Charina bottae distribution

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Richard F. Hoyer
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Charina bottae distribution

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » July 14th, 2019, 8:11 am

I am aware that the following has very limited interest but decided to post it anyway.

1) Earlier this year, I received a second-hand report that individuals with the Nevada Wildlife Agency had documented a Rubber Boa in the White Mountains in Nevada. Has anyone on the forum heard about that discovery? If so, it would be of interest to know if the boa had been observed in Mineral or Esmeralda County in Nevada.

2) This past April 15th and then again on May 19 – 20, I traveled to the central Calif. coast in Monterey and then San Luis Obispo Counties trying to assess the potential distribution of the Rubber Boa in those counties. Of about 3 dozen individuals I spoke to, 8 had observed the species. Four of those accounts I consider as being very credible.

From those four accounts and where the species previously has been documented, I have a decent idea of the types of habitat where the species occurs in that coastal region of central Calif. Since suitable Rubber Boa habitat appears to occur from near Carmel south into northwestern San Luis Obispo County, I consider that the species likely has a continuous distribution in that region of Calif. from near the ridge and upper slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains all the way down to near the ocean beaches.

So now it is up to the Calif. herpers to verify the occurrence of the Rubber Boa in Monterey County south of the Landels Hill Big Creek Reserve (which represents the furthest south the species has been documented in Monterey Co.), south into northwestern San Luis Obispo County. Sighting in NW San Luis Obispo County have been along Santa Rosa Creek Road, along San Simeon Creek Road, and up Lopez Canyon Creek north of the Lopez Lake. Up to the present time, there is but a single documented occurrence in San Luis Obispo Co. that being a photo voucher 10 years ago in Montana de Oro State Park

Richard F. Hoyer (Corvallis, Oregon)

craigb
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Re: Charina bottae distribution

Post by craigb » July 14th, 2019, 9:35 am

Richard, I am with you 100%.
I realize the sheer number of herpers, could solve this problem of identifying their range.

But, wouldn't this appear to be a great opportunity for the academic community to resolve and publish their academic research.
This sounds almost like a pre written thesis statement for an undergraduate research study, directed research Master's thesis, or doctoral study.
With Cal. State Monterrey Bay, San Jose State, and UC Santa Cruz all very near to the target area it makes sense to me.

I'm just a teacher, wanting to see relevant studies...

craigb

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Fieldherper
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Re: Charina bottae distribution

Post by Fieldherper » July 14th, 2019, 10:49 am

Hi Richard,

We corresponded awhile back, before your Monterey County trip. I have always appreciated your passion for this species. Growing up in Monterey County, rubber boas were always something I wanted to find. They proved fairly tricky in that county. I have found a few over the years, but when this is held against the number of hours I have explored that county, it is VERY few. Just one county to the North, they are very commonly encountered. I think that moisture and particularly fog are key. Closer to the coast is better. Their preferred habitat in that area seems to be the almost impenetrable coastal sage scrub that carpets the coastal bluffs. It is loaded with poison oak. I agree with you that they likely occur the length of the Monterey Co. coast into SLO county, but it is puzzling why there are still no "official" records from the Southern part of the range except for Montana de Oro. I would love to see some more effort by local herpers in this area.

FH

Richard F. Hoyer
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Re: Charina bottae distribution

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » July 15th, 2019, 12:55 pm

Craigb.
I know of only three individuals that acquired small samples of the Rubber Boa towards publishing results. Dr. John Cunningham in 1966, then at UCLA, published a note on the S. Rubber Boa that mainly dealt with taxonomy but included some life history observations.

For his PhD research at Idaho St. U., along with his major professor, Michael Dorcas published papers dealing with thermal ecology of the Rubber Boa. And as I recall, as a post doc. project, Dr. Robert St. Claire in B.C. produced some limited information on the species from near Creston, B.C.

One of the reasons for individuals not attempting to investigate the Rubber Boa (and other highly secretive species), has been due to the difficulty in acquiring decent sample size. That is turn was because individuals did not know when to search for the species. And a third important factor is that most individuals in the professional herpetological community had never considered using artificial cover objects to acquire research samples.

In looking over the habitat in the Santa Lucia Mts. and down to the ocean, from what I was able to view, over much of that region there is a lack of natural cover objects under which searches can be made. That is exactly the same situation that occurs here in northwestern Oregon where the species mostly can be found in grassland type habitats. From my perspective, the key to having a chance at success is the purposeful use of artificial cover.

Even though turning 86 this coming Oct., I have toyed with the idea of traveling again to Monterey County (and possibly San Luis Obispo Co.), to set up some small arrays of artificial cover trap lines at selected sites. To my way of thinking, that is only rational method for trying to establish the distribution of the species in that region of Calif.

Richard F. Hoyer

Richard F. Hoyer
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Re: Charina bottae distribution

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » July 15th, 2019, 4:17 pm

Fieldherper,
Where Rubber Boas have been observed in Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties has given me a decent idea of the types of habitats and elevations where the species exists in those counties.

