Handling Wild Herps Poll

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ErinChapman
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Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by ErinChapman » April 4th, 2015, 1:00 pm

I'm interested in how herpers interact with wildlife (specifically herps). Some birder friends of mine are adamant that I should not catch herps because it is harassment and I could potentially injure the animal. I can see their ethical point, but (for me at least) the part I enjoy most about herping is holding them in my hand. If you could please fill out this doodle poll, answering how often you handle herps in the field, it will give me a better understanding of herping culture and I will definitely write a blog article about it once I feel I've gathered enough data. Thank you! - Erin Chapman
link to poll: https://doodle.com/i36pmhfhf8c8advx

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NewYorkHerper16
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by NewYorkHerper16 » April 4th, 2015, 4:41 pm

Interesting topic for a poll!
Personally, i am fine with handling herps in most cases. While it can and does cause some stress, this stress level does not seem severe at all and many herps will resume normal behavior only minutes after being released. A lot of birders do seem to consider this harrasment though because theyre used to birds which are obviously a lot more prone to stress (which could cause them to abandon nests-roosts or to stop feeding normally). Herps do not seem to be affected too much by a quick handling/photo session. The only times i would not handle herps is if they are eating (or look to have just recently eaten), mating, or if they are a protected species. If i didnt start handling wild herps when i was little i probably would have veered away from field herping and more toward herpetoculture, which isnt as fun lol.

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Noah M
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Noah M » April 4th, 2015, 6:36 pm

I filled out your poll, but I want to know what you mean by "handle". Just last night there were 2 pygmy rattlesnakes on the road. I used my snake hook to get them off the road. Is that handling to you? I bet the stress I caused them is far less than the stress of a car running them over, which to be fair may not have happened.

I generally prefer a hands off approach, but it really depends on the species and circumstances.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 4th, 2015, 7:21 pm

There are natural stressors and unnatural stressors. The term stress has been used so expansively in human social and psychological paradigm that it is often forgotten that it a term describing many biological responses. Its casual use among people about people, also tends to wash its meaning in anthropomorphic, often trivialized hues.

Brief handling of a prey animal is probably very similar to close call predation events an animal has evolved to have adaptive precedence for, whereas more novel and lengthy manipulations of human interference probably have greater biochemical and neurological impacts that are not as readily recoverable.

simus343
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by simus343 » April 4th, 2015, 8:53 pm

For me it comes to the species really. I tend not to handle black racers or hognose for example unless they are in an area where other humans may harm them. The black racers bite in desperation to be set down, and the hognoses play dead which uses quite a bit of energy to move the way they do I would imagine. Other species like ribbon snakes which calm down very fast and rat snakes which CAN bite but frequently do not (in my experience with reds and greys) I will usually pick up and marvel at in my hands or wrap around my neck and sit down for a bit.

While working we pick up most non-venomous snakes to just glance over the snakes to keep a mental note of the general health of the snakes in our area.

Other herps like salamanders, though, I don't handle 99.9% of the time because of their sensitive skin.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 5th, 2015, 6:53 am

Prey Animal = Herps. To be clear. All but the very largest reptiles are prey items, including the worlds most venomous snakes.

Being observant and expedient when handling is at the very least, respectful to the wild world. Some people have an instinct and calmness for it, some people don't. Simus sitting down close to the ground is a subtle example of good instinct and courtesy. In order to see closer and learn stuff close range is useful but needing to touch and hold becomes less impulsive as other interests take their place.


edit to add,,. I don't meant to come off as pontificating so please forgive. It is no worse sin to not add baby powder to a comment about common practice rife with unaknowledged variables and enabling beliefs. I do not mean to offend, but if I do, in all fairness, adults dangling tired snakes and smiling for the camera, and grabbing at them like giant toddlers is offensive to some people too.

MCHerper
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by MCHerper » April 5th, 2015, 12:28 pm

The first and most important ethic for any naturalist, field herper, birder, botanist, or whatever, should be to do no harm. If you injure an animal, reflect on what went wrong and prevent it from happening again.

Common sense should also prevail. If a 6-foot long rat snake is basking on a hedgerow, I am not going to remove it from its location. If I can photograph and observe a specimen without touching it, I will. I like to observe a snake's belly, check it for injuries, get a close look at its tail, try to determine sex, etc.

That being said, I am not uncomfortable with the idea of handling garters, browns, smaller milks and smaller water snakes, etc, to look them over. Just my personal observation, I think that picking up any snake over about 2.5 feet long increases the chance of injuring the animal. Your experience may be different.

Throwing a 5-foot long pine snake around your neck for a selfie? Not really my speed.

No problem with picking up turtles to observe plastron, annuli, etc. again as long as it doesn't become excessive and you aren't playing catch with it.

As Simus noted, amphibians are a bit of a different story. Minimal handling, if at all, is best. If observing their bellies or observing them for a period of time, use nets and containers that are clean and have been treated with 10% bleach and rerinsed. Do the same with your boots if checking vernals.

Just put a basic, sensible protocol in action for the sake of the herps, and then go out and enjoy your time in the field!

This is coming from someone who has seen people be excessively cruel to herps. I've seen the worst that people intentionally do to these animals, so I would not condemn legitimate field herpers for handling specimens. I made mistakes and forgot cleaning protocol at times, and I have accidentally injured specimens while observing them when I was younger, but I learned from it. I think that we herpers, as a whole, do much more good than harm.

