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Lake Erie Watersnake

Federal Register - Proposed Rule to Remove the Lake Erie Watersnake from List of Threatened and Endangered Species


Click here to download a PDF file of the complete 20-page Proposed Rule to Delist the Lake Erie Watersnake that was published in the Federal Register on June 1, 2010 - - below are the Summary and Background Sections.



Fish and Wildlife Service 50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS–R3–ES–2010–0039]

[92220-113-000; ABC Code: C6]


RIN 1018-AW62


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Rule to remove the Lake Erie Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon insularum) from the Federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife


AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.


ACTION: Proposed rule; critical habitat prudency determination; notice of availability draft post-delisting monitoring plan.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to remove the Lake Erie Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon insularum) from the List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife due to recovery. This action is based on a review of the best available scientific and commercial data, which indicate that the subspecies is no longer endangered or threatened with extinction, or likely to become so within the foreseeable future. Based on our determination that the Lake Erie Watersnake is no longer endangered or threatened with extinction, we have also determined that designation of critical habitat for the Lake Erie Watersnake is not prudent. We seek information, data, and comments from the public regarding the Lake Erie Watersnake, this proposal to delist, and the draft postdelisting monitoring plan. This proposal implements the recommendations from the 5–year status review initiated on April 22, 2008 (73 FR 21643).


DATES: We will consider comments received on or before August 2, 2010. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section by July 16, 2010.


ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:

• Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.


• U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R3- ES-2010-0039; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, VA 22203.


We will not accept comments by email or fax. We will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we will post any personal information you provide us (see the Public Comments section below for more information).



Mary Knapp, Field Office Supervisor, or Megan Seymour, Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ohio Field Office, 4625 Morse Road, Suite 104, Columbus, OH 43230 (telephone: 614- 416-8993). Individuals who are hearingimpaired or speech-impaired may call the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877- 8337 for TTY assistance.



Public Comments

We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will be as accurate and effective as possible. Therefore, we request data, comments, new information, or suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the scientific community, Tribes, industry, or any other interested party on this proposed rule. We particularly seek comments concerning:


(1) Biological information concerning this subspecies;


(2) Relevant data concerning any current or likely future threats (or lack thereof) to this subspecies, including the extent and adequacy of Federal and State protection and management that would be provided to the Lake Erie Watersnake as a delisted subspecies;


(3) Additional information concerning the range, distribution, population size, and population trends of this subspecies;


(4) Current or planned activities in the subject area and their possible impacts on this subspecies;


(5) What regional climate change models are available, and whether they are reliable and credible to use as step– down models for assessing the effect of climate change on the species and its habitat; and


(6) Our draft post-delisting monitoring plan.


You may submit your comments and materials considering the proposed rule by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. We will not consider comments sent by e-mail or fax or to an address not listed in the ADDRESSES section. If you submit a comment via http:// www.regulations.gov, your entire comment—including any personal identifying information—will be posted on the Web site. If you submit a hardcopy comment that includes personal identifying information, you may request at the top of your document that we withhold this information from public review. However, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We will post hardcopy comments on http://www.regulations.gov.


Comments and materials we receive, as well as supporting documentation we use in preparing this proposed rule, will be available for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, or by appointment, during normal business hours, at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ohio Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section). You may obtain copies of the proposed rule on the Internet at http:// www.regulations.govat Docket Number FWS-R3-2010-0039, or by mail from the Ohio Field Office (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section).


Public Hearing

The Act provides for one or more public hearings on this proposal, if requested. Requests must be received within 45 days after the date of this publication in the Federal Register. Such requests must be made in writing and addressed to the Field Supervisor (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section). We will schedule public hearings on this proposal, if any are requested, and announce the dates, times, and places of those hearings at least 15 days before the first hearing.



The Lake Erie Watersnake is a subspecies of the Northern Watersnake (N. sipedon sipedon) that occurs primarily on the offshore islands of western Lake Erie in Ohio and Ontario, Canada, but also on a small portion of the U.S. mainland on the Catawba and Marblehead peninsulas of Ottawa County, Ohio (Conant and Clay 1937, p. 2; King 1986, p. 760). Lake Erie Watersnakes are uniformly gray or brown, and have either no banding pattern, or have blotches or banding that are either faded or reduced (Conant and Clay 1937, pp. 2-5; Camin and Ehrlich 1958, p. 504; King 1987, pp. 243-244) . Female Lake Erie Watersnakes grow up to 1.1 meters (m) (3.5 feet (ft)), long, and are larger than males (King 1986, p. 762). Newborn Lake Erie Watersnakes are the size of a pencil, and are born during late summer or early fall (King 1986, p. 764).


Lake Erie Watersnakes are distinct from Northern Watersnakes in their reduced or absent banding patterns (Conant and Clay 1937, pp. 2-5; Camin and Ehrlich 1958, p. 504; King 1987, pp. 243-244), use of substrates dominated by limestone or dolomite (Conant and Clay 1937, p. 6; King 1986, p.760) , diet composition (Hamilton 1951, p. 64-65), larger body size (King 1989, pp. 85-86), lower growth rates (King 1986, p. 770), and shorter tails (King 1986, p. 768).


Lake Erie Watersnake summer habitat is composed of rocky shorelines with limestone or dolomite shelves, ledges, or boulders for sunning and shelter. Shelter occurs in the form of loose rocks, piled rocks, or shelves and ledges with cracks, crevices, and nearby vegetation. Rip-rap erosion control, armor stone, and docks incorporating a stone crib structure often serve as summer habitat for the snake. Lake Erie Watersnakes typically forage for fish and amphibians in Lake Erie, and research indicates that more than 90 percent of their current diet is composed of the nonnative, invasive fish round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) (King et al. 2006b, p. 110). Jones et al. (2009, p. 441) report that the mean foraging distance from shore was 85 m (279 ft) and the average water depth of the foraging locations was 3.32 m (10.9 ft). During the summer, 75 percent of Lake Erie Watersnakes are found within 13 m (42.7 ft) of the water’s edge (King 2003, p.4). King (2003, p. 4) identified that 75 percent of Lake Erie Watersnakes used 437 m (1433 ft) of shoreline or less as a home range. In the winter, Lake Erie Watersnakes hibernate below the frost level, in cracks or crevices in the bedrock, interstitial spaces of rocky substrates, tree roots, building foundations, and other similar natural and human-made structures. Seventyfive percent of Lake Erie Watersnakes hibernate within 69 m (226 ft) of the water’s edge (King 2003, p. 4). Individual snakes often demonstrate site fidelity, returning to the same shoreline area and the same or nearby hibernacula in successive years (King 2003, pp. 4, 11-17).


Additional information on the Lake Erie Watersnake’s life history and biology can be found in the final listing rule (64 FR 47126; August 30, 1999) and the Lake Erie Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon insularum) Recovery Plan (Service 2003a, pp. 6-11).








Last updated: July 19, 2016