Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

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gbin
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Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by gbin » February 14th, 2014, 2:15 pm

This time researchers tracked resident and relocated bamboo pit vipers in Hong Kong, and found yet again that the snakes don't do well when moved out of their home range:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 164317.htm

You might believe a snake is in danger if you leave it where you found it or move it only a trivial distance away (e.g. just out of the sight of a panicky homeowner asking you to remove it), but quite a bit of evidence has now been amassed demonstrating that it is most assuredly in danger if you move it any real distance.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Gerry

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Bryan Hamilton » February 14th, 2014, 5:11 pm

Is there a peer-reviewed paper the article is based on? I might have missed it but I didn't see one. I wish they would wait until the paper is out before they publish these articles.

Sounds like a cool study in any case. It definitely agrees with most of the studies on snakes to date. Most of these studies are biased toward big adult vipers, relocated as singletons. The snakes are usually tracked for a short time period (1-2 years). It makes sense because these are the snakes people are usually most concerned with relocating. However the real questions now aren't whether relocations have negative impacts but:

1. How can we convince people to co-exist with venomous snakes? The desire to relocate venomous snakes rather than kill them is a big step toward conservation. Its not a big jump to move from relocation to co-existence.

2. Given that people want to relocate these snakes, how can we maximize the effectiveness of the relocations? Younger snakes and family groups do much better when relocated than do large adults relocated singly. The shorter the distance you move the snakes the better.

3. What is an acceptable outcome of the relocations? If half the snakes die, but half of them live, to many people that's still a better result than leaving the snakes in situ, where potentially they would all be killed. Its really a matter of perspective. If we're trying to reintroduce a species to establish a new population, a 50% survival rate may be viewed as incredibly successful.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Noah M » February 14th, 2014, 10:17 pm

What about people who interrupt wildlife. You know, bag the snake for better photos the following day to later drop it off where it was collected. If you drop it off without relocating it, what is the survival rate then? That's what I want to know. I am assuming no relocation at all. You GPS mark the spot for accurate returns.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by VanAR » February 15th, 2014, 12:21 am

Sounds like a cool study in any case. It definitely agrees with most of the studies on snakes to date. Most of these studies are biased toward big adult vipers, relocated as singletons.
I've wondered about this for a while too. There's a lot of taxonomic bias in these studies, and the effects may not be similar on other groups. Here in Australia, folks relocate elapids all the time, and I wonder how it effects these relatively mobile species.
What about people who interrupt wildlife. You know, bag the snake for better photos the following day to later drop it off where it was collected. If you drop it off without relocating it, what is the survival rate then? That's what I want to know. I am assuming no relocation at all. You GPS mark the spot for accurate returns.
Based on radiotelemetry and mark-recapture studies, which are far more invasive than simply picking up animals temporarily for photography, there is little effect on snake survival as long as they are returned to the point of capture. Whether it effects other aspects of their biology is tougher to figure out.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by regalringneck » February 15th, 2014, 5:29 am

I cringe when i hear this theme kicked out periodically, because i know 1st-hand how govt loves to cherry pick data that supports their pre-determined course of action (to do nothing whenever possible). newsflash; all organisms including humans tend to have higher rates of mortality when moved out of their home ranges and plunked down in occupied habitats elsewhere. These morts can be even higher when the critter has had surgery & a transmitter implanted to boot!
We've lost 1/3 of 30 bighorn sheep translocated near tucson in the ~ 3 months they've been out. But 2 of the remaining 20 have produced lambs :}
Moving nuisance wildlife is overwhelmingly a feelgood measure to be sure, but for the people involved, and for those creatures that survive, it does matter, and thats not a bad idea, merely a little bit of work.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by cbernz » February 15th, 2014, 6:17 am

If you find a rattlesnake on your property, and you really don't want it there, chances are you will either:
1) call someone to help you get rid of it
2) remove it yourself
3) kill it yourself
4) try to kill it or remove it and end up getting bitten

Even if the survival rate for a relocated rattlesnake is less than 10%, isn't option 1 still the best?

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by dthor68 » February 15th, 2014, 6:41 am

Captainjack, I use to do that myself. I would mark area with one of those little wire flags, always on the side of the road the snake was heading. Much more difficult with amphibians. Chances are they are out because of weather conditions. If you return them the next night and conditions are not the same, well that cant be good. I stopped because of the miles I was putting on my truck. Now I bring my studio with me. Get a 12v-120v power inverter and some lights, works very well.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » February 15th, 2014, 10:31 am

The issue of relocation or translocation of wildlife is an interesting topic. The issue of survival of released animals is something that wildlife rehabilitation and animal rescue outfits face all of the time.

Back in the 1970's, I was considering re-introducing the Rubber Boa into habitat from where it had been exterminated or greatly reduced and thus did some cursory review of the literature. I recall one study on the translocation of Norway Rats in a city showed that such translocated rats faired very poorly and I believe were invariable killed by con-specifics.

Another study dealt with translocation of Rhesus Monkeys and they too fared very poorly when taken from where they were well established and high in the colony's peck order but when placed with a different colony, fell to the bottom of the peck order.

My own take is that if you translocate an animal (snake) into suitable habitat that already contains the species at or near saturation levels, then the new specimen is at a huge disadvantage being in unfamiliar territory and having to compete for food / prey resources with the established population. If introduced into suitable habitat lacking con-specifics, it seems reasonable that the specimen would stand a better chance.

In the late 1970s and early 1980's, I tested both assumptions (unpublished) with the Rubber Boa. Boas that were relocated where the species already existed, likely at optimum densities, disappeared after a few months never to be found again. In contrast, some boas introduced into habitat lacking the species were found one or more years later and had established new home territories.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » February 15th, 2014, 11:40 am

Captianjack0000:
Based on my experience with a pilot study (mark / recapture) of the Gopher Snake in the 1980's, my ongoing involvement with the Rubber Boa, and a four year study of the Common Sharp-tailed Snake, the retention of snakes for varying lengths time is a non-issue provided they are returned to where found.

The procedure I mainly use here in Oregon is to bring captured snakes home to record information on weight, lengths, scalation, etc. then return the snakes to where they were captured from one day to upwards of 3 - 4 weeks later. In order to record data on litters of the Rubber Boas, I have
retained gravid females from a few days upwards to over 5 months then released them and the neonates where the parent female was found.

I have followed this process with the Rubber Boa for nearly 45 years and have many thousands of recapture events. I have a few specimens that have been recaptured a number of times up to and beyond 20 years from their initial capture date. It is not really surprising that snakes, and most
other animals, likely have specialized 'memories' with respect to recognizing familiar territorial clues.

Just one example: Hyatt SE female #3 was recaptured in reproductive condition on 5/9/13, produced a litter on 8/25/13 and released where found on 10/6/13. Of course that doesn't prove anything as she has yet to be found again this year.

But this female was originally captured as a 16 7/8 inch subadult on 6/7/98 and released where found on 6/18/98. She was then first recaptured as a 22 7/8 inch adult on 5/2/05, produced a litter on 8/23/05, and released on 10/1/05. She was recaptured on 7/20/07, produced a litter on 9/9/07 and released on 9/19/07. Recaptured on 5/9/09, released on 5/20/09. Recaptured 4/26/10, produced litter on 8/30/10, and released on 10/5/10. Recaptured 5/13/12 and released 5/29/12. And as mentioned above, she was again found again last May 9th.