Just my $0.02.

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » April 6th, 2015, 4:29 am

Birders. Sheesh. They've never held anything in their hands, will never know how it feels, so they harass herpers out of sheer existential frustration. Don't get me started on birders.....

[Disclaimer: This reply may be seen in a humorous light. Or not. Decide for yourself]

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jonathan
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by jonathan » April 6th, 2015, 6:48 am

captainjack0000 wrote:I filled out your poll, but I want to know what you mean by "handle". Just last night there were 2 pygmy rattlesnakes on the road. I used my snake hook to get them off the road. Is that handling to you? I bet the stress I caused them is far less than the stress of a car running them over, which to be fair may not have happened.

I generally prefer a hands off approach, but it really depends on the species and circumstances.

That sounds like a "rarely" response to me then.

I handle a little more often than that, almost always when I'm trying to get voucher photos and the animal can't be photographed in situ. Then again, I'm getting voucher photos fairly regularly.

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PrimitiveTim
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by PrimitiveTim » April 6th, 2015, 9:24 am

Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:Birders. Sheesh. They've never held anything in their hands, will never know how it feels, so they harass herpers out of sheer existential frustration. Don't get me started on birders.....

[Disclaimer: This reply may be seen in a humorous light. Or not. Decide for yourself]
Don't get me started on birders either. lol This is why I have become a birderer and so far I have not gotten up the nerve to handle any birders

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cbernz
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by cbernz » April 6th, 2015, 9:36 am

Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:Birders. Sheesh. They've never held anything in their hands, will never know how it feels, so they harass herpers out of sheer existential frustration. Don't get me started on birders.....

[Disclaimer: This reply may be seen in a humorous light. Or not. Decide for yourself]
To be fair, a good number of birders have held birds in their hands. An unfortunate few have seen birds severely injure themselves or even die of shock from being handled. It's a totally different story from handling a snake or a turtle.

I think the problem with some birders is that we sometimes forget or fail to realize all the other aspects of birding that harass or stress birds: standing under roosting owls, flushing rails in a marsh, pishing at warblers, putting decoy owls on a hawkwatch to get hawks to dive at them. It's easy to develop a mentality where we think of our binoculars as some sort of magic cloak that makes all our actions behind them benign. When you think about it, though, birders are basically just bird hunters without the guns. We still go through all the other motions of the hunt, but we can feel rightfully good about causing less harm by leaving our quarry alive. Alive, not necessarily unstressed.

But the birders I assume you are talking about (the self-righteous finger-pointers) aren't really owning up to the full effects of their own activities, unless all they ever do is sit silently inside a bird blind. To me, a day spent visiting owl roosts is roughly equivalent to a day spent finding and briefly handling snakes. In either case, I try to be aware of the other animals' well being, and limit the harm that I cause them. The fact that birders don't handle their quarry isn't that important of a distinction when you consider how vastly different birds are from herps.

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Muchobirdnerd
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Muchobirdnerd » April 6th, 2015, 12:32 pm

cbernz wrote:
Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:Birders. Sheesh. They've never held anything in their hands, will never know how it feels, so they harass herpers out of sheer existential frustration. Don't get me started on birders.....

[Disclaimer: This reply may be seen in a humorous light. Or not. Decide for yourself]
To be fair, a good number of birders have held birds in their hands. An unfortunate few have seen birds severely injure themselves or even die of shock from being handled. It's a totally different story from handling a snake or a turtle.

I think the problem with some birders is that we sometimes forget or fail to realize all the other aspects of birding that harass or stress birds: standing under roosting owls, flushing rails in a marsh, pishing at warblers, putting decoy owls on a hawkwatch to get hawks to dive at them. It's easy to develop a mentality where we think of our binoculars as some sort of magic cloak that makes all our actions behind them benign. When you think about it, though, birders are basically just bird hunters without the guns. We still go through all the other motions of the hunt, but we can feel rightfully good about causing less harm by leaving our quarry alive. Alive, not necessarily unstressed.

But the birders I assume you are talking about (the self-righteous finger-pointers) aren't really owning up to the full effects of their own activities, unless all they ever do is sit silently inside a bird blind. To me, a day spent visiting owl roosts is roughly equivalent to a day spent finding and briefly handling snakes. In either case, I try to be aware of the other animals' well being, and limit the harm that I cause them. The fact that birders don't handle their quarry isn't that important of a distinction when you consider how vastly different birds are from herps.
I'm a birder and yes birders can be complete dicks. There was a lot of problems this winter in NJ with harassing snowy owls. I've noticed it's more bird photographers who are the problem (which I am a photographer too). People get so desperate to get a shot they do really stupid things (like stand on dunes). I would actually say spending a day under an owl roost is worse. I myself rarely pish/use playback. I think this goes with herps too. Unfortunately people make it more about themselves and their ethics become skewed. As far as holding herps. I like shots that are natural but when I'm with scientist who have to handle the animals I'll have them hook up a shot for me occasionally. Also I think it depends on species, the health of an animal, season, etc... It comes down to using your head and remembering that being popular on the internet is a mirage.

