Sciensational Sssnakes!!

Conservation Through Education

Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Name the Nature Park" Contest

Many of you are familar with the public wildlife education facility we are currently developing; if you're not, check out the Scales Nature Park link on the left side of this page! Scales Nature Park has been our working title for quite a long time, but we're not convinced that it is the best name for what we're doing. We like it because it covers the range of wildlife we'll be focused on: reptiles, amphibians and fish. A couple of issues that we've noticed though: some people seem to associate the word scales with the "balance of nature" concept instead of scaly reptiles and fish, and there is a reptile facility in Saskatchewan with the name "Scales Zoo" (www.scaleszoo.com) which could lead to some confusion. The first issue isn't necessarily bad, as we are very concerned with the balance of nature, and a good logo could steer people towards thinking about reptiles. And the second isn't necessarily a problem, as Saskatchewan is really pretty far away, and the general public isn't very likely to get them confused, or even to have heard of both places! Confusion amongst the on-line community is more likely but less concerning.

So as we get closer to completing this facility, we'd better come up with a good name, and we're hoping that some of you might be interested in helping! The idea of the "Name the Nature Park" contest was born about a year ago, and it's time has come! Whoever submits the winning name will receive a lifetime free pass to our park, and the satisfaction of knowing they've contributed something that will hopefully make a difference for wildlife conservation. We may be able to get some other prizes donated as well, but we'll have to wait and see.

Some things to keep in mind:

Some things to know about us, in case you've missed them elsewhere on the site:

If I think of anything else important, I'll add it later.

Contest rules:

Pretty much anything goes. One of the nice things about being a private entity is that we don't have to set and follow any specifc rules for something like this! Rest assured, though, that we're very fair people. Please submit entries by email. I haven't set a contest closing date, so be patient. We're not even sure when we'll be opening yet, so there is a lot of time for us to collect names in the hope of discovering the one that is perfect! And, of course, we reserve the right to just stick with Scales Nature Park if nothing we like better comes along.

Good luck, and we hope to hear from you!

Posted by Jeff Hathaway at 9:43 AM | Comments (2)  

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Pelee Island trip 2005, May 21-23

This will be the fifth edition of the ever-popular Pelee Island trip! There has been a fair bit of interest over the winter, so hopefully we'll get lots of people out. In the past, we've usually had 15-25 volunteers attending from throughout Ontario, Quebec, and Michigan.

This year's dates are May 21-23. We'll be doing various habitat restoration projects related to herps, and spending time in the field observing them and exploring the island's unique ecological communities! In previous years, we've built hibernation sites, basking & nesting sites, ponds, firebreaks, removed exotic vegetation, collected seeds, planted trees/shrubs/wildflowers, counted/measured/weighed/PIT-tagged snakes, modified buildings, and various other projects. We've also toured nature reserves such as Stone Road Alvar, Fish Point, and Lighthouse Point.

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to going with us- we have access to some private properties which are excellent habitat for some great herps! In the past, we've seen virtually every species to be found on the island; usually most of them in a single trip. We've never failed to find four of the five snake species (garters (including melanistics), browns, Lake Erie waters, Eastern fox snakes) and three out of the last four years, at least some of the group has seen a Blue Racer or two. Smallmouth salamanders and various other herps are quite common. It wouldn't be unreasonable to see 100+ herps (even 100+ snakes) over the weekend of 10 or 11 species. Last year's trip was incredible- due to the perfect weather we saw upwards of 500 snakes!

We get lots of work done, but I think anyone who has gone can attest that we spend lots of time herping! Be prepared to work hard and get dirty, though.We camp at the Wilds of Pelee Outdoor Centre for Conservation (www.wildsofpelee.ca). I have some extra camping gear available if anyone needs it; just let me know. All meals are provided, so that everything can be reasonably co-ordinated. If you have dietary restrictions, allergies, or serious dislikes, we'll find a way to accommodate you. However, we tend to frown on simple 'pickiness'.

