The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Fiesta!
Early Season Success in the South: Part 3
This spring, we’ve already seen huge successes with Gopher Frogs and Frosted Flatwoods Salamanders and on March 18 (technically still winter), we were searching for Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes in new areas.
Team 1 had deployed a few miles away while I headed northwest to meet Team 2. We were out of radio range with Team 1 when my cell phone rang. It was our Project Manager, Ben Morrison. “Bill (ARC’s intern) has a diamondback. We need tongs to get it out of its hole.”
Team 2 and I loaded up the vehicles and raced towards Team 1 just in time to hear a radio call. It was Ben again. “Jessica (ARC’s Associate Science Advisor) has another one! We need more bags!”
And so it began. Our most productive Eastern Diamondback YEAR in less than 10 DAYS. In all, we documented 11 snakes and we’re already radio-tracking eight of them.
Each one of these snakes is a very important animal. In the northeastern part of their range, Eastern Diamondbacks are becoming increasingly rare and, in many areas, are no longer detectable. Habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, unfavorable historic use, and declines of the rich but fragile longleaf ecosystem have all played a role in limiting these majestic creatures to increasingly smaller and more isolated relict populations.
But this population has a fighting chance. These animals are spread across extremely remote areas where intact longleaf pine-grasslands are still abundant. Plus, thousands of nearby acres are slated for longleaf restoration in the next couple of years, dramatically increasing the favorable acreage for Eastern Diamondbacks and numerous other rare species.
Will the population expand along with the habitat? We certainly intend to find out, and we’re prepared to help them if they need it.