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Columbia Missouri Biologists Highlight Reptilesat Swan Lake NWR Event
Midwest Region, May 8, 2012
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Josh Hundley (left) discusses with students the ecology of snapping turtles.
Josh Hundley (left) discusses with students the ecology of snapping turtles. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Hilary Meyer, holding a western painted turtle, explains the differences between terrestrial turtles and aquatic turtles.
Hilary Meyer, holding a western painted turtle, explains the differences between terrestrial turtles and aquatic turtles. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Trisha Crabill holds  a black ratsnake while talking about snake species found on Swan Lake NWR.
Trisha Crabill holds a black ratsnake while talking about snake species found on Swan Lake NWR. - Photo Credit: USFWS

On May 8, Service biologists Trisha Crabill and Josh Hundley, and biological science technician Hilary Meyer joined in on Swan Lake Nationl Wildlife Refuge’s 8th Grade Outdoors Day. The three Service employees ran a reptile station featuring various turtle and snake species found on the refuge and discussed aspects of their ecology with students.

 

Of particular interest to students were two snapping turtles which awed the 8th graders with their climbing abilities and at times, less than charming temperaments. The ornate and three-toed box turtles also received a lot of attention and proved to be much friendlier than the snapping turtles. Students were able to hold the box turtles to examine differences between the species and compare their physical features with those of aquatic turtles.

Last but not least was the snake portion of the exhibit. Photos of all the snakes on the refuge allowed students to identify various snakes they had observed; brave individuals were able to hold a juvenile red-sided garter snake or a black ratsnake. Only the very brave held the ratsnake, as they were warned that it could be a little snappy if it started to feel threatened. However, the ratsnake proved well-behaved throughout the day and seemed to enjoy basking in the sun while being held. Students learned the function behind snakes’ forked tongues, that most species of snakes are harmless and don’t actually have fangs, and that snakes are smooth rather than slimy. In addition, students were given a demonstration of how biologists safely process massasauga rattlesnakes using a squeeze box (sans the rattlesnake) and how we monitor the massasauga population on the refuge.

The day ended with several students coming back to their favorite station, two escapee snapping turtles (which had been captured nearby), and a surprise snake find in the adjacent creek. The bonus snake was a yellow-bellied watersnake, which students learned has musk smelling remarkably similar to that of a skunk. The find provided an impromptu and effective demonstration on one way snakes deter predators.


Contact Info: Trisha Crabill, 573-234-2132 x 121, trisha_crabill@fws.gov



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