Trip reports from the last few years can be found at http://www.ontarioherpers.org/pelee/. If you haven't come on the trip before, I encourage you to check them out and see what you'd be getting yourself in for. I've put up a couple photos as well- a blue racer (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scisnake/10656120/) and a group shot from 2001 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scisnake/10654856/).

This year's cost will be determined once we know exactly how many people are coming, etc. Last year, people who met us at the ferry dock paid $75, and those who rode in the van with me paid extra. The trip is done on a cost-sharing basis, and is a pretty incredible deal compared to other guided trips to the island. I have some space in the van for people who need a ride. Please let me know ASAP if you would like a seat. Other car pooling possibilities are likely as well. We discourage people from bringing their cars to the island- it is generally unnecessary and more expensive. If you feel the need to do so, be prepared to explain why. Please let me know if you are planning to come, and if you know of anyone else who might be interested, feel free to let them know.

If possible, please do all communications by email so that it is easier for me to manage.

Posted by Jeff Hathaway at 11:49 AM | Comments (5)  

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Earth Day!!!

Happy Earth Day everyone!!!

Last night after an all-day school program, I spent an hour or so walking around the property, looking at things to do, but mostly just enjoying nature. This is one of my favorite times of the year- the sun is warm but the temperatures are still on the cool side, the suckers are moving upstream to spawn, and the Spring Peepers are calling in search of mates. I watched a beaver for a while, and pondered our on-going "dispute"; I'd like to pick which trees he cuts down and he disagrees with me! Still, even if he does take the wrong tree sometimes, I love having him around- his dam has raised the creek level enough that water now flows through the old gravel pit ponds, probably like it used to in the past. After watching for a while, I noticed a second beaver in the willows on the north side of the pond! This is the first time I've seen two at the same time, and the first real evidence of a beaver "family". They may be starting to build a lodge in the pond, which would be very cool. I'm sure they'd consider it an improvement over the bank lodge in the creek they're using now. I hope that they don't eat all the willows, though, as I'm hoping the Gray Treefrogs will be back to breed in them this spring. Over the last few years, the ponds were drying up too quickly for them to reproduce successfully, so with luck there will be an improvment in their numbers now.

More about Earth Day. What an excellent idea, to have a day celebrating the Earth, home to all of us. The idea apparently originated in San Diego, put forth by a fine sounding fellow named John McConnell in 1969, as an international day to celebrate, and contemplate, the present and future of our planet. Of course, the original Earth Day was (and still is) the vernal, or spring, equinox- March 20th, the date when day and night are the same length. Here in Canada, however, March 20th is still usually pretty cold/snowy/slushy/muddy, so we delay into April when the weather is typically much more suitable for outdoor festivities. Unfortunately for the Couchiching Conservancy (http://www.couchichingconservancy.ca), a wonderful local conservation group, the weather hasn't co-operated today for their inaugural Earth Day events at the new Grants Woods Conservancy Centre. I highly recommend checking this spot out; it is a stellar example of what southcentral Ontario's forests used to be like.

I wonder if Earth Day is delayed even further in Nunavut, perhaps into June or July? Do they even celebrate Earth Day up there?

Anyhow, regardless of the date, I hope everyone will think about how they can minimize their impact on the environment, and how they can protect and restore natural habitats for the plants and animals that we share the planet with. With this in mind, I've put up a photo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/scisnake/10502752/) of American Toads mating in a small pond in our old backyard in Toronto. All it took was a little rubber liner, some rocks, water, and a shovel to create a successful breeding location for these amphibians. Okay, I admit the whole backyard was a lot more elaborate; perhaps I'll make it the subject of a future entry. The point is, everyone can do something, and I hope some of you will!

Posted by Jeff Hathaway at 9:49 AM | Comments (1)  

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Roadkill...