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Noah M
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Noah M » April 6th, 2015, 3:37 pm

It is all about context. The type and health of the animal, rarity of the species, and situation in which you encounter it, and how long the interaction lasts.

I have no issues catching and showing people the green and brown anoles that populate this state. They're hearty, abundant, and as long as you're careful, won't cause serious harm to them. Do I catch every one? Do I work it out so that it is stressed out and that its muscles are so fatigued that I can pose it like a thrift store mannequin? No. Why would I?

My apartment complex has turtles that have become accustomed to being fed by the locals and will swim over to you if you get near the edge of the pond. Sometimes its fun to reach down and pluck one out of the water. The few times I've done it they don't seem to care. I know from moving turtles off of roads they often hide in their shells and urinate as a defense mechanism. The pond turtles in the complex don't even retreat in their shells when picked up and they've never gone to the bathroom while I'm holding them. Do I snatch up turtles every time I walk by the pond, or even every time they swim over? No. Why would I?

If I'm out at night and I see a gecko on the wall of a building, do I try to catch it? No. They're skin is very fragile, they have delicate feet, and they shed their tails. I might wave my hand around it to move it down the wall for a better picture, but I sure don't touch them. A wall shot of the gecko is good enough for me.

Here are three different examples each showing different levels of handling. Is each one a different level of harassment? Is the risk of injury to the animal the same for each one? Herps are such a diverse group of animals that it really is hard to make any sort of blanket statements about them.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 6th, 2015, 8:15 pm

Sometimes what looks like a blanket statement is actually an acknowledgment of basal similarities more shared among chordates, than diversified. A neuron in one kind of system behaves very much like the neuron in another. There are similar biochemical changes in all taxa. Its behaviors that are different.

An interesting study was done with neural mapping and cichlid fishes, Stanford. Can't do link right now.

It seems people are always looking to extremes, and absolutes when none have been defined, and perhaps none exists.

One way to commence is to default to expedient low impact interaction, which is what many keepers in zoo settings or those working with various animals in emergency or rehabilitative situ with wildlife. Creatively incorporate what you have experienced and minimize fear and damage. Its funner actually and polishing of skill.

Richard F. Hoyer
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » April 6th, 2015, 9:27 pm

Erwin,
Interesting topic with the different viewpoints. Certainly, the species of wildlife likely makes a difference. But even with that being the case, here are some added points to consider:

Which might be considered as more stressful: Being caught, handled, and released by a humans or being pursued by predators? Think of the number of lizards with regenerated tails and snakes with minor to major scars. Think of the times songbirds are pursued by some species of hawk and owl, etc. So I would ask, haven’t most vertebrate species been selected for eons to cope with stress? Which is more likely: the stress from handling being of a temporary nature or such stress likely produces lasting harm?

Is it less stressful and therefore okay for researchers to handle wildlife versus non researchers?
Is the handling of injured, orphaned, sick wildlife by individuals involved in animal rescue / rehabilitation considered stressful and thus harmful to individual wildlife specimens?

What about the banding of birds that entails some type of trapping (mist nets, etc.) and handling?
What about all of the mark / recapture studies of various species that require handling and tagging procedures?

I am sure there are other considerations but the above is what comes to mind at the moment.

Richard F. Hoyer (Corvallis, Oregon)

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 6th, 2015, 9:43 pm

Maybe its not a matter of More and Less. Maybe it is experienced physiologically as the same. To a rationalized degree of ministration. Once you break it down away from More and Less, and look at it in a kind of blue print of what is actually happening, it is a catch and escape experience by a larger predator.

Recovery from a human catch and release could have same consequences and recovery realities. If the contact was within certain undefined perimeters.

Lengthy close containment , thirst and prolonged mutations of accosting activity for pics, posing etc probably wouldn't fall within healthy perimeters of recovery, behaviorally or physically

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 7th, 2015, 1:40 am

A note about wildlife rehabilitation especially during veterinary procedure, and activities involving banding, removing bands, extricating foxtails, clipping monitor nails, taking blood samples, etc. ..

There are formalized tactic in the restraint of animals for procedure, wild and domestic. There is even a specific way to lay a dog down on his side on a treatment table. They all involve strategic support of the spine, not only to prevent balking and injury, but because spinal support creates a potential for a more relaxed subject. If more subjugation is required sedation is used.

In non medical or other handling, like short transfers or removals from enclosures, if a worker is familiar with the species and risks, non aversive contact is often preferred. Being able to read behavioral cues and surroundings that do or don't promote escape or mishap is key. Animals from marmosets to reptiles will often perch unrestrained more calmly then if they are "held"

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » April 7th, 2015, 1:44 am

Kelly Mc wrote:extricating foxtails
What does that entail?

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 7th, 2015, 1:52 am

Locating them w otoscope and removing them with forceps. Often done with no anesthetic depending on the dog. They are rampant and common, the only thing more common in practice are cat absesses from outdoor cats. Fighting the wounds always abcess.

You never had a dog catch a foxtail?

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » April 7th, 2015, 1:55 am

No....can't say I have!