Richard F. Hoyer

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Trey » February 15th, 2014, 12:51 pm

I know of a young(er) herpetologist who relocated roughly a dozen A. contortix several miles, and every one of them survived for at least several years. Unfortunately it was never published ( for various reasons ) and I do not have the authority to say who it was or where this experiment was conducted, so take it as you will. Just thought it was an interesting note..

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by muskiemagnet » February 15th, 2014, 4:17 pm

cbernz wrote:If you find a rattlesnake on your property, and you really don't want it there, chances are you will either:
1) call someone to help you get rid of it
2) remove it yourself
3) kill it yourself
4) try to kill it or remove it and end up getting bitten

Even if the survival rate for a relocated rattlesnake is less than 10%, isn't option 1 still the best?
agreed. get about fifty feet out of eyesight and drop it off.

on the other hand, i have a trick to play on the snake. a water hose. blast that snake hard and chase it out of the yard. if it comes back, blast it again. eventually it will develope a fear of the area and change it's own life around it.

-ben

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by hellihooks » February 15th, 2014, 5:23 pm

It's been my experience that often a crote, after one 'stressful' interaction with a human, will relocate to a different part of it's home range, on it's own... but...try selling that one to the scared homeowner... :roll: jim

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Noah M » February 15th, 2014, 9:46 pm

Thanks Richard. I myself don't actually take anything home for pictures. The most relocating I've done is moving something off of the road or trail. I was just curious because I know people who do capture, take home, photograph, and return animals. I have no clue as to how accurate they are in returning to the same location, but I always wondered how that interruption impacted the animal.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by regalringneck » February 16th, 2014, 8:12 am

I havent figured out the quote thing Richard, but thats one heckuva cool data set imo, Fitch would be proud of you!


quote; I have followed this process with the Rubber Boa for nearly 45 years and have many thousands of recapture events. I have a few specimens that have been recaptured a number of times up to and beyond 20 years from their initial capture date. It is not really surprising that snakes, and most
other animals, likely have specialized 'memories' with respect to recognizing familiar territorial clues.

Just one example: Hyatt SE female #3 was recaptured in reproductive condition on 5/9/13, produced a litter on 8/25/13 and released where found on 10/6/13. Of course that doesn't prove anything as she has yet to be found again this year.

But this female was originally captured as a 16 7/8 inch subadult on 6/7/98 and released where found on 6/18/98. She was then first recaptured as a 22 7/8 inch adult on 5/2/05, produced a litter on 8/23/05, and released on 10/1/05. She was recaptured on 7/20/07, produced a litter on 9/9/07 and released on 9/19/07. Recaptured on 5/9/09, released on 5/20/09. Recaptured 4/26/10, produced litter on 8/30/10, and released on 10/5/10. Recaptured 5/13/12 and released 5/29/12. And as mentioned above, she was again found again last May 9th.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » February 16th, 2014, 5:20 pm

JG:
Ah, once again my communication flaws surface. Hope the following helps some.

For each new boa I find, I complete an individual information sheet which includes all of the scalation features (natural tagging system) that allows me to indentify one specimen from another similar to human fingerprints. This all takes from about 15 - 25 minutes for each new specimens and the one feature that takes the most time is counting mid body scale rows in order to find where the maximum row count occurs.

Unlike colubrids in which such mid body scale row counts are invariably the same for all specimens of a species, that is not the case for Charina bottae and care (time) needs to be taken as the mid body max. row count is a diagnostic feature for ascertaining subspecies.

So instead of taking all of my gear and paper work into the field and spending time to survey and record data then releasing specimens on the spot, I bring them home and do that paperwork at night or on in-between days I am not in the field so as to maximize my time in the field the day I am searching for specimens.

The same situation applies to all specimens that may be recaptures as it takes time to search through the information sheets for any particular site in order to determine if a specimen is a new capture or a recapture. In the latter case, all I do is to record date and specific spot of recapture, record weight, total and tail lengths, and any extraneous observations such as change in ventral mottling density, major wounds / scars, etc.

As for Hyatt Lake female #3, perhaps a better way of depicting her capture history is as shown below.

Captured Released Comments
6/7/98 6/18/98 16 7/8" subadult female
5/2/05 10/1/05 22 7/8" produced litter on 8/23/05
7/20/07 9/19/07 produced litter on 9/9/07
5/9/09 5/20/09
4/25/10 10/5/10 produced litter 8/30/10
5/13/12 5/29/12
5/9/13 10/6/13 produced litter 8/25/13

Richard F. Hoyer

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by BillMcGighan » February 16th, 2014, 6:42 pm

VanAR
Based on radiotelemetry and mark-recapture studies, which are far more invasive than simply picking up animals temporarily for photography, there is little effect on snake survival as long as they are returned to the point of capture.
Are you aware, Van, or anyone else, of any study or just hypothesis on the importance of an olfactory imprinting and mapping of their home range. This would certainly help explain to us laypeople why they get disoriented in a foreign range of identical habitat?





Ben
agreed. get about fifty feet out of eyesight and drop it off.
Since this subject rose several years ago, this is the protocol I follow for desperate neighbors.




Richard’s good observations do bring up the question again of “can the same conclusions of studies of land based pit vipers be transferred blindly to fossorial animals? Aquatic animals? Etc.“




Alas, the reality is that the average young homeowner who has 2 or 3 toddlers milling around smartly in the yard is generally not interested in the outcome of that snake!

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by VanAR » February 16th, 2014, 10:14 pm

Are you aware, Van, or anyone else, of any study or just hypothesis on the importance of an olfactory imprinting and mapping of their home range. This would certainly help explain to us laypeople why they get disoriented in a foreign range of identical habitat?
I'm not aware of such a study, but the hypothesis certainly exists. The problem with the study is detecting relevant olfactory signals- even in laboratory conditions, that is difficult.

I don't think it is surprising at all that herps become disoriented in a translocated habitat. Even if it is the same kind of habitat, they will lose all reference to the locations of any important and necessary features, like food, water, shelter, and hibernacula. Animals in general make "mental maps" of their home ranges and surrounding habitats based on experience and sensory cues (vision, scent)- there is plenty of evidence for this from the repeatability of home range and seasonal movements animals make (ie going to the exact same rock, stump, tree, beach, etc. year after year, at the same time of year each time). Some species, like marine turtles and salamanders, are also capable of sensing the earth's magnetic field. We know that snakes follow conspecifics (or even family members) to especially important habitats like hibernacula, probably via scent trails.

If you take an animal outside of the range of this "mental map", then they have no idea where all of those features that they used to use are in the new habitat. Even if the habitat is of the same type, the relative locations of all those features are still completely different- it's not like the landscape is a repeating grid of the exact same layout. Furthermore, the cues they use to navigate may be different- the sun and magnetic fields will all still be there, but the olfactory cues could be completely different, especially if they used to rely on scent trails of family members. Other things that might be important, like the slope direction of hills relative to sun, or the position of creeks and rivers that might block movement, are also going to be completely different.

Using the tools available, they try to return to their known range because they know where those features exist in that range. If they are lucky, they might either 1) reach their former range, or 2) stumble across those necessary features in the new range. Even if the latter occurs, it may not guarantee survival- it's possible that the ability to "make" a new "mental map" fades with age. If that is the case, then translocation won't ever work for animals over a certain age (not saying this is the way it is, but it is a possility).