I knew I'd end up writing something about road mortality of reptiles and amphibians, but I didn't think it would be quite so soon.

Today I saw my second garter snake of the year, this one crossing the concession road beside our property. I pulled over to move it off the road and was heading back towards it when another car came along and crushed it. Either the driver didn't care whether they hit the snake, or they simply didn't see it. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the latter, but even then I am amazed that people seem to be completely unaware of the turtles, snakes, and other animals that are on the road in front of them.

Road mortality is a major problem for some reptile species, and it doesn't seem like there is much we can do about it. If anyone's got any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

On another note, spring peepers began calling from our ponds this evening.

Posted by Jeff Hathaway at 11:07 PM | Comments (2)  

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Ontario Reptile Expo

Yesterday's Ontario Reptile Expo was excellent once again! This Mississauga aggregation of reptile breeders, retailers, wholesalers, conservation programs, etc. is a great event for learning more about these animals, finding a good deal on that must-have pet, meeting new friends, and catching up with old ones. We had a table this time, and sold off all of our cracked small tanks, which still work fine for some species but don't look very nice on display at a mall! We also sold a few baby corn snakes- yes we do sell snakes sometimes, when we have babies of various things. We don't particularly strive to breed things very often, but with the size of our collection we are bound to get some babies, and we can't keep them all!

The next expo is on June 19th, check www.reptileexpo.ca for all the details. I don't know yet whether we'll be there, but if we are, I hope we'll get a chance to see you!

Posted by Jeff Hathaway at 8:56 AM | Comments (2)  

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The first real blog entry...

We're partway through a redesign of the website, and Jonathan has finally got me blogging. So here's the first official blog entry- it's late and we're hopefully going to get some sleep soon as we're off to the Toronto Reptile Expo tomorrow. Should be a fun day, and we hope to catch up with lots of old friends. Renovation progress has been going well over the last while as we continue to convert this huge, run-down house into a nature centre. We've been working on the public display enclosures, and hopefully I'll get some pictures posted in the near future. And finally, with the warm weather, the first reptiles of 2005 for our property were seen this morning- one basking painted turtle, and one eastern garter snake in the grass.

Posted by Jeff Hathaway at 11:27 PM | Comments (7)  

Conservation Connection- Important Amphibian and Reptile Areas

Another of the series I was writing for the OHS news about reptile conservation efforts.

In this edition of Conservation Connection, I will introduce the new Important Amphibian and Reptile Area (IMPARA) program developed by the Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network (CARCN). CARCN, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is an organization representing “the biologists who study, protect, and educate people and amphibians and reptiles”. It grew out of the Declining Amphibians Population Task Force, and although it mostly represents academic researchers, membership is open to all. The goal of the IMPARAs program is to identify sites that are significant to herptiles in Canada. Although designated sites receive no legal protection, it is hoped that the designation will have some effect on decisions made by policy makers and planners.

Nominations of sites can be made by anyone. Some biological information will be necessary for the nomination. Theoretically, the more detailed the data, the stronger the case, though it may not always work out that way. Nominated sites must have defined geographical boundaries, either natural or artificial. Therefore you cannot nominate the Carolinian Zone, but you could nominate Essex County, or Beausoleil Island, or even your own farm (although sites must also be large enough to support self-sustaining populations).

There are several criteria used to evaluate sites. These are:
(a) whether a site supports a significant number of individuals of a species of conservation concern (i.e., designated as Vulnerable, Threatened or Endangered at any level of government);
(b) whether a site supports a high species diversity (i.e., a site normally is home to a large proportion of the herpetofauna present in the region); and
(c) important life history requirements (i.e., hibernacula, nesting sites, etc.).

A “significant” number is suggested to mean one or more of the following:
(a) the site holds greater than or equal to 1% of a species’s Canadian population;
(b) the site is one of 50 or fewer sites, or is one of the 50 most important sites supporting the Canadian population of a species; or
(c) a species has been reliably documented as being present at the site (for some species, so little is known about the population status that this may be enough).