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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by HerpMan ATL » April 7th, 2015, 4:56 am

I sometimes handle snakes briefly to get a photo or move them out of harms way. I do agree with an earlier post about certain species don't seem to be as bothered by being held as others. King snakes, Rat Snakes, and small fossorial species are much calmer than say a Racer or Watersnake. Its not as simple as just saying leave nature alone. I just got back from Florida and was photogrpaphing a Pygmy Rattlesnake I found on a remote road, way back in ANF. After I photographed it my friend said just leave it there. I thought about it and then decided no Im gonna move it off the road and grabbed a stick and moved him to the side. As soon as we got back in the car I looked in the mirror and there comes another vehicle. I was so glad I moved him. By the way, Im a birder too but I stopped hanging out with most birders a long time ago but some of them are so extreme in the views. I think most of us interested in wildlife do what ever we think is best to protect it. So my point is, I will handle snakes, but I always try and put them in a spot that I think offers the best chance for them to survive when I leave and finally, being a photographer, I think the ultimate reptile photo is one that shows habitat, and is in situ or at least looks like its not posed.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 7th, 2015, 9:32 am

I don't think wild reptiles know the difference being handled by a researcher, a non researcher, or a raccoon. Being pursued and caught by a larger living form is experienced the same, and corticosterone, heart rate and respiration would correlate with the variables of fright or stress of the snake, lizard.

Depending on the variables of the event it would constitute what has been called in research of animal stress - a natural stressor. Animals have evolved to survive natural stressors in selection instigating a vast array of adaptations, like tail autotomy.

So its not a thing of either-or but mitigating activities to stay within a recoverable range and that's what people are describing. There is a line that hasn't been examined fully in what bleeds into conditions of Unnatural ie, abnormal stressors, for which have not been adapted for and don't fuel any benefit of fitness.

But it looks like everyone is basically on the same page of less is more, and that perhaps some types of arduous handling for trophy shots, for example are falling out of style.

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WSTREPS
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by WSTREPS » April 7th, 2015, 9:24 pm

The handling of wild reptiles . No one can give an exacting answer to the question, My take on it is use common sense. If you find a snake with a large bulge , don't pick it up, if you see a nesting turtle, leave it alone, don't grab lizards so hard their dew laps pop out , don't grab snakes behind the head. Its all about common sense. Don't do anything that will outwardly physically harm the animals. Use your head and it will be ok. Rather then go into overly complicated language, I will keep it straight to the point, You don't have to worry about harming a wild reptile by handling it in a respectful manor. They easily can deal with that and a whole lot more.

Reptiles are not fragile animals who's body's produce potentially harmful amounts of steroidal hormones or experience accelerated heart rates to the point that the animals future survival is jeopardized once the disturbance has past. In fact reptiles are incredibly resilient to human or other disturbance.

You are not going to harm a gravid female snake, turtle, lizard by picking her up, you are not going disrupt a breeding cycle by touching a reptile unless you physically pull two copulating animals apart. You are not going to impede an animals future feeding behavior by holding it for a picture. The way the word stress or potential stress related issues gets thrown around in these discussion's and how it actually applies to a reptiles real world behavior is pretty ridiculous. The ones that disagree need to spend more time in reptile school.

Ernie Eison

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 7th, 2015, 9:41 pm

Who is disagreeing with you now?

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 7th, 2015, 11:19 pm

If you were directing the comment about using complicated language at my post, which I think you were, I feel it was unfair.

I see words as meanings and will always choose the word that comes closest to what I mean. I also like concise short words over multisyllabic ones.

I won't go into that much else about real world reptile school except for that you are not the only person who is enrolled there as a lifetime student.

Enjoy Spring and thanks for your thoughts

Kelly

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Soopaman
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Soopaman » April 8th, 2015, 5:06 am

WSTREPS wrote:

...

Ernie Eison

:thumb:


Kelly, often I find myself attempting to interpret your post rather than read it directly for its content. It's a maze, rather than a direct path. While your choice of vernacular is clear to you, it leaves the rest of us puzzled and wanting for clarity in communication. If the words you choose to use come closest to what you mean, but fail to communicate what you mean to others, then perhaps it would be wiser to use choose words that leave us less puzzled, albeit less poetic.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 8th, 2015, 6:06 am

Soopaman wrote:
WSTREPS wrote:

...

Ernie Eison

:thumb:


Kelly, often I find myself attempting to interpret your post rather than read it directly for its content. It's a maze, rather than a direct path. While your choice of vernacular is clear to you, it leaves the rest of us puzzled and wanting for clarity in communication. If the words you choose to use come closest to what you mean, but fail to communicate what you mean to others, then perhaps it would be wiser to use choose words that leave us less puzzled, albeit less poetic.

Can you be more specific, using anything from this thread as an example of what you find hard to understand?

If you aren't able to do that, dont hate just cuz you cant keep up.

:) woops I forgot to use one of these. Important to use one of these eloquent little faces. Kind of like a drop of lube people use when they post something they think might make the other posters not like them.

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Soopaman
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Soopaman » April 8th, 2015, 6:26 am

Kelly Mc wrote:
Soopaman wrote:
WSTREPS wrote:

...

Ernie Eison

:thumb:


Kelly, often I find myself attempting to interpret your post rather than read it directly for its content. It's a maze, rather than a direct path. While your choice of vernacular is clear to you, it leaves the rest of us puzzled and wanting for clarity in communication. If the words you choose to use come closest to what you mean, but fail to communicate what you mean to others, then perhaps it would be wiser to use choose words that leave us less puzzled, albeit less poetic.