The population saturation point that Richard makes is also important, but I'm not sure if that is a huge deal in relatively short-distance translocations (<5 miles or so), where the population is likely contiguous with the animal's home population.

If trying to re-establish a population where a former population of the same species went extinct, another important question is- has the reason the population went extinct in the first place been rectified? If not, then re-introductions are not likely to be successful.

Van

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Noah M » February 17th, 2014, 9:33 am

Adding to VanAR's comments, I think another thing to consider would be the size of the home range of the species. Bigger home ranges would allow for greater flexibility in relocation. What works for species A may not work for species B for a multitude of reasons, with home range size possibly being one.

It would be interesting to see if beyond a certain age a certain species is not able to learn a new mental map. We can assume that it is able to build a mental map at least once in its life. Perhaps mortality rates of captive born and then released corn snakes could answer this. Depending on research design, trying to separate out the age and vulnerability aspect might be hard.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Jimi » February 17th, 2014, 2:32 pm

Whenever evaluating the success or viability of a practice, it's vitally important to ask "why?" In this case, "why are the snakes being relocated?"

They're being relocated because someone can't tolerate their presence where they've been seen. "They need to not be here! I don't want to just smash it, but it can't be here!"

Setting aside lots of possible observations and questions, and simply asking "did the procedure cause the snake to not be here any more, while also freeing someone from having to smash it?" yields a simple answer - yeah, it sure did - they are gone.

Note this "why?" DOES NOT INVOLVE much in the way of animal welfare sentimentality. Nobody involved really cares if those snakes survived the procedure - snake well-being isn't really a major part of the "why". 1) Perceived public safety (these ARE urban-interface venomous snakes after all...) and 2) some human reluctance to actively kill a little animal are the only "why's" in this equation. OF COURSE there are other possible "why's" to moving snakes - to establish new populations or augment existing ones, for example. But these aren't the why at hand.

I'm way more encouraged by the attitude shift it illustrates, than bothered by its heartless cruelty. We've come a long way, baby, from just whacking every one seen. Fast, too. That's a good thing, people.

change of topic -

Mr Hoyer, that's a great data set you have showing minimal reproductive output of a wild snake. Minimal in the sense - she may have produced even more. There are not many of those out there. I expect you have litter size, mass etc data? That is incredibly valuable stuff for parameterizing individual-based demographic models. Please - if you have not yet, share it with a quantitatively-oriented academic. OSU and Humboldt both have good mathematics/wildlife program cooperation.

Cheers,
Jimi

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by VanAR » February 17th, 2014, 2:47 pm

I'm way more encouraged by the attitude shift it illustrates, than bothered by its heartless cruelty. We've come a long way, baby, from just whacking every one seen. Fast, too. That's a good thing, people.
I don't agree entirely. I agree it's a good thing that people have an aspect of animal welfare in mind because they don't just kill the snake. That said, the evidence we have (although taxonomically limited, it is very consistent) for the effects on translocation suggest it might be an even crueler practice. The end result is often the same- the animal dies- but with a direct killing there is likely to be less pain and suffering than an animal that is released outside of its home range and left to wander until it dies of starvation or exposure. This can be mitigated if the animal is surreptitiously released directly into its home range, but that doesn't guarantee that it won't return to the same location where it was a "nuisance" again.

It's a cruelty of ignorance rather than of violence, and serves as an example of how good intentions are not sufficient to guarantee a good end result. Sometimes, humane euthanasia is the most morally justified approach available.

The other alternative is better education for people to come to some level of comfort living in places where they are likely to come into contact with animals. That is a high ideal, especially where snakes are concerned, but I know of several instances where it has worked.

Van

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by chris_mcmartin » February 17th, 2014, 3:02 pm

I support going out to properties on "snake calls," for the "human factors" reasons already mentioned.

1. It buys "face time" with the landowner, wherein a savvy herper can help influence and change attitudes towards snakes. More and more people are now willing to let harmless snakes exist on their property, but the rattlers are often not as welcome. I'm not sure that's a fight worth having, because it is difficult to "win." Plus, if you DON'T relocate the snake (i.e. take it AWAY), or just take it a couple hundred yards away, you open yourself (or the organization with which you're affiliated) to liability issues, should little Johnny be playing out back two days later and get bitten (never mind it may not have been the same snake...).

2. In some cases, the snake can be rehomed with a person or organization who needs it as a display/exhibit/lecture animal. Worst-case (for the snake), it may be donated as a voucher or for other academic purposes.


I'll readdress point #1...sympathy with the landowner's plight can go a long way. They've done what, in their mind, is the "right thing" by calling someone to capture the snake alive, rather than simply kill it outright. That being said, they're generally not going to be agreeable to getting a sermon on how it's not going to survive a translocation, etc. I'd like to think I have decent "people skills" but I've also seen many other herpers who don't. :P

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by BillMcGighan » February 17th, 2014, 3:03 pm

Another dumb lay person question, Van:
a direct killing there is likely to be less pain and suffering than an animal that is released outside of its home range and left to wander until it dies of starvation or exposure.
Have the studies indicated that the propensity of these animals die from any one cause over another?
I ask because nothing goes to waste in nature, so could a significant percentage go to predators, and, if so, cruel (a terrible human construct) is this not a better end for the "system" than the incinerator or buried in the garden?

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Bryan Hamilton » February 17th, 2014, 3:08 pm

muskiemagnet wrote:get about fifty feet out of eyesight and drop it off.
I think this OK as long as you are up front with the landowners. Its important to be honest. Often the landowners want to know where the snake will be moved to.

I'll let them know what the odds of survival are if we move it a long distance. Sometimes they're OK with that, sometimes not. Establishing and maintaining an open, honest dialogue is really important.
muskiemagnet wrote:i have a trick to play on the snake. a water hose. blast that snake hard and chase it out of the yard. if it comes back, blast it again. eventually it will develope a fear of the area and change it's own life around it.
Hazing has mixed results. If the snake is in the area for reliable food, cover, birthing or a hibernaculum, it doesn't work. It does tend to work with males that are on the move searching for mates or foraging sites. These are the snakes we tend to get called for, but be aware that hazing will not solve all "snake problems".

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Bryan Hamilton » February 17th, 2014, 3:20 pm

BillMcGighan wrote:Have the studies indicated that the propensity of these animals die from any one cause over another.
The snakes move long distances and don't feed regularly, so they tend to lose weight. These movements and poor body condition make them more vulnerable to predators and road mortality. In temperate climates they often can't find a a den and freeze to death.

I tend to agree with Van on relocation being cruel. If the snake is really a threat to human safety, to the point that it needs to be moved miles outside its home range, there are methods of euthanasia that are more humane. We don't see what happens to the relocated snakes (usually) and it can be quite unpleasant.

Ultimately we need to get to a point where people are OK and even proud that their properly is included in the home range of a big viper. Its quite an honor to co-exist with a big rattlesnake. Long distance relocation to me is a step towards coexistance not a solution.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by rtdunham » February 17th, 2014, 4:00 pm

VanAR wrote:If you take an animal outside of the range of this "mental map", then they have no idea where all of those features that they used to use are in the new habitat. Even if the habitat is of the same type, the relative locations of all those features are still completely different- it's not like the landscape is a repeating grid of the exact same layout. Furthermore, the cues they use to navigate may be different- the sun and magnetic fields will all still be there, but the olfactory cues could be completely different, especially if they used to rely on scent trails of family members. Other things that might be important, like the slope direction of hills relative to sun, or the position of creeks and rivers that might block movement, are also going to be completely different.

