cooler than the snake, heat will actually conduct away from the snake. In those conditions, the source of heat gain will primarily be solar short-wave infrared radiation. If you set up a time-lapse camera on a tripod (or just sat and watched the snakes for hours), they are likely going to make small movements/posture adjustments throughout the day to always keep at least some part of their body in direct sunlight. That is the reason why so many are advocating for opening the canopy over potential dens/rookeries. Losing the leaf litter might have important consequences for the snakes' ability to camouflage themselves, so its probably best not to remove all of the canopy over a potential den/rookery, but to strategically open up canopy holes that allow snakes easy access to light, leaf litter, and rocky cover.
One interesting study from Missouri showed that timbers were using corn and soybean fields. And denning in an old quarry. I think they are far more adaptable than we give them credit for.
If it's the same system I'm thinking of, I know the guy who worked there quite well, and the interesting thing there (if I remember right) was that there were hardly any trees at all at the den/rookery area, and the snakes only occasionally used forested areas on the margins of the ag fields. They also had tons of food and reproduced more frequently than the average timber (every 2-3 years) and had pretty large litter sizes (8-10+ offspring). Very cool system.

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by hellihooks » September 23rd, 2012, 5:56 pm

gbin wrote:
John Vanek wrote:... I just happen to have this annoying condition in that I like to have evidence on which to base my opinions. Unfortunately, word of mouth isn't good enough for me.
I'm afraid I don't have any knowledge of the citation you're seeking, John, but I wanted to pop in to say this:

:thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:

Gerry
:thumb: :thumb: :thumb:
It would have been hilariously ironic, Gerry, given your avatar... if your reply would have remained the last post on this thread... :crazyeyes: :lol: :lol: :lol: jim

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Re: Spring Timber Rattlesnakes and Forest Succession

Post by ugh » September 23rd, 2012, 6:17 pm

No one has to take my word for it.
This gentleman’s words may carry a bit more weight re: Timber Rattlesnakes…. ;)



“I believe shading over is the main threat to rattlesnakes across the North and Appalachians.”

(Excerpt from personal communication with W.H. Martin, rattlesnake biologist)


Probably carries at least 50 times the weight of anything I could say or have said here lol.






Thanks for the kind words Dragoncjo. Unfortunately this thread keeps getting sidetracked by adolescent(apparently) and other juvenile minded folks that can’t look at the message and focus on the messenger. Lots of commentary here, which in general is good.

Jakeman- Yes. This is what you’ve got to look forward to- people still act like this, even after puberty lol. 8-)


Vanek, ok I get that. I can’t say I didn’t expect to hear from a skeptic or two, it’d be crazy not to. I’m just going to have to accept you as a doubter. You'll come around if you stick with the field, I suspect.
Re: evidence? All I have is 9 years of my own data on these snakes, all collected sans transmitter and antenna. Reflected in fairly meticulous notes and photographic records. Most of (in some cases, more than) the same data you were able to collect after being shown how to radio track.

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