Can you be more specific, using anything from this thread as an example of what you find hard to understand?

If you aren't able to do that, dont hate just cuz you cant keep up.

No problems in this thread, just speaking in generalities.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 8th, 2015, 6:40 am

Oh Generalities. Nothing specific. K.

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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by simus343 » April 8th, 2015, 8:55 am

Kelly Mc wrote:
Soopaman wrote:
Kelly, often I find myself attempting to interpret your post rather than read it directly for its content. It's a maze, rather than a direct path. While your choice of vernacular is clear to you, it leaves the rest of us puzzled and wanting for clarity in communication. If the words you choose to use come closest to what you mean, but fail to communicate what you mean to others, then perhaps it would be wiser to use choose words that leave us less puzzled, albeit less poetic.
Can you be more specific, using anything from this thread as an example of what you find hard to understand?

If you aren't able to do that, dont hate just cuz you cant keep up.

:) woops I forgot to use one of these. Important to use one of these eloquent little faces. Kind of like a drop of lube people use when they post something they think might make the other posters not like them.
Yet again in defense of Kelly, I always find the information/message to be quite clear - yet I can sometimes also choose words that may be unclear at first glance too haha. If I do not know the word that someone is using, or don't understand how it is being used in a given context, I have a trick that I recommend for anyone to use - a really simple one. I look it up haha :P. This isn't targeted at anyone, just a general reminder to all. It seems simple and therefor potentially insulting (I do not mean for it too :?), yet I know many educated and very respectable people, that get confused about wording on occasion and forget to look up words that they don't know :lol:.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 8th, 2015, 9:25 am

Thank you Simus.

And Im not mad at Soopaman or Ernie or anyone else that may feel the same, but the opportunity to broach/explore subjects that involve the neuroethology of snakes and other herps is more interesting and way more important than my words.

There are new tools and interdisciplinary approaches that are helping us learn more about animals. Including reptiles in these kinds of discussions creates more curiousity. More curiousity invites the potential for more investigation.

If anyone really wants to talk about my words I have thread here and there where Ive waxed lyrical about stuff my snakes do. I don't care if you criticize it. Its ok.

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Noah M
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Noah M » April 8th, 2015, 2:22 pm

I know many educated and very respectable people, that get confused about wording on occasion
Amen to that. The more educated you become, the more you know about less and less. And as a result it seems, the different groups and disciplines develop their own definitions using the exact same words. How Kelly defines stress is not the same way a psychologist would define it. I'm currently researching a type of stress, and the definition that I use is:

a particular relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being

The same author, about 20 years earlier in a different book, defined stress as the area of study concerned with stimuli producing stress reactions, the reactions themselves, and the various intervening processes.

So the same person has two different (but related & similar) definitions of stress.

When I first read Kelly's comments, I was utterly confused. But then I rethought about how the word was being used and things became more clear. I'm guessing Kelly uses more of a biological/physiological definition, not a psychological one.

That being said, when we think about stress in the more casual sense, we are talking about that "recoverable range" and probably physical harm as well. We all have different judgements on where that threshold lies. Add to that that different researchers will use different methods and metrics to find the limits of stress, and we wind up having a range of ranges :shock:

When it is all said and done, I think we'll realize we all know much less than was previously thought, quite little really, and that if we had spent a few less hours talking and thinking about stress and words, and a few more hours herping, we'd be in a better world.

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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » April 9th, 2015, 9:04 am

Erin:
I get the sense that researchers conducting field studies have examined the issue of whether or not handling produces negative impacts that in turn, would affect the results of such studies. The majority of herp field studies involve handing. For instance, mark / recapture studies generally require considerable handling of specimens.

I have been involved in such studies with four species, the Rubber Boa, Gopher Snake, Common Sharp-tailed Snake, and Forest Sharp-tailed Snake. Because I commonly recapture the same specimen a fair number of times, it would be my best guess (note the word ‘guess’), that handling specimens of most species is a non-issue.

My method entail bringing specimens home, weighing, measuring, identifying which specimens are recaptures and which are new and if the latter, recording essential scalation and other feathers that takes upwards of 10 – 20 minutes for each new specimen.

Yesterday, I released 23 boas at one of my sites all of which happened to be recaptures. One adult male was initially captured in 2004 and I noted has been recaptured 16 times since. You can draw your own conclusions as to whether or not handling is likely to produce negative affects.

Additional points to consider:
1) There often can be differences within a species. Some boas clearly get ‘upset’ when captured as they will squirm, may void, and emit their scent gland material. But most boas when captured do not display all of those behaviors.

2) It is not uncommon that after capturing a snake or lizard, after a short period of time, they ‘calm down’ and can be placed in the hand or on an arm without trying to escape. Some individuals can be stoked without them fleeing.

3) Then there is the role of temperature. It has been my experience that when capturing snakes that are torpid at lower temperatures , they rarely if ever void or emit scent gland material.

4) I have retained some specimens for many years. Each spring and fall, I weigh and measure specimens. During the active season, I identify which boas have taken a meal and thus handle them briefly at that time. If such handling produces a stress to the point of producing negative effects, I see no way in which such affects could be measured if in fact, they occur.