Using the tools available, they try to return to their known range because they know where those features exist in that range. If they are lucky, they might either 1) reach their former range, or 2) stumble across those necessary features in the new range. Even if the latter occurs, it may not guarantee survival...
This made me wonder how animals ever extend their range? That obviously happens, so what do you (anyone here) think are the circumstances of that expansion? Maybe a large percentage of those that "range afield" die as described, for the reasons described. Maybe because it's a gradual pushing at the periphery, the changes are more gradual than with relocation by humans.

But that begs a second question, the expansion across vast distances by "floating islands", for example. Island biogeography would seem to be rich with cases of animals establishing themselves in very distant--and very different--circumstances. Think, for example, of the spread of brown anoles. Or what about the glades pythons: Surely the difference between their captive circumstances and the south florida wilds is even greater than the differences between two swamp quadrants five miles (or 500 yards) apart. Maybe vast majorities of released pythons died from "relocation" effects, making their establishment and apparent population explosion all the more remarkable. Maybe the ability to adapt to a new location varies from species to species, something not discussed in this thread other than the observation that the first report was species specific. Or maybe...

I'm trying to find explanations that accommodate what's being said here about relocation.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Bryan Hamilton » February 17th, 2014, 4:25 pm

rtdunham wrote: how animals ever extend their range?
I’ve thought about this question too. Its interesting but I don’t think its too hard to resolve.

Relocation studies tend to be short duration and involve only a few individuals. It’s a pretty high impact to move a snake a long distance and drop it off. On the other hand, snakes regularly make forays outside their home range and learn about those areas. If those areas are useful, the snakes add it to their mental maps and return again. One interesting feature of home ranges is that they are stable but they are always increasing. Home ranges aren't fixed.

Its different for a snake to make a foray into new territory from within it home range than to be dropped off somewhere. The snake that’s dropped off doesn't have a reference point. And that’s why short distance translocations tend to work. The snake can figure out where it is.

The tendency of snakes to remain at their known hibernaculum is interesting too. In my study site, I've never documented a Great Basin rattlesnake switching dens. If you find a place to hibernate here, you stick with it. Selection is very strong. On the other hand, in warmer climates the snakes are more fluid with their den sites. You can imagine that under warmer climate regimes, snake might relax a little and push towards new hibernacula. Young snakes also tend to take bigger risks since they don’t have an established home range. Females giving birth I think are also a big way new population get established.

Given enough time and generations cool stuff can happen. And the relocation studies aren't sufficient to see those things happens. They are meant to answer a pretty specific question that doesn’t really address range expansion and population establishment.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by VanAR » February 17th, 2014, 4:41 pm

Or what about the glades pythons: Surely the difference between their captive circumstances and the south florida wilds is even greater than the differences between two swamp quadrants five miles (or 500 yards) apart. Maybe vast majorities of released pythons died from "relocation" effects, making their establishment and apparent population explosion all the more remarkable. Maybe the ability to adapt to a new location varies from species to species, something not discussed in this thread other than the observation that the first report was species specific. Or maybe...
Bryan has already alluded to this a bit with his comparison of snakes in cold weather using the same den repeatedly, while snakes in warm weather are more willing to use alternative dens, but I'd like to take it a step further. I think in a place like south FL, or another (sub)tropical area, the impact of climate on survival is going to be significantly reduced compared to a place where hibernacula are mandatory for surviving the winter. Most of the time, the pythons out there never really experience anything worse than very temporary cold snaps, so there are few survival consequences for not finding adequate shelter. I'm actually a bit surprised that nobody has tested this hypothesis using some FL native snake- translocations there might actually be more likely to succeed, especially for something big like EDBs, indigos, or pines.

Pythons are much bigger and more capable of defending themselves than most native FL snakes, so they are also less vulnerable to predation, especially from birds, and so don't need to find even temporary shelter, either. All they need to do is stay hydrated (which is easy given the relative abundance of water) and find food. They may have to find temporary dry places to avoid bacterial or fungal infections, but that isn't too difficult either if they can find some trees or one of those old coral banks.

Another aspect that is interesting is that these pythons, presumably released from captivity, have little or no prior "mental map" or home range. I have no idea how that might affect their ability to roam and establish a range upon release. It's possible that they retain a "juvenile mental state" due to lack of external stimuli, until they get out and experience "the real world"- that's a huge supposition though.
I ask because nothing goes to waste in nature, so could a significant percentage go to predators, and, if so, cruel (a terrible human construct) is this not a better end for the "system" than the incinerator or buried in the garden?
Bill, Bryan answered your first question so I'll focus on this latter bit. I agree with you that it would be better for the animal to end up feeding a predator than fertilizing a flower garden. My concept of cruelty in this instance was limited solely to the experience of the animal in question. What happens to its nutrient composition after it dies is certainly more useful (from a utilitarian perspective) in the wild.

Van

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Noah M » February 17th, 2014, 8:09 pm

If there is a human-animal conflict, why can't we just relocate the human? :P

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Joseph S. » February 17th, 2014, 9:09 pm

I wonder if translocated snakes breed with any degree of regularity-and that may or may not be a bad thing if you think about it.

A translocated animal may be almost certainly doomed to die-but I think the public would take more solace in that then the assured death of the animal. I would agree that capture and keeping of the animal for display purposes or to add to a research collection would be ideal but legalities involved and saturation would be an issue.

The flip side of the coin-is their a problem with animals then migrating into suitable habitat that is opened up because resident snake has now been removed? A snake control program to succeed would either depend upon some people calling them more than once to remove new animals-or suggest measures to make the backyard less suitable for venomous snakes(and therefore other urban wildlife)...I'm not sure which is the lesser of two weevils.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » February 17th, 2014, 9:35 pm

Van:
I translocated both neonate and / or adult boas in suitable habitat where the species had been extirpated because of various factors.

One site had been agriculture land that in early 1941, was converted into an army training base (Camp Adair) during WW II. After the war was over, the land was turned over to the Oregon Dept. of F & W for a wildlife area (E. E. Wilson) and allowed to revert back to a wild state. Most of E. E. Wilson Wildlife (10 miles north of Corvallis. OR.) either was void of the species or the species was at very low densities.

I translocated adult boas at two different localities on E. E. Wilson. Unfortunately, the wildlife area is multiple use which translates into multiple abuse. Despite the large number of disturbances that occurred to my study sites, I was able to record some fragmentary data that indeed indicated some translocated boas were able to 'reprogram' whatever sensory mechanisms are at play and established new home territories.

I released neonate boas at two other localities on the E. E. Wilson Wildlife area. But again, with so much disturbance including boas being removed, the amount of data I was able to realize was very short term and pretty skimpy.

I had much better success where I released neonate boas in an area that was in the process of recovering from where a logging mill had burned to the ground along with some of the surrounding habitat. The site was void of any Rubber Boas at the time of my multiple release of neonates. Over about a 4 - 5 year span, I believe I recaptured nearly 1/2 of the neonates I released. A higher than normal survival rate was predicted as the released neonates did not have an established adult / subadult population with which to compete for the existing prey base.