In a capsule, boas have been observed at both low elevations at near sea level and higher elevations, one at approximately 2700 ft. Some were observed several miles from the immediate coast and one was observed within one to two minutes walking distance from the beach. The boas have been observed in association with coastal scrub, riparian habitat, grassland habitat, in mixed forest type habitats, some mixture of those habitats, and some distance from free water sources. So the above is not all that surprising in that the species occurs in the same variety of habitat associations in Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Marin, and Sonoma Counties, and north into southwestern Oregon.

The one specimen that I believe provides the best information was the DOR boa you found on Hwy. 1 in July, 1998 and now is MVZ specimen #229876. You found that boa at lower elevation, with coastal scrub / grasses and forbs type habitats on both sides of Hwy 1, not too far from the cliffs down to the ocean beach, and quite possibly some distance from any free water.

In addition, that boa was an adult female with a grossly scarred tail tip yet only 19 inches in total length. The preservation process shrinks specimens so she likely measured between 20 and 20 !/2 inches when alive and killed on the highway. What a great find!

Richard F. Hoyer

Richard F. Hoyer
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Re: Charina bottae distribution

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » August 15th, 2019, 10:30 am

For the third time this season, on August 7th and 8th, I visited the central Calif. coast in my quest to learn more about the distribution of the Rubber Boa in Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties. This time, I spoke to 48 – 50 individuals during those two days.

I encountered one woman, a long time resident of northwestern San Luis Obispo County, that provided a credible account of having observed two boas along Steiner Creek about 15 years earlier. Even though she didn’t know the species, she immediately recognize the boa as being the two snakes she has seen along the creek and indicated she has not seen another such snake since that time.

The day before on August 7th, I met a gentleman and his wife in NW San Luis Obispo County who indicated they had never seen a boa. But then the gentleman showed me a photo on his smart phone of a Calif. Mt. Kingsnake he had come across two weeks before further up the road. He mentioned having seen another Mt. Kingsnake two years prior but further up in elevation.

To my knowledge, his photo of the Mt. Kingsnake either represents the second photo voucher of the species occurring in San Luis Obispo County. As of this morning, I have forwarded the photo to Dr. Sam Sweet. I spoke to one other long time resident in NW San Luis Obispo County that indicated he also had observed the Mt. Kingsnake years before. Both individuals are familiar with the more commonly encountered Calif. or Common Kingsnake.

On August 7th., from where in 1998, Fieldherper had salvaged a DOR Rubber Boa along Hwy. i, I stopped to get an estimate of the distance that boa was on the highway from the edge of the cliff down to the ocean beach. I estimated the distance to be at 100 - 150 meters as the most. As a bonus of sorts, I looked up and observed a Calif. Condor soaring with 3 Turkey Vultures.

Richard F. Hoyer

craigb
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Re: Charina bottae distribution

Post by craigb » August 15th, 2019, 11:39 am

Very cool Richard, your reports are so concise and factual they are a pleasure to read.
I look forward to your future reports. :thumb:

craigb

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RenoBart
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Re: Charina bottae distribution

Post by RenoBart » August 15th, 2019, 2:34 pm

There are a few records on NAHERP, maybe these are the ones you're referring to, linking them here anyways:

http://www.naherp.com/viewrecord.php?r_id=324602

http://www.naherp.com/viewrecord.php?r_id=253230

http://www.naherp.com/viewrecord.php?r_id=48667

Richard F. Hoyer
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Re: Charina bottae distribution

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » August 15th, 2019, 5:35 pm

RenoBart,
Thanks for the links. The last link that shows the boa on Valencia Peak in Montana de Oro State Park and found by Steve Schubert in 2010 I have known about since that time. Later that month Steve visited with me here in Corvallis.

The links to the first two sighting are new to me. So the sighting of another boa in Montana de Oro State Park by Diondra Jones in coastal scrub type habitat adds to the sighting by Steve Schubert in which the species occurs some distance from free water in that region. I have the one sighting of a boa at about 2700 in the Santa Lucia Mts. of Monterey Co. by wildlife biologist Amy List that also likely was considerable distance from water.

I now have five anecdotal accounts of the Rubber Boa being observed in northwestern San Luis Obispo County. Four of those sighting have been along riparian areas. The other sighting is away from creeks but a small pond is nearby on the ranch property.

And if Matthew Gruen accesses this forum, I hope he would provided me with details at where his DOR specimen was found in Monterey Co. My email address is that of the Rubber Boa, all run together and lower case @earthlink.net

Richard F. Hoyer

AEthelred
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Re: Charina bottae distribution

Post by AEthelred » August 17th, 2019, 3:46 am

Rubber boas are officially known to live in Nevada as well as Wyoming,Montana and even British Columbia

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Brian Hubbs
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Re: Charina bottae distribution

Post by Brian Hubbs » August 17th, 2019, 5:56 pm

AEthelred wrote:
August 17th, 2019, 3:46 am
Rubber boas are officially known to live in Nevada as well as Wyoming,Montana and even British Columbia
While this is true, a White Mountains specimen would represent a possible range extension to the south for the boa in NV. This is why Richard is interested in the county name.