5) Individuals have captured and retained various species of herps and maintained them for many years. Such experience suggest that the initial capture, and the handling that occurs thereafter is unlikely to have produced stress levels to the point of adversely affecting the health / survival of such specimens.

Last, in falconry, raptors are trapped from the wild and clearly are stressed at that point in time. But through the manning (socialization) process, such raptors adapted to their new surroundings and frequent handling. Some of those wild trapped raptors are retained and hunted for many years. Such experience suggests that the stress that takes place upon initial capture has little if any affect on the future well being of such raptors.

Richard F. Hoyer (Corvallis, Oregon)

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Bryan Hamilton » April 9th, 2015, 9:44 am

Similar to Richard, I do capture-mark-recapture with Great Basin rattlesnakes. In this species, there is a lower detection probability for recaptured individuals, suggesting that they have a negative response to being captured, handled and processed. This effect diminishes over time as they "forget" the experience. A similar response has been observed in timber rattlesnakes. This effect seems to be stronger in females than male rattlesnakes.

Have you ever looked at detection probability in your species Richard? It would be interesting to see how widespread it is in snakes.

edit- Another question to ask, is does the survival and body condition of recaptured individuals differ from that of uncaptured individuals? There are ways to infer this from mark-recapture datasets.

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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » April 9th, 2015, 11:18 am

Bryan:
As a rank amateur and as such, do not possess the background knowledge needed nor the where-with-all that would be involved with ‘detection probability’.

For some boas, after the initial capture, I never see them again. Some boas are not seen for various intervals of time after initial capture. For instance, the male I mentioned in my post that was first captured in 2004, I recaptured in 2005 but not again until 2008 but then have recaptured him every year since. Then there are boas I see every year or just about every year.

One of the boas released yesterday was first found on 5/16/10. I had not seen that boa until it was recaptured this past March 27th., --- almost 5 years later. I recall that at one of my other sites, there was a boa that was recaptured for the first time 10 years after its initial capture.

Depending on various factors, my making searches at the site has been sporadic and not preplanned or on some type of schedule. And the area involved at each of my sites is rather small, less than one hectare. Also, disturbances at most of my sites has had varying affects on my ability to recapture specimens.

And the manner in which I place out artificial cover objects in order to find specimens is random with no preplanned scheme involved. I am not certain if such conditions would allow a meaningful assessment of ‘detection probability’.
I know that calculating densities is hampered by the fact my sites are so small and without defined areas.

Quite a few years ago at one of my sites (‘Chapman’), I found two adult female boas for 21 and 23 consecutive years. At the site where I released the boas yesterday (‘Larson’), as of last year, I have two female boas that were initially captured 21 and 23 years ago but have not been recaptured every year. I was hoping I would find one of them yesterday but that was to be the case as it rained, was only in the mid to upper 50’s, and I came across only one adult male boa yesterday. The females have yet to really make their appearance so far this season.

I can’t answer your last question about survival and body condition as I do not grasp how a comparison can be made with boas that have never been captured (“uncaptured individuals”). If you really mean comparing the body condition (weight / length ratio) of recaptures vs. initial captured specimens, I believe that could be done. But just off the top of my head, I don’t think there would any significant difference. And in the case of females, it would also depend on whether or not such recaptured females produced litters the prior year as such females are quite thin the year following producing litters.

But the biggest surprise yesterday was finding a Common Sharp-tailed Snake at that site I call ‘Larson’. I have been going to that site since 1971 and recall seeing a Sharpie there in the early 1970s. But I haven’t seen one there for 40
or more years and hence the welcome find yesterday.

Richard F. Hoyer

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 9th, 2015, 12:45 pm

Specifics are precious.

Data would even warrant a degree of collateral damage, even acceptance as a given but I still hold that the time frames and interactions of researchers are similar in impact to normal events in the life of a reptile.

The time sessions and actions of *some* photo /video motivations are not in the same range of duress. Hours and days of stress (which can present as inertia)

Most of these if not all, would be in the belly of an animal and well on its way in the nitrogen cycle, and not hanging from the branch it was placed.

It is important to make that distinction.

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gbin
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by gbin » April 9th, 2015, 1:35 pm

We've discussed this subject repeatedly and at considerable length over the years; people who are particularly interested in it should search the archive, as I'm sure a number of us aren't up for repeating whatever we've got to contribute to it ad nauseam. To save myself some time at the keyboard (as I've presently not too much to spare), for example, a very quick search enabled me to find this snippet from a 2012 thread which seems quite relevant:
gbin wrote:Scientists have of course studied the stress effects of handling and other direct human disturbances in a wide variety of animals. It's a very active, productive and many of us would say important field, and I've collaborated on a few such studies, myself. The results of these studies often surprise some people, both by finding that some animals appear to take into stride potential stressors that folks thought were worth worrying about and that some other animals exhibit unfortunately more pronounced effects than folks expected them to from seemingly mild potential stressors. It apparently depends a fair bit on the specific species and situation under consideration, and then there is some individual variation operating on top of that.

