A face only a biologist could love

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We have rattlesnake babies!

Within the longleaf pine savannas, where the tranquil melody of nature’s ensemble fills the space between the trees, ARC recently made the thrilling discovery of a clutch of newborn eastern diamondback rattlesnakes. Eastern diamondbacks are in peril and this litter gives us hope for the future of one of the most rapidly vanishing rattlesnake species in the world. If you have supported ARC in the past, you have helped us to begin to reshape and rebuild the herp populations of the Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina. Our hard work, and your support, is paying off – and these snakes are the proof.

We’ve been tracking eastern diamondback Ruby Jean since August 2019 in the Francis Marion National Forest. Finding her babies – which, by the way, we think are adorable – is momentous because it is the first litter that we have ever found from a radio-tracked female during this project that began in 2013. These hatchlings are already kind of a big deal and made headlines in last month’s online issue of Garden & Gun. It was their sixth most read article in October!

ARC was able to capture 12 hatchlings from this litter and take measurements such as mass, snout-vent length, and total length. Subcaudal scale counts and tail length measurements were used to help determine if the hatchlings were male or female. Each hatchling received a unique tag so they can be recaptured for data collection in the future.

To ensure the safety of handlers and the eastern diamondbacks, each snake was restricted in a clear tube during its processing. After the workups, five of the snakes were released back to their birth site to reunite with their mother. The other seven were affixed with a small transmitter after their first shed, giving us the opportunity to collect more detailed insights on juvenile behavior, which biologists currently know very little about.

For nearly a decade, ARC’s tracking efforts and habitat restoration guidance in the Francis Marion National Forest have resulted in significant progress for the population and the ecosystem. Because of our long-term dedication to this work (and a little luck), we not only have new snakes to track, but now also have invaluable reproduction and behavioral data to add to the limited information available on this population. This new knowledge will help us combat the sharp decline of eastern diamondbacks in this area, guiding continued habitat management recommendations and improving the species’ chances of flourishing once again.

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  1. Grace F Erhart
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    Terrific! Eastern Diamondback numbers seem to be going down everywhere-and an upturn in their numbers anywhere is a good thing!

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