Richard F. Hoyer

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » February 17th, 2014, 10:31 pm

Jimi:
Female Rubber Boas have the capacity for producing litters every year. But over most (if not all) of the species range in N.A., the maximum frequency of litters by female boas is once every other year. Perhaps along the coastal area of Calif., there may be some chance the species may have the opportunity to produce litters in successive years. But it would be my view such and event would be very uncommon.

The species normally produces litters from mid to late August through late Sept., sometimes beyond. The females of many populations fast during gestation. Females from some higher elevation regions will consume prey during gestation. With either fasting or taking only a meal or two during gestation, female boas deplete much of their body reserves.

From parturition to the time the species enters brumation does not leave sufficient time for females to consume enough meals in order to regain the robust condition necessary to support another reproductive event the following year. Hence, the maximum litter frequency of once every other year.

My study sites at Hyatt Lake in southwestern Oregon are a bit over 5000 ft. so the maximum litter frequency has to be once every other year for the females of that population. Knowing that to be the case, it is possible to determine the litter frequency of Hyatt SE female #3 from the data I listed.

There is no way of knowing when she reached adult status and if she had produce one or more litters before 2004. But because she did produce a litter in 2005, we know she could not have produced a litter in 2004. So from 2004 on, even though not captured every year, it is possible to extrapolate when she did not produce litters using the maximum litter frequency of once every other year.

G = gravid N = not gravid n = extrapolated as not gravid
2004 - n
2005 - G
2006 - n
2007 - G
2008 - n
2009 - N
2010 - G
2011 - n
2012 - N
2013 - G
2014 - n

As can be seen above, she produce litters at the maximum frequency of every other year in 2005 and 2007 and every third year thereafter.

And yes, I have recorded gobs of information on the range and mean number of neonates produced, range and mean weights (mass) and lengths of neonates, etc.

Richard F. Hoyer

=======================================
Hyatt Lake female #3.

Captured Released Comments
6/7/98 6/18/98 16 7/8" subadult female
5/2/05 10/1/05 22 7/8" produced litter on 8/23/05
7/20/07 9/19/07 produced litter on 9/9/07
5/9/09 5/20/09
4/25/10 10/5/10 produced litter 8/30/10
5/13/12 5/29/12
5/9/13 10/6/13 produced litter 8/25/13

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by azatrox » February 18th, 2014, 7:39 am

This time researchers tracked resident and relocated bamboo pit vipers in Hong Kong, and found yet again that the snakes don't do well when moved out of their home range:

Not surprising that snakes relocated out of their home ranges don't fare overly well....However, those relocated within their home ranges (i.e. from a house to an adjacent hillside) usually do just fine.

Also, juvenile snakes seen to do better with out of home range survivability than adult snakes do...

- Kris

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by azatrox » February 18th, 2014, 8:15 am

Snake relocations in an urban or suburban environment aren’t about the snakes themselves as much as they are about the people…I know this may be an unpopular viewpoint to some here, but having experience with this type of thing (and knowing people with much more experience than I), I can speak to this subject at least somewhat intelligently.

First, a little demographics lesson….Almost everyone here in Phoenix is from somewhere else…Phoenix has a very large transient population, as people move here for various reasons. Because many of these people move here from places that do not harbor a rich diversity of reptilian wildlife, they are wholly unprepared for life in the desert. When they get the home in the desert foothills, they often have no idea how many other animals share their little piece of real estate as “home”.

When these people spot a snake in their yard, a good number of them freak. To most reptile people, the idea that one should expect desert denizens in their yard on the side of a hill isn’t newsworthy or surprising. But most of these people do not expect it because they have never experienced even seeing a wild snake in their lives. From the homeowner’s perspective, they just want the animal GONE. They call in a frantic panic because there’s a snake in their yard and they really don’t know what to do about it. When you get dispatched to one of these calls, you’re selling peace of mind more than anything else…You’re giving that homeowner a mental comfort that they can’t get anywhere else…A good number of people will ask what we do with the relocated snakes, and we’re honest and tell them that we take them away and turn them loose…Most people are okay with this so long as the snake is GONE from their yard. The encounter also affords the opportunity to advise the homeowner about how to better make their yard less appealing to snakes….(fill in holes, trim bushes, get rid of woodpiles, etc….).

Most homeowners don’t care about the snakes…They don’t want them dead, but they don’t want anything to do with them. You’ll bore them trying to explain how it’s best to learn to live with them…All they want to know is how to keep them out of their yards. Period. They’re interested in learning only as much natural history about them as helps them avoid the snakes in the first place.

So while we reptile people like to sit and talk about the importance of learning to coexist with desert critters, the reality is that 98% of the general population either isn’t aware of or does not care about that…They want the scenery, hold the critters thank you. That’s the reality…

From a conservation standpoint, snakes relocated within a mile or so of where they were located do fine…Young snakes (a year or less old) can be ok even translocated further away. Snakes that cannot be relocated (maybe the area does not provide easy access to suitable habitat within its home range) are usually used as educational animals or gifted to a person with the qualifications and experience necessary to keep them properly.

Again, to understand this situation properly, one must not only consider the impact on the snakes, but one must also understand and put themselves into the mindset of one of these homeowners.

-Kris

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Bryan Hamilton » February 18th, 2014, 8:41 am

I can definitely appreciate the "people" side of the relocation problem. Its not a simple solution and ultimately "rescuers" need to use their best judgement. That judgement should include the best available scientific information on relocation.
azatrox wrote:From a conservation standpoint, snakes relocated within a mile or so of where they were located do fine…
I think you should clarify this quote. If you mean snakes moved a few hundred meters from their capture site have similar survival rates as snakes left in situ, I agree. If you mean snakes moved a mile from their capture sites have the same survival as snakes left in situ, I disagree and so do most of the studies. Long distance translocations have negative effects on snake survival even in the Sonoran Desert.

I'm not trying to tell you what to do with the relocated snakes. It is complicated. But I do think its important to be honest with yourself, as well as the homeowners about the fate of the snakes.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by azatrox » February 18th, 2014, 9:12 am

I think you should clarify this quote. If you mean snakes moved a few hundred meters from their capture site have similar survival rates as snakes left in situ, I agree. If you mean snakes moved a mile from their capture sites have the same survival as snakes left in situ, I disagree and so do most of the studies. Long distance translocations have negative effects on snake survival even in the Sonoran Desert.

I'm not trying to tell you what to do with the relocated snakes. It is complicated. But I do think its important to be honest with yourself, as well as the homeowners about the fate of the snakes.


You're right Bryan...perhaps a little clarification is in order....Whenever possible, snakes are moved no more than a mile from where they were initally located. Obviously, the closer the better, but in some instances it's just not possible any closer than that. Species has a lot to do with it too, as a male atrox will have a larger home range than a female speck for example.

I don't doubt that *generally speaking* long distance relocations have a negative effect on long term survival rates....but then again so does a shovel, and unfortunately at times neither option available to the relocator is especially inviting. That said, I (and others) have relocated snakes (usually juveniles) far away from their initial capture sites out of necessity), and repeated observations (over years) have indicated that these animals have continued to survive. Granted, the numbers aren't especially high, but every snake that is successfully relocated and continues to survive is a success story.

Also, there have been remarkably few recaptures at the same site...It appears that (at least for a period of time), a particular snake will avoid an area (yard) where they had a human interaction.

- Kris

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Bryan Hamilton » February 18th, 2014, 9:41 am

Thanks Kris. I definitely can appreciate the challenges of an urban environment. I'm fortunate enough to work in a pretty remote national park. Finding relocation sites is not an issue here.