But if the data isn't yet there for [whatever species] then it isn't there. The best one can do in such a circumstance is try to get guidance from people with actual expertise with the species..., and go with that bearing in mind that such people might be mistaken despite their expertise.
And from another 2012 thread:
gbin wrote:There's stress and then there's STRESS! Handling almost certainly does cause every wild animal at least some stress, but for many species/individuals it's likely such a brief and modest amount that it's not worth worrying about. (Deliberately provoking a fear response would obviously be more stressful than more gentle handling.) Thankfully, all animals (including humans) have evolved to deal with at least some stress as part of normal life; problems are most likely to result when the stress is severe and/or constant...
Gerry

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 9th, 2015, 2:08 pm

Yes it has Gerry, but recent and not so recent examples of prolonged manipulations and close containment imply that these are acceptable, enough to present publicly.

Its basically been agreed by all of the posters here that common sense and limited handling are ok. Even proven to be ok, by repeated finds of a healthy specimen.

Some impacts are anomalous and would normally end in death in much shorter interim with a predator. Human interaction manipulation that does not resemble any natural occurrence with any other animal in the world.

Recognizing that, would be common sense too, but it isn't always or isn't a priority, especially with certain iconic species, that have trophy pic appeal.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 9th, 2015, 2:12 pm

Accidental double post

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gbin
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by gbin » April 9th, 2015, 4:46 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:... Human interaction manipulation that does not resemble any natural occurrence with any other animal in the world.
If I understand, Kelly, the idea is that this is a special concern.

But that doesn't fit with what we know of stress biology. Hormonally speaking - and hormones drive everything else going on here - there aren't fundamentally different types of stress response depending on the stressor involved (e.g. human-inflicted vs naturally occurring); it's really just a matter of magnitude. This provokes a mild stress response whereas that provokes a stronger one. And the stress response, be it mild or strong, is really a normal part of all animals' lives, evolved to help them cope with small and big perturbations that happen to them as a normal part of their lives.

It works the same way in humans, of course. It surprises some people to learn that our bodies react fundamentally the same way to happy stressors (e.g. getting married) and unhappy stressors (e.g. getting fired from a job); all that really differs is the magnitude of the response, and that can be difficult to predict even in our own species.

I'm not saying stress can't cause harm. Of course it can, when the disturbance involved is so severe as to prompt an acute response (in which case there will generally be obvious signs of physical distress, and I'm not talking about something merely behavioral such as an animal attempting to escape while being handled), or goes on so long and/or happens so frequently as to create a chronic condition. I suppose some particularly unobservant or uncaring herpers sometimes cause herps to suffer acute stress during capture and handling, but that's really more a matter of the herps being subjected to very poor practices than of the herps involved being captured/handled at all, and I would bet that in the overall scheme of things it doesn't really happen very often. And it's hard to imagine a situation where herpers need worry about causing chronic stress in herps by capturing/handling them, as it would entail something such as a whole bunch of people visiting the exact same spot and finding and going after the exact same animals again and again, day after day. Mind you, there are plenty of other things that people do that cause chronic stress in wild animals...

Gerry

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WSTREPS
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by WSTREPS » April 9th, 2015, 4:49 pm

Additional points to consider:
1) There often can be differences within a species. Some boas clearly get ‘upset’ when captured as they will squirm, may void, and emit their scent gland material. But most boas when captured do not display all of those behaviors.

2) It is not uncommon that after capturing a snake or lizard, after a short period of time, they ‘calm down’ and can be placed in the hand or on an arm without trying to escape. Some individuals can be stoked without them fleeing.

3) Then there is the role of temperature. It has been my experience that when capturing snakes that are torpid at lower temperatures , they rarely if ever void or emit scent gland material.
Good stuff. Some snakes for example when first encountered will immediately go into full defensive mode, rearing up hissing, maybe striking, at this moment they are as worked up as they are going to get. Without ever being touched. Its the uncertainly of the situation for the animal that causes the tension.

Here's where the person comes into play, if you understand how to handle an animal chances are you can pick this snake up and it will calm down, you wont be threating it. You defuse the defensive response. On the other if your scared, don't really know how to deal with a certain animal, unsure of yourself then don't touch it. I'm not saying that if you mishandle an animal you will certainly cause it irreversible harm. Its just bad form.

Some birder friends of mine are adamant that I should not catch herps because it is harassment and I could potentially injure the animal.

Who is disagreeing with you now?
Everyone who thinks like these birders. They don't have a clue. If someone is against the handling of wild animals and wants to speak out against it that's their business and their choice. Its when they start giving basically made up biological reasons to prop up their view, beliefs , agenda or whatever you want to call it. That's when for me at least the line is crossed. You do what you want just don't splash any on me. When it comes to interacting with wildlife I wont ever tell a person what to do, I will share my experience and thoughts and let them take it from there.

Image

An extremely excited animal without ever being touched.

Image

Another animal getting a bit excited without being touched.


Image

Image

I did not cause harm to this bobcats well being by interacting with it,

Image

I did not disturb this snake by handling it because it just ate.

Image

A good time not to touch.

Image

Should not disturb by touching.

Image

Since this flying squirrel was in my living room I had no choice but to handle it.

Image

I hope I did not stress this crow out but I did give it the rest of hash brown.

Image

I did not handle these horses in my yard, I think they bite.

Image

I did have to interact with this Lama one morning , why was there a lama at the top of my driveway ?
I don't know but I'm glad its gone.

