Welcome and Hibernacula monitoring
Hello and welcome to part one of this blog article on the Gray Ratsnake research that is
taking place at Murphys Point Provincial Park during 2014. If you are a nature enthusiast, a frequent camper, a curious passer byer or a procrastinating student quickly looking for information on Gray Ratsnakes and research completed on the subject; hopefully this post will provide you with some quick facts. My name is Brock Ogilvie, and this summer I have been privileged with getting to play a unique role in Murphys Point’s Natural Heritage Education program. This position in particular was created through donations by the Friends of Murphys Point and is titled the “Gray Ratsnake Technician.” This means that over the course of late April through to the summer’s end I will be looking after Gray Ratsnake hibernacula monitoring, Gray Ratsnake tracking through radio telemetry and a few other projects as well.
Hibernacula monitoring takes place in the spring at previously known overwintering locations of the Gray Ratsnake. Every day between April 19th and May 25th myself and a select few other members of park staff would go to two different site for approximately an hour and a half to two hours. Each site would then be thoroughly searched using a transect system (similar to a grid system), with the goal of finding and trapping Gray Ratsnakes as they emerged from the long winter. The snakes are often observed entangled amongst cedar trees which provide excellent shelter as well as exposure to the sun. Upon capture it was assessed as to whether or not the snake was pit tagged (A small microchip/pit tag is inserted into the Gray Ratsnake in order to better understand population trends as well as to monitor the snakes year to year. The chip is similar to that which you would place in your pet). If the snake did have a pit tag, it was measured, weighed, recorded and released. Snakes yet to be implanted with a pit tag were chipped and added to the park database. In some instances the snakes could not be captured and in these instances the sightings were recorded.
This season seven previously chipped snakes were caught (some on numerous occasions), seven new snakes were caught and ten snakes were simply out of reach, resulting in a total of thirty five sightings during the 36 day period. A grand total of 3032 minutes was spent searching for snakes on both sites, some days in perfect weather other days, not so much. The data here along with a significant amount of other data gathered helps us better understand population trends as well as contributes to our Gray Ratsnake Data base.
If you want to keep up with the ongoing research this summer “follow” us on twitter @grayratsnake or search Murphys Point Snakes.