Nominations are evaluated by a CARCN panel, which assesses the case for the site against the criteria. Landowners and other parties are informed and given the opportunity to present any further information (either for or against), prior to the site being approved as an IMPARA. Further detail about the IMPARA program may be found at the CARCN web site.

So far, the only Ontario site nominated is Pelee Island, which features the only remaining Canadian population of blue racers (Coluber constrictor foxii), the largest population of Lake Erie water snakes (Nerodia sipedon insularum), a significant population of eastern fox snakes (Elaphe gloydi), and some unusual eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) morphs (notably melanism). Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) are present, and there are occasional sightings of eastern spiny softshell turtles (Apalone spinifera spinifera) and spotted turtles (Clemmys guttata). Pelee Island is also the last known Canadian location for the now-extirpated Blanchard’s cricket frog (Acris crepitans blanchardi). Black rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta), eastern milk snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum), eastern hognose snakes (Heterodon platirhinos), eastern massasaugas (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus), and timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) have all been extirpated from the island.

You may remember from the last issue that I was trying to organize a trip down to Pelee Island in June to do some volunteer work at the new Pelee Island Centre for Conservation, and to spend some time herping in the field with director Ben Porchuk. The few of us who went had a great time, and saw all five snake species on the island (the blue racers were definitely the highlight), four turtle species, a few frogs and many newts. I am planning another trip for the fall, for the weekend of October 21-22. If you are interested in participating, please let me know. Hopefully the turnout will be a little better.

Once again, I am calling on our members to donate money to help with some of the herpetofaunal species recovery programs here in Ontario. All of these programs have worthy goals, and are constrained by budget limitations. I challenge all of our members to donate 1% of their annual feeding costs to this cause. Think about it: if you can afford $100 to feed your captive herps, can’t you afford $1 to help conserve herps in the wild? The OHS will pool donations so that together, we can have a significant impact. If you would like to be a part of the OHS conservation committee, or have any questions concerning the conservation of Ontario’s native herpetofauna, e-mail me at jeff@scisnake.com or send a letter to my attention at the OHS mailbox.

Posted by Jeff Hathaway at 9:33 PM | Comments (1)  

Conservation Connection- The Upcoming Season

Here's another article of mine from an Ontario Herpetological Society newsletter a few years back, along the same theme- getting people who are interested in captive reptiles to broaden their horizons to include wild populations as well!

There hasn’t been a lot happening in the field since the last issue, so this will be a brief article. The snow is disappearing rapidly here in Toronto, though, and some field work will likely begin by the time you are reading this.

I did get one chance at winter herping in Ontario, observing mudpuppies (Necturus maculosus) with Fred Scheuler and some Ottawa Amphibian and Reptile Association (OARA) members. It was very interesting, and I would encourage everyone to try it out next year. Be sure to read Fred’s article in this issue for more details. I am optimistic that a site may be found in southern Ontario where similar mudpuppy behaviour may be observed. If anyone has any ideas on where to look, please let me know.

With respect to education programs, I have been tasked to create a brief set of guidelines for OHS participation in reptile displays. I will have something ready for the rest of the executive soon, but feel free to send me any thoughts you might have on the subject. Speaking of education, the OHS has been asked to provide displays at several events this spring and summer. If you would like to help educate the public about herps (conservation issues and captive care) at any of these events, please contact me. There are also opportunities to help out with some educational programs put on by other organizations around the province. If you can’t make it to an OHS event, why not volunteer for the OARA, Little Ray’s, Indian River, Sciensational Ssnakes!! (yes, that one’s mine and Jenny’s), or any other program. Anything that can be done to reach the public will help our conservation goals.