Ernie Eison

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 9th, 2015, 5:19 pm

Gerry I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I don't really see much said about pics that show snakes, mostly venomous, being handled in a way by implements and neck grips that could cause physical damage to ligaments and other structure. Aside from being acutely stressed.

In the interest of balance, because As far as the damages, behavioral and physical, technology of measurement and knowledge are burgeoning. Perhaps we will find out someday if we were less observant than we thought we were.

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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by gbin » April 9th, 2015, 5:43 pm

WSTREPS wrote:Image

Another animal getting a bit excited without being touched.
Actually...

Just as a person can't tell how stressed an animal is simply because it attempts to escape while being handled, s/he can't tell how stressed it is simply because it performs a more formal behavioral display when encountered. Cottonmouths very readily perform their namesake display at even the slightest provocation, but I bet physiological measurements would show that they're not really so upset, after all.

Not trying to be argumentative, but just making a relevant point.
Kelly Mc wrote:Gerry I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I don't really see much said about pics that show snakes, mostly venomous, being handled in a way by implements and neck grips that could cause physical damage to ligaments and other structure. Aside from being acutely stressed.
OK, well, now that we've put the issue of handling stress aside, maybe the poll leading to this thread should be about whether wild herps should be handled by improper equipment or technique, not whether they should be handled at all. I vote that they shouldn't be handled by improper equipment or technique. ;)

I'm not trying to make light of your concern, Kel, but just of this thread. The topic of handling stress has been amply addressed many times before and again now. Directly injurious capture/restraint isn't the same topic, and seems pretty obviously best handled by condemning/correcting it when it's seen - as happens with regularity here at FHF (I'm really not sure why you feel as if you don't see much said about it here, because I certainly feel as if I do). Neither seems anywhere near cause for us to devote who-knows-how-many bytes to yet another rehashing of whether people should handle wild herps.

Sorry, but that's my take on it.

Gerry

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 9th, 2015, 5:48 pm

Ok. No smiley but a real one to you friend.

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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by luv_the_smellof_musk » April 9th, 2015, 8:31 pm

My take on it:

The year is 2050. It's illegal to look at a wild herp or own a goldfish. Herps continue to decline at an ever increasing rate. The media reports that commercial collection for the pet trade in the rising economies of Asia is to blame after successful bans on the ownership of even cats, dogs, reptiles, and horses in the USA have passed. All farming and ranching in USA and Western Europe have been made illegal and a bag of lettuce costs a fortune. Amongst all this screaming a bulldozer rumbles, toppling trees and smashing the eggs of a kingsnake nest. The female that laid the nest is also destroyed in the process. A new mini-mall has been successfully built along with a dozen new houses that all look exactly alike. Meanwhile, on various online forums we discuss how we can avoid looking at herps because it might stress them out.

This is the future I predict.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 9th, 2015, 8:39 pm

On the other side in non theoretical situations, discreet, unheralded, I have seen what can happen when potential of stress has been carefully removed to facilitate desired results.

Animals as fragile as chameleons, and phantasticus, resolving from issues that even the stress of being examined and treated empirically, would kill.

So another perspective is, in certain circumstances, not what stress does, but what could be different if it were consciously minimized.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Kelly Mc » April 9th, 2015, 8:53 pm

Could a finesse of methodology which made more paramount the reduction of stressors in process improve the outcome of relocation efforts?

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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by chris_mcmartin » April 10th, 2015, 3:26 am

I know of at least one study (may still be ongoing) where researchers at Emporia State University, KS, were measuring cortisol levels in snakes upon initial capture and periodically thereafter until released (maybe a couple of hours). I can't remember the details and have not heard any results.

Lynnette Sievert's Research Page; it looks like one of her grad students is exploring this topic.


There's also this: Iguana Faeces Reveal Stress

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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by gbin » April 10th, 2015, 5:59 am

Kelly Mc wrote:Could a finesse of methodology which made more paramount the reduction of stressors in process improve the outcome of relocation efforts?
This is definitely an area where considerable effort is now being made, to improve the reintroduction/translocation prospects for all kinds of animals.

Pretty much everything having to do with stress is now a very hot topic in wildlife biology. Greater strides are being made in captivity than in the wild, of course, but that's not for lack of desire. (Indeed, when the major zoo my wife and I were working for decided to shutter their science department and let us and the rest of the scientists there go a few years ago, I'd just begun pursuing grants to fund work on two brand-new methodologies I'd thought of that I believed were likely to make stress studies of free-ranging animals far more possible. That zoo didn't care about such, obviously, but really that was just because they'd decided not to care about science in general; scientists' salaries could instead be spent on new exhibits, don't you know... :? )

Gerry

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Re: Handling Wild Herps Poll

Post by Bryan Hamilton » April 10th, 2015, 6:49 am

Has anyone heard about that study on head trauma in rattlesnakes in museums? I think Harry Green did it but it was never published.

As I remember, a high proportion of the rattlesnakes had skull and neck fractures. These specimens were collected and euthanized by skilled, professional herpetologists. The take home lesson was that if professional herpetologists can't pin a rattlesnake without breaking bones, no one should.

Rattlesnake handling has come a long way since I started. Very few people pin the snakes and handle them by their neck anymore. Use of tubes has helped a lot.

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