Still BT
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Re: Charina bottae distribution

Post by Still BT » August 27th, 2019, 1:13 pm

After some "normal" delay with the CDFW scientific collecting permitting, I received two years ago a permit to sample Northern Rubber Boas. I had discovered an incredibly dense population at a site in the Sierra Nevadas. I had always heard people having luck turning cover objects or using Alternative Cover Objects (ACO). Having been in California 6 years with ZERO luck finding Rubber Boas, imagine my surprise when I heard about a hotspot where they could be found simply by walking a dirt road along a stream at sunset in September. After hearing of success from colleagues 4 years in a row, I finally dared them and visited myself.

Wouldn't you know it, I visited the site three years in a row and always saw them, averging 2-3 snakes each time in the first hour after sunset. With this kind of repeatability, I planned to sample the area heavily and at last try to learn more about their natural history and ecology. When I returned, permit in hand, to check my luck again, I found the US Forest Service land had been harvested heavily. While not clear-cut, the remaining stand was completely open and the entire canopy essentially removed for hundreds of acres in all directions. I found no snakes and have not seen them since.

So, a study years in the discovery and making was at long last preparing for initiation with thousands of dollars of ACO ready to be deployed. Now there are simply no boas. It has been two years now and I intend to return in the next month, but I have very low expectations.

Has anyone else had luck as I have with walking trails or dirt roads along streams after sunset in Autumn? Was this just a peculiarity of the site I visited? I have NEVER found a rubber boa in that area under any cover object, despite a hundred hours of search effort. Yet, there they were, predictably and leisurely crossing the road each autumn.

Alternatively, what kinds of ACO have people found works best? I was prepared with wooden coverboards, but have wondered about large canvas or tarpaulin sheets.

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Re: Charina bottae distribution

Post by Jimi » August 27th, 2019, 2:18 pm

I don't know boas from the Sierra Nevada - have seen a half-dozen there & in the Southern Cascades at most - but I got to know them reasonably well along the CA North Coast, in commercial timberlands (a matrix of all age classes through uncut second growth of ~80-90 years old). Casual boa encounters were so common I didn't spend much time actively looking for them. But yes - I saw a lot of them on the crawl in the very late afternoon, and into early dark.

Part of my job at the time (6 years) entailed driving into the woods about 2 hours before sunset from March through August, and then walking around in heavy mature timber, not young stuff, until usually an hour or so after dark. There were lots of streams in that country, so water was never real far away (but sometimes it was a thousand or more feet downhill). I had about 65-80 monitoring sites I visited at least 3 times per season, and up to about 7 times a season. Usually once each, in March/April, late April/early May, and May/June.

I saw lots of boas on the gravel and dirt haul roads, and a few walking. For walking, besides simple off-trail bushwhacking there were old skid roads, well-covered in small limbs, leaf litter, and mosses, and there were loads of skinny little game trails, but there were no proper "hiking trails" of bare dirt. So boas were no doubt incredibly easy to overlook in the dense-canopy, late afternoon, wrinkled-topography gloom, on backgrounds that they blended into for good measure. Just by way of example, I recall one juvenile I found by hearing. I was literally sitting down on a log, taking a break and listening intently. Hearing some weak rustling, I looked over a few feet and saw a boa with an alligator lizard wrapped in its coils, partly obscured in leaf litter. The whole spectacle was right there to see, but I had walked right up to it and sat down without noticing. If there had been no noise I would have missed it.

I also put a lot of driving miles on those same roads between an hour or so after dark and about midnight - after my walking hours - and saw hardly any boas then. And I also did a bit of driving and lots of walking in the early morning (pre-dawn) through about lunchtime - again, very few boas seen then. (Those were the garter snake hours.)

Later in the year, August through October, the job shifted to stream work. Tons of walking creek banks during "normal working hours" (a real break after the other schedule!). I can't recall seeing a single boa during those times - again, nothing but garters. A very, very few rattlesnakes far, far inland.

The relatively few boas I flipped at that job, I was honestly looking more for salamanders, especially Aneides. That would have been during the colder rainier season. Most flippable objects were in younger stands that had been clearcut or partially cut. The older stands, down wood was either huge or it was really decomposed and wouldn't hold up to flipping.

Hope that helps some. The coast is very different from the Sierra but honestly, I think boas are boas, physiologically - they just adjust their behavior to fit the local conditions. Seems to me that they despise heat and direct sun, except in chilly regions or seasons. That hour or so bracketing sunset seems like prime time.

cheers

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