Wednesday, November 13, 2013

People and Places of 2013

A look back at the places I traveled to and the people I spent time with in the 2013 field season. Thanks to everyone for a great year!

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Woodland Species?

Rattlesnakes are truly remarkable creatures which inhabit a wide variety of habitats across the Americas. Deserts, grasslands, talus slopes, and even wetlands are all haunts of these snakes. As you know, Michigan's only rattlesnake species is a denizen of wetlands such as prairie fens, bogs, tamarack swamps, and wet meadows, though it does wander into upland habitats adjacent to these areas during the summer months. There's a population of massasaugas that has caught my interest due to their preference of a woodland setting. Though there are lowlands at this location, but many of the larger snakes appear to hang out in an upland deciduous forest, even in late October. I've visited the site a few times this fall and have come across rattlesnakes each time. The most noticeable of these encounters was when I found this enormous massasauga lying in ambush at the base of a large beech tree.

Some recent dietary studies of massasaugas have found that large individuals will routinely take Eastern Chipmunks (Tamias striatus). Chipmunks are one of the favorite prey items of the Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), which will often lie in ambush along logs or at the base of trees where chipmunks have left scent trails. I believe that's what this snake was doing, as I've seen many chipmunks utilizing this tree in the past. This was a huge massasauga, possibly the largest one I've ever seen. It was a very fascinating observation that I'm intrigued by and hope to see the aftermath of a predation event in the future. In addition, it wasn't just the one large snake in ambush that I've found, some of the largest massasaugas I've seen in Michigan have come from this site. Though I have seen younger snakes, there seems to be a pretty high density of large adults in this population.

It's certainly an interesting population to say the least and one that I hope to visit in the future. As the chill in the air becomes more apparent, it's sad to realize that the end is near for the Michigan field season. There's a lot of content from this year that I haven't written about that I hope to catch up on during the winter. Also, stay tuned for an upcoming blog event regarding 2013 being the Year of the Snake with other herpetology related blogs, including David Steen's Living Alongside Wildlife blog and many others. Until next time, stay warm!