Gray Ratsnake Research at Murphys Point Provincial Park – Part Two –

Radio Telemetry and Whatever Else comes our Way

The main focus of the research at Murphys Point this summer will be on our Gray Ratsnake radio telemetry. Over the course of the upcoming few weeks, six sizeable Gray Ratsnakes will be caught and then implanted with radio transmitters. While this surgery is rather invasive, it is being completed by trained veterinarians from the Smith Falls Veterinary Clinic which ensures the snake will be properly and carefully handled. After the snake has recovered from the surgery it will be released back into the park. From this point onward tracking will begin. The transmitters in the snake send out a pulse at a rate that corresponds with the snake’s body temperature, this pulse can be detected by the radio antenna carried by the researcher (myself). Distance and direction between the researcher and the snake can be determined by how loud the pulse (a beep) is.

In this image from a quick film on radio telemetry, I (Brock) am holding the receiver for the radio transmitters. To see the full video clip, come out to the evening program "A Day in a Life." To find out when the program is being presented please contact Murphys Point.

In this image from a quick film on radio telemetry, I (Brock) am holding the receiver for the radio transmitters. To see the full video clip, come out to the evening program “A Day in a Life.” To find out when the program is being presented please contact Murphys Point.

The implanted snakes will be tracked daily and their state and/or actions will be recorded. This constant monitoring of the six snakes will allow us to identify critical habit for the Gray Ratsnake, from egg laying, basking and shedding sites to over wintering sites (hibernacula). Valuable insight will also be gained into what the day to day life of a Gray Ratsnake is like, meanwhile contributing valuable data to our database. The tracking will continue late into the fall and until the snakes go into their hibernacula. In the spring researchers will return to the sites, finding the snakes and surgically removing the transmitters from the snake. The snake is then released and resumes its life.

Due to the rugged and rocky terrain of Murphys Point locating the snakes could prove to be interesting by time as the signal from the transmitters can be reduced by rock valleys, crevasses and so forth. None the less it will be key in locating Gray Ratsnake habitat. This summer guided hikes will be available, where small groups can accompany myself as we track the Gray Ratsnakes. This tour will be available for a set donation, with all funds going towards Gray Ratsnake research. More details are to come on the Friends of Murphys Point Website and in the park Visitor Centre.

Asides from radio telemetry and hibernacula monitoring, Gray Ratsnake demonstrations, prop talks and evening programs will be presented on a handful of occasions, where you can come visit myself and other park staff and learn more about the research being completed here at Murphys Point. Our volunteer carpenter, Suzanne, and myself have also been very busy building new displays for our Visitor Centre, which means that there will be lots to check out here at Murphys Point Provincial park this summer!

If you want to keep up with the ongoing research this summer follow us on twitter @grayratsnake or search Murphys Point Snakes.

Update: As of today (06/24/14) 2 snakes (Steve and Allan) have been implanted with radio transmitters and are freely roaming the park. Both operations went smoothly and both snakes are highly active since their release both travelling well over half a kilometre in just 2 days.

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