Alan's contact lives on the Idaho side, north of Hells Canyon (??), along the snake river but I don't have an address or locations of the sightings myself. My plan is maybe to do some viewshedding in Google Earth to locate sites on either side of the river with good rocky southern exposure, consider areas I can access legally that have roads/trails, get the word out here and locally, and go on a trip to check it out. The Hells Canyon/Snake River area also sounds like new interesting country for me to explore regardless. I don't expect to find any zonata, but I'll get an eyeful of the land at least. This is an unlikely hunt so I don't know how seriously others should take this. My intent was moreso just to ask folks about zonata in this area, and if other herpers have reason to go to keep an eye out and keep our friend Alan in mind if something turns up.
He also mentioned:
"ring-necked snake has a similar distribution/habitat-requirement (as Zonata) in the Northwest, and it indeed occurs as isolated populations in Hells Canyon."
He also said his contact described a communal fear of the authorities getting involved if endangered animals are reported. Alan explained they are not federally protected and classified as endangered but are sparse in distribution at the northern edge of their range. Just something to be sensitive to if we meet anyone.
"We recognize zonata's protected status in Oregon and stress that this is not an open invite to trash the habitat and handle protected snakes."
Richard, regarding my quote above... I could have worded some things better -- I told people what they should/shouldn't do which is usually a bad idea. I also shouldn't have mentioned Oregon specifically and just included WA/ID with OR. The boundaries of 3 states are near the general area of Hells Canyon and the Snake River and "laws may vary" may have been a better point depending on where one wants to look. Regardless of DFW data, I see zonata populations in northern oregon, washington, and idaho as sensitive. They are uncommon at the edge of their range and I give them respect for being such survivors. I do have an ODFW friend who had a zonata site in WA he had spent 7 years researching get leaked to the public resulting in habitat destruction and displaced snakes (research project was ruined). I want to show zonata in the pacnw a little reverence so any future readers of this post will pause and consider it instead of just seeing a brightly colored snake to chase, but like a caveman I end up waving laws in everyone's faces.
As for the 5 more species of snakes being added to 'Protected' list by ODFW -- Alan emailed me about this in February and I wrote a length letter to the ODFW director with my own feedback, explaining the thousands of miles I put on my car for snake tourism in Oregon (as its illegal to handle them in WA), asking to see the data especially for yellow bellied racers being added to the protected list (on some of my trips these are the ONLY snakes I find!). I also have a trip to Alvord Desert in early May to look for desert striped whipsnakes that would have been illegal if the revisions had passed in early March. Fortunately I received an email from the ODFW director Curt Melcher on 2/23 stating:
"At this time, we are fielding a lot of questions about the Division 44 rules and will not be changing any rules in March. We plan to take some more time to consider public feedback and address the concerns we have been hearing."
So yeah I'm aware of this madness, and afaik the proposal described (submitted for feedback in January of this year to division 044) is currently stopped and won't go into law. We do need to keep our eyes out for similar changes returning and be ready to scrutinize it and defend public access to reptiles if we must. We should just know to dig around on ODFW's site in January of 2017.