I really feel that we all have to use our best judgement. There is not a right or a wrong solution to nuisance rattlesnakes. I just want to make sure we all have access to the same information. How we apply it on the ground is something entirely different.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Don Becker » February 18th, 2014, 9:46 am

A whole population of Timber Rattlesnakes was relocated in Kansas.
http://people.ku.edu/~gpisani/Walker-etal-TRs12-09.pdf

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by gbin » February 18th, 2014, 10:52 am

Gee, start a thread right before departing for a few days, and come back to find it's really taken off! My apologies to anyone who was looking for my continued participation but not finding it; I really didn't expect this kind of response to a topic we've discussed so often in the past, and figured I was just adding a bit of recent information to it.

Species certainly do vary in their response to translocation, even within a particular taxonomic group. I too wish that more studies were being done of a broader diversity of snake species, as I suspect we are getting at least a somewhat skewed view by focusing so hard on pit vipers and vipers (and maybe even particularly sessile or otherwise hardwired pit vipers and vipers, at that). That said, everyone who is involved in or thinks about moving snakes around for whatever reason should give serious thought to the information that's so far available on what tends to happen to snakes that are moved around. No one wants to indulge in what's really no more than a feel-good exercise, let alone one that actually makes matters worse for the animals and their populations.

People wondering about how animal species expand their ranges and why some individual animals do well when translocated while others of the same species don't, there is a clear reason beyond mere luck on the successful animals' part - or a mistaken understanding on our part about a species' ability to move around. Dispersal naturally plays a role even in species with the most restricted home ranges as established adults. Dispersal is a seriously understudied biological phenomenon, in no small part because it is generally so difficult to investigate, but it has long been apparent that there is for many (by far most, I reckon) species a period of time when they are juveniles or young adults when they are impelled to move away from where they were born and establish their own home range somewhere near or far from that place. I said "juveniles or young adults," but within that span the actual timing and duration of the dispersal period varies from species to species. For some it appears to be quite brief. The sex of the animals involved often contributes, too; in some species, for example, female offspring establish home ranges overlapping the parent's home range while male offspring vacate it entirely for other parts. Outside of the natural dispersal period, in any event, the probability of surviving translocation appears to drop considerably in many (most) species. And the deaths of the failures appear to be rather unpleasant, to boot, resulting from the animals wandering for the remainder of their short lives as they futilely seek familiar territory. That's why I'd really like to see all these snake studies look further than they tend to, to try to nail down age- and sex-specific dispersability. It's a very difficult subject to explore, as I said, but then we'll have some information we can really put to good use.

In the meantime, it seems pretty obvious to me that the best course is to 1st: try hard to persuade frightened homeowners to live and let live, explaining to them that merely disturbing the snake they're so worried about generally makes it much less likely they (or they're kids) will ever encounter that snake there or nearby again, and 2nd: if/when that fails, move the snake no farther than absolutely necessary to release it out of the homeowners' sight, letting them think all the while that it's being moved far, far away if that's what it takes to calm their hysteria. In either event, the homeowners should be told quite clearly and emphatically that the simple fact is that they live where the snakes in question also live, and that moving (or killing) this or that snake because they see it does absolutely nothing about the many more that they likely merely don't see. If the snakes in question are truly venomous, they still need to instruct and supervise their children and pets to avoid bites, or they need to move somewhere the snakes don't live. Few people are going to be so hysterical about snakes that they'll actually move to avoid the possibility of encountering them, and so begins the process that really needs to take place - learning to live with nature rather than apart from it - which is undermined by misguided "rescuers" enabling these people to believe that their property in snake country can somehow be made snake-free.

Gerry

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by azatrox » February 18th, 2014, 11:50 am

...learning to live with nature rather than apart from it - which is undermined by misguided "rescuers" enabling these people to believe that their property in snake country can somehow be made snake-free.

That's a great idea Gerry and I sincerely wish it were possible in the majority of cases....In some cases it is...In some cases through the misguided "rescuer's" actions the homeowner may develop a new or renewed appreciation of the desert and its inhabitants. That said, most are concerned about one thing and one thing only when it comes to snakes in their yards...How to get them out. No one I know that does rescues will ever guarantee that a yard can be truly snake-free....But there are often things the homeowner can do to make the yard decidedly less attractive for snakes to hang out in. Some of these things are quite simple.

Again, I think you're approaching this without giving due consideration to the ground level concerns of the homeowners....What they're thinking, why they're thinking it and what they do in response...This theoretical ideal that homeowners will learn to coexist with the animals that also call their yards home is great if we're talking about critters that don't present a perceived threat...In most cases it's "pie in the sky" dreaming if we're talking about rattlesnakes or scorpions or any other potentially dangerous creature.

It's "pie in the sky" dreaming because there are two parts to play when it comes to learning and changing one's mindset....and I can say that the majority of "regular urban and suburbanites" that live in Phoenix have no such desire to do their part in learning or changing. The extent to which they want to learn extends only so far as learning how to eliminate the perceived threat in their minds.

That said, sometimes wins come via small ways, and if we are able to rescue and relocate (through our misguided efforts of course ;) ) even a single snake, then for that snake and that homeowner that's as good a result as can be hoped for.

Somehow, I'm doubting that arriving at a homeowner's home and giving a sermon on the benefits of rattlesnakes will do anything....just as relying on them to find that knowledge on their own. A rescue affords the misguided rescuer the opportunity to impart a little bit of knowledge to an audience that would normally not pay much mind to such things at precisely the moment when that concern is front and center to the (normally) disinterested recipient. If we can save a snake in the process, so much the better.

- Kris

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Bryan_Hughes » February 18th, 2014, 12:53 pm

A snake relocated 50 feet from where it was captured and released incorrectly has a higher chance of death than one relocated a mile and released properly. Death by predation is different than death by starvation. Relocation by distance alone will have a different rate of success than relocation that considers geographic features in an area. Capture and transport techniques that minimize stress of the animal will have a different rate of success than those that do not take it into consideration. This is a complicated subject that has always surprised me when it comes to how quickly relocation as a whole is dismissed as near-certain death of the animals based on studies that consider only the distance of translocation as a lone factor.

In Phoenix, the fire department relocates animals - by grabbing them tightly around the neck with tongs and dropping their broken bodies on the other side of the fence onto the hot ground on a 110F day. It's only 20' away from the point of capture; shouldn't 100% of them live?

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by chris_mcmartin » February 18th, 2014, 1:40 pm

As others have pointed out perhaps more eloquently than I tried, this isn't a snake problem--it's a people problem. We tend to make claims of "only populations matter, not individuals" in other cases, yet some wring their hands at the thought of taking a snake out of someone's yard and moving it sufficiently far enough away such that the odds of survival are not in its favor.

Think of it this way: that homeowner could've refrained from calling you or your organization, and taken a hoe to the snake. The mere fact they called demonstrates a change in public attitudes. Upon arrival, you can tell the homeowner that the particular snake is more likely to die than to live, but it's still given a "fighting chance" rather than a certain death...still a win in my book.

