Lower Coastal Plain Pine Snakes Advice?

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platinum_z
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Joined: September 15th, 2019, 10:48 pm

Lower Coastal Plain Pine Snakes Advice?

Post by platinum_z » October 10th, 2019, 3:17 pm

I have spent the past year field herping with the intentions of finding P. melanoleucus in the lower coastal plain of SC. I have found suitable pine snake habitats, but I have yet to find the snake. I have put so much of my time searching for habitats and the pine snake itself and keep turning up empty handed. I come here to ask for advice because I think that maybe there are some differences in how to find a pine in SC opposed to somewhere else. I also am finding conflicting information on what temperatures I am more likely to find one in. I have the general idea of what the habitat should look like and contain, but maybe someone who has more experience than me can chime in and answer some of my questions? Should I be looking in suitable habitat that has lots of thick brush? I have done significantly less searching in habitats like that because I don't think I'd ever see the snake if I came across one. The best spot I have found that seemingly has all the right things (sandy soil, long leafs, lots of stump holes) has become overgrown, so I have not been there in a while in favor of new spots. Really I would appreciate any advice anyone has about finding P. melanoleucus in the lower coastal plain. I know they are here, and I am not giving up my search for one. I understand that they are hard to come by and the best time of year to find them has passed, but I would like to know all the information I can know that would help me find one this fall and during the next season. Thank you.

Jimi
Posts: 1860
Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: Lower Coastal Plain Pine Snakes Advice?

Post by Jimi » October 10th, 2019, 4:10 pm

I've never seen a pine in SC, but in peninsular North Florida I came to understand them as a June - mid mornings - dirt roads cruiser animal. (That's a pretty hot sunny time of year there.) Substrate was key, land cover less so. They're big and slow, so get hammered by traffic. You'll probably get some spots located first, by DORs. You might check w/ SCDNR about salvaging those for placement in a natural history museum collection; I can get you a name if you need help.

Does SC have a herp atlas?

Good hunting.

platinum_z
Posts: 3
Joined: September 15th, 2019, 10:48 pm

Re: Lower Coastal Plain Pine Snakes Advice?

Post by platinum_z » October 10th, 2019, 8:45 pm

Jimi wrote:
October 10th, 2019, 4:10 pm
I've never seen a pine in SC, but in peninsular North Florida I came to understand them as a June - mid mornings - dirt roads cruiser animal. (That's a pretty hot sunny time of year there.) Substrate was key, land cover less so. They're big and slow, so get hammered by traffic. You'll probably get some spots located first, by DORs. You might check w/ SCDNR about salvaging those for placement in a natural history museum collection; I can get you a name if you need help.

Does SC have a herp atlas?

Good hunting.
Thankfully where I have been looking I have not found very many DORs at all this year, none were pines. Honestly, I did not think a natural history museum or scdnr would be interested in a DOR pine, other than the location where it was found. I never thought to look for a SC specific herp database, but I found https://www.carolinaherpatlas.org/Data. It doesn't have records of P. melanoleucus in the counties I am searching in.

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nhherp
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Re: Lower Coastal Plain Pine Snakes Advice?

Post by nhherp » October 11th, 2019, 9:39 am

I have in the past found DOR pines snakes in the lowlands of SC.

The largest contributing factor for habitiat is old pine timberland where stump removal was not practiced. So much of the lowlands is replanted money pine acreage and it can look "good" but due to practices in timbering it never sits long enough to return to what is needed for long term Pit occupation. I would advise you to find the old stands of pine, preferably where they left stumps (and the root systems to decompose) when it was timbered. Anywhere you can find agopher tortoise population to exist should also offer you the best chance of seeing a pine snake.

Try to get access to some of the hunting reserves/plantations which practice more ecologically based habitat management. This is a tough one, but if you live in the lowlands it can be done.

-N-

platinum_z
Posts: 3
Joined: September 15th, 2019, 10:48 pm

Re: Lower Coastal Plain Pine Snakes Advice?

Post by platinum_z » October 11th, 2019, 10:21 am

nhherp wrote:
October 11th, 2019, 9:39 am
I have in the past found DOR pines snakes in the lowlands of SC.

The largest contributing factor for habitiat is old pine timberland where stump removal was not practiced. So much of the lowlands is replanted money pine acreage and it can look "good" but due to practices in timbering it never sits long enough to return to what is needed for long term Pit occupation. I would advise you to find the old stands of pine, preferably where they left stumps (and the root systems to decompose) when it was timbered. Anywhere you can find agopher tortoise population to exist should also offer you the best chance of seeing a pine snake.

Try to get access to some of the hunting reserves/plantations which practice more ecologically based habitat management. This is a tough one, but if you live in the lowlands it can be done.

-N-
Sound advice. I have found places like you described, but no gopher tortoise populations. In what I believe to be the best habitat I have come across yet in my search, I found Eastern Box Turtles burrowing into the old stump holes. Thank you for your advice and words of assurance. I have a feeling I am going to be in for the long haul with this one, there are only so many hours I can dedicate to this search in a given year. But I love the chase and everything I see along the way.

Jimi
Posts: 1860
Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: Lower Coastal Plain Pine Snakes Advice?

Post by Jimi » October 17th, 2019, 9:35 am

The only extant GT populations in SC, as I understand it, are right down by the GA border. A very narrow strip, with zealous private-property protections and not much in the way of public road access. Sure, you could definitely find a pine snake down there, but...you should also be able to find them clear up to the NC border as well. Looking at the Carolina Herp Atlas, there are lots of holes for new county records.

As for aggressive naval-stores exploitation, and aggressive silvicultural site prep, yeah, of course those have not been good for longleaf retention or recruitment. But as I said previously, in FL at least I came to understand land cover as not so important for pines (or most of the other xeric-uplands snakes). Large-lot rural subdivisions with intermixed mowed areas and fire-suppressed vacant lots produced pines, hogs, EDBs etc just as well as the best-looking, extensively-managed public forests. It's really all about substrate and elevation in my experience. Low traffic counts help a ton also.

Bottom line - for huge snakes, these things are outrageously cryptic. It's going to take some sustained effort, and luck.
I did not think a natural history museum or scdnr would be interested in a DOR pine, other than the location where it was found
Well, they would be. First, all the states in pine snake range are increasingly interested in them. And museums are always interested in new specimens. Start talking with people, you'll see.

Good hunting.

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