Congratulations and thanks to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (www.natureconservancy.ca), which raises money for land acquistion and protection. They have just completed the purchase of critical eastern spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera spinifera) nesting habitat in Quebec, along the shore of Lake Champlain. The Nature Conservancy still needs funds to help with the purchase of Clear Creek Forest here in Ontario’s Carolinian Zone near Chatham. In a region which has most of its forest cover, Clear Creek Forest provides a home to many species of reptiles and amphibians, some of which are designated as ‘Species At Risk’. If you can help out, please do so.

The Pelee Island activities will start soon, and there is a trip planned for May 19-21. At least 20 people have already expressed interest in going, though many of those are not club members. We will depart around 5:00AM Saturday from Toronto in order to make the 10:00AM ferry. This will allow those coming from farther afield to get to Toronto Friday after work. Transportation to and from Toronto may be available.

In case you’ve missed the last couple of issues, while we’re on the Island we will be working on the pond that was begun last fall, restoring prairie habitat, and creating microhabitat structures for snakes. We will also get out in the field each day to search for blue racers (Coluber constrictor), fox snakes (Elaphe gloydii), Lake Erie water snakes (Nerodia sipedon insularum), Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingi) and lots more. On a single good day last June we saw 9 species of reptiles! We will leave the island on the Monday afternoon ferry and be back in Toronto by about 10:00PM. Limited accommodations may be available in the Toronto area for those who would need them. Also, there is an earlier ferry for those who are traveling long distances. We still have room for more on this fabulous herping trip!

The spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) survey running this spring will occur on weekends throughout April and early May. Contact Steve Marks (chondros@home.com) to get involved.

Things are looking good for the Toronto pond and hibernaculum project, and I will hopefully soon have the funding approvals to allow us to proceed. If you have a project in mind that will benefit herps or their habitat, why not apply for some funding? Many sources exist at the non-profit level, but even individuals or small groups can apply to the MNR’s Community Fish and Wildlife Involvement Program (CFWIP) for up to $4,000 annually, or to Canada Trust’s Friends of the Environment Program for up to $10,000 on a per project basis. Anyone who wishes to undertake a project like this is welcome to contact me for advice and assistance.

There are also some interesting field projects coming up this summer in eastern Ontario, for anyone who wants to travel in that direction. I recommend contacting the OARA (www.ottawaherps.com) for more information.

The season is almost upon us, folks, and I hope that everyone will get involved in these or other reptile and amphibian conservation projects in Ontario. If you have any questions or ideas relating to this column, conservation activities, or legislation, please e-mail me at jeff@scisnake.com or write to the OHS mailbox.

Posted by Jeff Hathaway at 9:25 PM | Comments (1)  

Hands-on Herpetofauna Conservation Projects

The following is an article I wrote a few years ago for the now defunct Ontario Herpetological Society newsletter. The NCC did purchase Clear Creek, the Toronto Conservation Authority did build the pond (spectacularly so!), and we've been taking groups to Pelee Island for four years now with great success!

This issue’s subject is something I hope will be of importance to all of our members. I will cover some of the projects that are on-going, or upcoming, where people can get involved with helping to conserve reptiles and amphibians, and their habitat, for the future. Some of these projects could be local; some may involve travel. Most involve some physical activity, but there are aspects which do not. It has been my intention over the last year get people more active in local conservation projects and recovery efforts, in addition to their captive collection interests. While the start has been slower than I had planned, the involvement has been growing, and hopefully, it will continue to grow. I hope that everyone will make the effort to do at least one thing to benefit herps in the wild this year!