Public-attitude change doesn't happen overnight, and some snakes are going to die along the way. Difficult to stomach for some, but there are a higher number of snakes already dying anyway (the heroes using the hoe, the country singers boasting of swerving to hit herps, etc.). Pick your battles and educate (gently and with humor and empathy) along the way.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by gbin » February 18th, 2014, 2:32 pm

Kris, I was typing in a hurry and so apparently left myself open to being misunderstood. My apologies. To clarify, I certainly don't think snake rescuers are misguided by definition. I think the ones who deal with homeowners thus are misguided: "There, I caught the snake that was bothering you and I'll take it away now to release somewhere far away. If you see any more just give me another call and I'll come get them, too." It leads homeowners to believe that having any snakes they encounter removed (or killing them) is a viable way to make their properties snake-free. To their thinking, it's a way to keep themselves, their children and their pets safe. A rescuer doesn't have to offer them a guarantee of this to mislead them into thinking they've nonetheless found one. And we all know that's decidedly not actually the case - if the snakes are there at all, (possibly many) more are almost certainly going unseen than seen. Homeowners need to be told the truth about this, however troubling they might find the truth to be, in order to learn to deal with their fears in a more meaningful manner. Sure, you can counsel folks not to leave obvious enticements for snakes in the yard, but the bottom line remains that they need to do one of three things: 1) Find a real way to eradicate all of the snakes on and anywhere near their property. 2) Move somewhere the snakes don't reside. 3) Learn to live with the snakes. I'm sure no rescuer would advocate or help achieve #1, so they should do the responsible thing and use every meeting with a homeowner to emphasize that "Sure, I can remove this snake for you (even if I just dump it nearby out of your sight). But you need to understand that where there's one there's more, and you're just not seeing the others because the snakes don't want to be seen by you - they're just trying to live out their lives in peace, after all, and getting whacked by a shovel isn't very peaceful. Really you need to just learn to be mindful of the possibility of seeing one now and then, or move somewhere they aren't." They might not want to learn to live with snakes, but when you point out to them that their only real alternative is moving, well, I reckon the great majority will start learning, regardless.

To further clarify (though I don't know what I could have written that confused anyone on this point), I have not been arguing that rescuers should waste much if any time speaking as snake advocates to homeowners. Unless you have some reason to believe a sermon on the benefits of rattlesnakes would be well received - which would be a downright rare occurrence, I feel sure - then I wouldn't recommend that you expend any breath on it. Just briefly and pointedly spell out the situation to them - that you can't provide them with a snake-free yard, and they need to either learn to live with snakes around or they need to move - in addition to taking away their snake for them (if you have to), and leave it at that.

And I lived in Tempe (and elsewhere in AZ) for some time, by the way, so I do indeed know what you're dealing with. :beer:

Bryan, internet communication is difficult enough as it is, I can't imagine just how tedious it would be if we had to start including with everything we say the phrase "all else being equal." ;) Of course a snake seriously mishandled before being released in an inappropriate spot nearby might do more poorly than one handled well before being released in a more appropriate spot farther away. I feel rather sure that researchers working on the subject of snake relocation are aware of this, as well.

Chris, my concern about snake relocation isn't really on behalf of the poor snakes involved. Well, not very much, anyway, though I recognize that the plight of the individual animals is what's motivating rescuers (be they misguided or otherwise). Urban wildlife simply have a very tough go of it, no doubt, whether someone whacks them, runs them over with a car or moves them. But they serve an important purpose in the urban landscape that extends well beyond themselves as individual animals. They are members of their populations, of course, and in some cases those populations are even significant (amazing as that may be). Most importantly to my thinking, though, is that they present opportunities for people to learn to live alongside nature. Some people love to encounter wildlife, even venomous snakes, in the backyard; some of them even grow up to become biologists/conservationists as a result. More, maybe many more, would rather not have such encounters, as it seems an awful lot of people nowadays have come to think that it's both undesirable and unnecessary to be exposed to "nature" while at home. Heck, for a good while even conservationists thought they could have success by separating humanity from wildlife/wild lands with fences of one kind or another, until they realized that wildlife/wild lands continue to lose (sometimes even faster) thereby. I therefore believe people should continue to have these encounters whether they want them or not - especially when paired with straight talk that no one and nothing can save them from such encounters except a biologically depauperate earth - for the opportunities thus provided. People can and do learn to cope surprisingly well with things over which they have no control once it's made clear to them that this is the situation confronting them, after all, and who's to say that acceptance today won't result in appreciation tomorrow (granting that in some cases "tomorrow" might actually be in the next generation)?

It might not be a pleasant path for homeowners or the creatures upsetting them, but at least it seems a path in the right direction.

Gerry

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Jimi » February 18th, 2014, 2:37 pm

Kris, thanks for laying out so well what I wasn't able to. Everything you said - "EXACTLY!!!"

People are just missing the point, or changing the subject, if they think relocating "problem snakes" is much about animal welfare.

To us, sure it is. But we aren't involved in the transaction - or hardly ever are. If we are, we won't be next time if we come off as freak-show snake huggers. Whereas if we quietly "solve" their problem - get that snake out of their flower bed or garage - we get a little credibility and earn a little space to do some outside-the-box talking.

If we have the opportunity to do the relocation in a technically-ideal fashion (within the animal's home range etc etc), great. Do that!

But if there is no nearby decent release site, there are several options I do not recommend: 1) sneaking the animal into someone else's yard just up the street, 2) trying to talk the resident into letting the animal stay where it is, and 3) whacking it right in front of them, to shame them. If you choose to get yourself involved, congratulations - you just took on some responsibility for what happens next, in human society. Expect to pay for your foolishness. So either relocate the animal to a more distant place where it's got a coin-toss chance at survival at best, or kill it quietly and privately, or if you have the legal option and lack any qualms, put it into the dead or live animal trade.

All this talk about rational conversations with frightened homeowners misses this point - you don't challenge emotion with reason; certainly not in the heat of the moment anyway. If you don't believe me, and my posts in this thread piss you off - I think you prove my point.

Just so you all know, I have received plenty of "problem snake" calls in my career, have responded to a number of them (in apartment complexes, on school grounds, in light industrial parks, in large-lot exurbia, etc), and am speaking from experience as well as education & training. The whole topic has a bit of Alice in Wonderland to it. People are funny about snakes, especially venomous ones.

Cheers,
Jimi

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by azatrox » February 18th, 2014, 3:03 pm

Gerry, I understand and agree with your overriding theme that the real issue is society's divorce from the natural world. Most people wake up in their man made houses, get in their man made vehicles, go to their man made jobs and then rinse, lather and repeat ad nauseum....So my issue isn't so much your thought process or the conclusions you have reached as a result. As I said, I'm in agreement.

The issue comes in the practicality of such a theme within the context of today's contemporary American society. If I go to a home in the foothills of the Phoenix Mountain preserve and remove a snake, I'll give the homeowner recommendations as far as what they can do to minimize encounters in the future...I'll follow that up by saying that it's not realistic (given their residential choice) that they'll never see another snake again. These animals were here long before the houses were and as such are as much a part of the landscape as the mountains are. The education component involves BOTH educating them about things they can do right now to minimize encounters AND educating them that long term snakes are something that they WILL encounter from time to time based upon where they live.

To Chris' point, the fact that they called in the first place instead of dealing with the issue with the sharp end of a shovel is important....and I make it a point to recognize this when I'm able to relocate a snake. It DOES represent a mental shift for the better. A good number of homeowners have expressed that they didn't WANT the snakes dead...They just wanted them gone and didn't even know that snake removal services existed prior to a frantic Internet search, calling the fire department, etc.