Negative responses that I have heard repeatedly when broaching this subject are that there is no point in engaging in these efforts while the habitat is being destroyed, and that this is an activity for the government, not individuals. The first argument is somewhat valid. Stopping habitat loss is critical for many species, and trying to count frogs in a swamp as the bulldozers idle next door may well be a waste of time. Many projects, however, involve restoring previously damaged areas through wetland or microhabitat creation, native plantings, etc. In other cases, those frog counts may just turn up something that might stop the bulldozers. I find the second point particularly frustrating. Indeed, government agencies play the lead role most of the time when it comes to species recovery programs and habitat protection, but that doesn’t mean that individuals should do nothing. There are many examples of individuals whose efforts have resulted in significant conservation achievements, and sometimes these efforts spur the government to take further action! Concerned citizens, acting together for a common interest, can have a great effect on the local environment, and often on a wider stage as well. Organizations like the Nature Conservancy of Canada (which purchases land for nature reserves) are an ultimate example of this, but even small groups like the OHS can achieve results.

One project that almost everyone can help with is Frogwatch. This is a program run by Environment Canada’s Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN). You can find more details at http://www.cnf.ca/frog/index.html. Frogwatch participants monitor a wetland, preferably over several nights, recording the presence of species by calls (and sightings if possible), to determine what species are where, and whether they are still there the next year. You can report data over the web, or call toll free, 1-888-31FROGS.

The Great Lakes Marsh Monitoring Program, http://www.bsc-eoc.org/mmpfrogs.html, is similar to Frogwatch, but more rigorous. A set of stations within the same wetland are monitored on 3 nights, when the air temperatures are 5C, 10C and 17C, for 3 minutes per station, between ½ hour after sunset and midnight. One of three call level codes is assigned to each species calling. This quantification of data is important to assess species abundance and distribution over the long term. The program has been on-going since 1994, so trends should be starting to emerge.

The Federation of Ontario Naturalists, http://www.ontarionature.org/index.php3, runs a program called “Working for Wilderness” where participants assist with a wide variety of projects throughout Ontario. Most are not specific to herps, but usually benefit the habitat. There will soon be a list of projects for 2001 on the web.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), http://www.natureconservancy.ca/, raises money for land acquistion and protection. Those who can’t dig or slog through swamps can certainly help with this. One project for this year is the protection of an island in Lake Huron, which is one of the last remaining undeveloped islands in the area and is home to 30 reptile and amphibian species, and 273 plant species. This island is being protected as a reserve class provincial park for nature interpretation and appreciation. The NCC is also currently working on protecting the Clear Creek Carolinian forest in Kent county, having secured a one year delay in logging while funds can be raised. So far, $600,000 has been raised to protect 89 ha (220 acres), but another $1.4 million is need to protect all 324 ha (800 acres). Clear Creek forest is a provincially significant ‘Area of Natural and Scientific Interest’ (ANSI) and has been nominated as an internationally important bird area. Habitats within the property include interior forest, shoreline, ravines, swamp, and savanna. Some of the largest trees in southern Ontario are found there, as are several vulnerable and endangered species. The NCC has a planned giving program, so people can will properties to them, and also helps landowners to protect habitat for the future through conservation easements, which ensure that the land will not be developed, though it remains in private ownership and can be sold and lived on. Contact the NCC through the web, or toll free at 1-877-343-3532.

All of the above organizations, and many others, can also be found through the Links section of our website, http://www.scisnake.com/.

One OHS member, Steve Marks, began a spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) survey at an Ontario Park last spring. Spotted turtles were known to exist in the park, but there had been no sightings for several years. Several volunteers went out for two weekends, and found two turtles, one of which was captured and marked. I was lucky enough to go for the second weekend, but unfortunately the weather was too warm, and we were unable to find any. We did see water (Nerodia sipedon) and ribbon (Thamnophis sauritus) snakes while searching, though. This survey is performed under an MNR scientific permit, and it is probably the only way that most people would ever be able to legally catch spotted turtles! Steve is hoping to have more volunteers, and cover at least four weekends in the spring of 2001, so come on out and help! You can reach Steve at chondros@home.com.