From these people's perspectives, they see a dangerous, unpredictable animal in their yard that must be removed for their safety and the safety of their children/pets. Those here on this board know that such fears are largely unfounded...We're not the ones that need the education in that regard. Telling a naturalistically ignorant homeowner to "deal with the snakes or move" isn't conducive to having a receptive student. It's not as if they'll simply say: "Oh ok...I guess I'll just learn to love them then."...No...They'll STILL see them as a dangerous, unpredictable animal that needs to be removed...but if you indicate that you're unwilling to come out and remove them, then in their mind, what choice do they have but to take matters into their own hands? THAT'S what I'm talking about when I say you have to view this issue not just from the snake advocate perspective, but from the homeowner's perspective as well.

Will relocating a snake from a yard adversely affect the overall population? Probably not...But it's an opportunity unlike any other to capture the attention of someone who otherwise couldn't care less and educate them a bit. Generally, people don't care about something until it has a real, tangible, direct effect on their personal well being...Then (at least in my experience) you find that you have their undivided attention. Speaking in abstracts about "learning to live with nature/moving to the middle of the city/etc." will not garner the type of mind shift that is conducive to transforming how someone thinks about something to a more "natural" level.

-Kris

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by gbin » February 18th, 2014, 3:12 pm

Jimi wrote:... if we come off as freak-show snake huggers...
Yeah right, that's what simply laying out the facts - "I can take this snake you see away but no one can get rid of all the snakes you're not seeing. There is no solution to your overall problem but to learn to live with the snakes or to move where they aren't." - will do, make people come off as "freak-show snake huggers." :roll:
Jimi wrote:People are just missing the point, or changing the subject...
Indeed.

Kris, I knew that you and I already agreed on much more than we disagreed on. And I never thought of you as one of the misguided snake "rescuers" out there, either. I suspect that it's just my strong emphasis on giving homeowners some straight talk that might make it seem otherwise to you. But see, from my perspective it's really the most important thing someone on a snake removal call can offer (though I agree that it's great to also make use of any broader educational opportunities that present themselves). And it's far too often something that goes completely undone, as rescuers just "quietly 'solve' [the homeowners'] problem."

Gerry

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by chris_mcmartin » February 18th, 2014, 3:21 pm

It seems to me as though most of us here are in "violent agreement." :lol:

A "snake call," from the perspective of the "non-naturalist" homeowner, solves an immediate problem. It gets what they perceive as a frightening or otherwise undesirable creature out of their yard.

The same snake call, from the perspective of the herper, is an opportunity for educational outreach. It offers the chance to--tactfully--explain some basic ecological principles/realities which are common knowledge in our circle of friends here, but may be shocking revelations to the general public.

The snake call plants a seed whose fruit may be several years down the road, but planting that seed is an important first step.

You notice how little the individual snake factors into this equation. 8-)

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Jimi » February 18th, 2014, 3:50 pm

You notice how little the individual snake factors into this equation.
Precisely.
The snake call plants a seed whose fruit may be several years down the road, but planting that seed is an important first step.
Exaaactly.

cheers
Jimi

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by muskiemagnet » February 18th, 2014, 4:19 pm

captainjack0000 wrote:If there is a human-animal conflict, why can't we just relocate the human? :P

well said. all to often humans want to move to the rural areas to get in touch with nature or more so, act as if they are.

my brother called me one day asking if i had a pellet gun. i asked why he needed it. to kill the gophers(13-lined groundsquirrels) was his reply. i hate them digging holes in my yard. i scolded him by telling him that he moved into their home and not the other way around. i gave him all sorts of ways to create a yard that would deter the gophers but he insists that he has to have a wide open lawn with no other plant features.

now you tell me, will he ever get rid of the gophers?

another one that makes me shake my head is when songbird lovers get all upset when cooper's hawks eat the birds at their feeders. YOU ARE THE ONE WHO BUILT THE BUFFET!!! SHUT UP AND DEAL WITH IT.

i personally think that the federal government should mandate every citizen to take a few ecology courses so they could actually grasp it even a little bit.

back to my brother. the internet is at his fingertips. did he try to educate himself about groundsquirells? no. his first thought was to kill them. unfortunately a vast majority of folks go directly to the "kill them". it's really sad if you think about it.

-ben

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by Don Becker » February 18th, 2014, 4:29 pm

captainjack0000 wrote:If there is a human-animal conflict, why can't we just relocate the human? :P
I have told people before, I believe that a person is more important than an animal, but not that people are more important than animals. If I see a bear attacking a person, I will kill the bear to safe the person. If someone wants to bulldoze through the woods where the bear lives though to build a new road, or new houses, well, I have a problem with that.

What I think is funny, are people who buy a house in the country because they like to be near nature. Apparently nature to them means deer and birds, because they don't like the raccoon and possums in their garbage, or the snakes and such on their property.

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Re: Yet another study showing snake relocation is a bad idea

Post by hellihooks » February 18th, 2014, 4:41 pm

chris_mcmartin wrote:It seems to me as though most of us here are in "violent agreement." :lol:

A "snake call," from the perspective of the "non-naturalist" homeowner, solves an immediate problem. It gets what they perceive as a frightening or otherwise undesirable creature out of their yard.

The same snake call, from the perspective of the herper, is an opportunity for educational outreach. It offers the chance to--tactfully--explain some basic ecological principles/realities which are common knowledge in our circle of friends here, but may be shocking revelations to the general public.

The snake call plants a seed whose fruit may be several years down the road, but planting that seed is an important first step.

You notice how little the individual snake factors into this equation. 8-)
It's nice when the 'educating' works... but some...despite rationally understanding the situation... just can NOT get past their phobia. Such was the case with the Lady who's Mobile home is LITERALLY perched 50 yrds up a rocky mt slope, (in a range chock full of Speckleds) and has a barn full of breeding pens of rabbits, and tons of wild rodents in the walls of the barn.
She KNOWS that even without providing the best food/water source within 5 sq mi (the barn) her house, up in the rocks...WILL attract rattlesnakes, and considers paying me to remove them as cost of living where she lives, and doing what she does (raises rabbits) She insists on paying me... but it got to the point where I was throwing every 3rd one in for free... :roll: I use the Specks in a rattlesnake avoidance training business, and still have some that I/we got from her years ago... :thumb:

And naturally... she walked into her barn one morning and got tagged in the heel... spent a week or two at Loma Linda, which finally convinced her to stop raising rabbits... :roll:

While it's true I wish she was capable of learning to live with Specks... she not... and in her eyes I'm a hero... cause I provide her with just enough peace of mind to continue to live in a spot she loves so much. And just as every bite is different...so is every person making a relocation call... some have good endings, some have bad, and some... you just do the best you can, for all concerned, including the snake... :roll: jim

Oh [email protected] BillMcGighan...
I don't remember if I read it in a paper, or it was from someone I respected a great deal (a Dr. Bush, or Hayes) but as a bio-psych student b(neurophysiology) it made a big impression on me... that snakes have a built-in GPS, so to speak, arising from a magnitite nucleus (proximal to the suprachiasmatic nucleus) that they use for magnetic homing... as do many other creatures, from lobster to birds, etc. They grow up with a certain set of Values in this system. and when relocated outside their recognized range... they are totally 'lost'. Not fatal... but pretty stressful, I'd imagine, :shock: jim

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