Closer to home, I am starting to work with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority on the creation of a pond and a hibernaculum within the Lower Humber watershed. This pond will take the run-off from a potable water splash pad in a park, and then overflow into a Humber tributary which suffers from low base flows in the summer. The existing splash pad drains into the creek through a culvert, and the new design will drain into the sewer system unless the pond is built; neither of these does much to benefit herps. Currently American toads (Bufo americanus) are the only amphibian that seems to survive in the area. A small pond would likely be a great help in enabling frog species to recolonize the area. The location of the project is near Islington and the 401- not too far to travel for a lot of our members! I am hoping that it will get underway in the late spring or early summer, so let me know if you are interested in being involved.

And finally, more on Pelee Island! If you missed my last article, which discussed Pelee in depth, there was a fall trip planned to do some habitat creation at the Wilds of Pelee Island Centre for Conservation. Unfortunately, the planned weekend didn’t work out for some people, so only a couple of us went. Some other volunteers were on hand, along with director Ben Porchuk and staff member Rob Willson, so we were able to get quite a bit done. We cut exotic vegetation and used it to build nesting piles for eastern fox snakes (Elaphe gloydii) and blue racers (Coluber constrictor foxii). We moved rocks which will be used in the creation of ‘hot rocks’. These are assemblages of rocks, mortared together, to form a thick mass which will not exceed 30C during the day (underneath) but will retain enough thermal energy that the temperature does not drop very far overnight. We also collected wildflower seed for tall grass prairie restoration, and of course, found some herps! The racers were already down for the winter, but we saw lots of garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) and two fox snakes. The fox snakes were captured (again, under scientific permit), weighed and measured, and implanted with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags or ‘microchips’ so that they could be identified if recaptured in the future. This is part of the on-going work at the centre, and it was great to get a chance to be involved in it first hand.

Due to a happy coincidence, a second trip occurred. Ben had previously asked me about building a pond at the centre (as some of you may know, when I’m not working with reptiles, I’m usually building ponds and fish tanks). Shortly thereafter, I was asked to build a large pond for the stage of the Gemini Awards at the end of October. One of the great things about television work is that it is often very short-lived, and you sometimes get the materials back, so I ended up with a lot of pond liner! Rather than re-selling it, I donated it to the Wilds of Pelee to create a pond that was much larger than they envisioned, ~20m by 8m. It will be important habitat for a variety of herp species, and hopefully will become the site for a Blanchard’s Cricket frog (Acris crepitans) reintroduction program. I would like to thank Jason Culp, his friend Ron, and Dan & Gord Hoops, for volunteering their time to help, and the Grand River Conservation Authority for providing a truck to transport the liner. Unfortunately the reptiles were all underground (Pelee is pretty far south, but it was the middle of November) but we did find some eastern newts (Notopthalmus viridescens) and some small-mouthed salamanders (Ambystoma texanum), a species for which Pelee Island is the only known Canadian locality.

I am planning a couple of trips to Pelee Island for the spring, probably one in May, and one in June. Let me know if you would be interested in participating. If you don’t have transportation, it can often be arranged, and food is generally provided. The Wilds of Pelee Island Centre for Conservation is a charitable centre, so they can give tax receipts for donations. As it is probably the most herp-focused conservation group in Ontario, it is certainly deserving of our funds.

I hope that more of our members will get involved in some of these, or other, worthwhile projects in the upcoming season. There is a lot of work to do if we are to conserve the diversity of herpetofauna in Ontario. If we assume that others will do it, then it will never get done, so please, help out in whatever way that you can. If you can dig, dig a hibernaculum. If you can hike or paddle, count snakes or turtles. If you can walk, collect seed, or help spread it. Volunteer to cook for a group if you are daunted by bugs or terrain. If you can’t travel, you can always help fund raise, and educate the public! Everyone is capable of doing something, and I hope that you will find the time and energy. If you have any questions or ideas relating to this column, conservation activities, or legislation, please e-mail me at jeff@scisnake.com or write to the OHS mailbox.

Posted by Jeff Hathaway at 4:14 PM | Comments (3)