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   Aug 28

Can the reintroduction of the Eastern indigo snake in Alabama succeed?

It will take more than a village to successfully re-introduce the Eastern indigo snake in Alabama’s Conecuh National Forest. It will take careful science, cooperation between academia, non-profits, and government, a lot of community outreach and education, and luck.

From a report on the project from the Living Alongside Wildlife blog:

We have had to trust that these lab-raised, perhaps ecologically naïve, snakes would possess the innate behaviors needed to integrate into the natural framework of finding shelter, avoiding predators, foraging and capturing prey, surviving the winter, reaching maturity, finding mates, reproducing, and so forth. Thus far the indications are that the snakes are hitting the ground with the needed intrinsic behaviors.

We can also view this reintroduction to be successful on a partnership level. Academic institution, state and federal agencies, and non-profit conservation and educational organizations have come together for the benefit of the eastern indigo snake. Auburn University has been at the center with research and implementation but the project would not have been possible without support and contributions from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, The Orianne Society, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, Zoo Atlanta, and Ft. Stewart (U.S. Army).

Eastern Indigo Snakes freely roaming the forest have opened up an avenue of educational opportunities. Snakes, nor any other organism, recognize artificial human boundaries, and our indigo snakes have on many occasions made this very evident. Not too distant from the release area is the Blue Lake Camp, a rustic camp of the United Methodist Church. Within a few weeks at least one snake found their way to the camp. As readers of this blog know, the appearance of a snake on a property is often met with a hoe, shovel, or firearm, but not in this instance. Having a radio transmitter allowed Jimmy and Sierra, our Conecuh ambassadors of snake education, to locate the snake(s) on the property, speak with managers of the camp, and illuminate the importance of the snakes. The fact that they eat Copperheads was not downplayed.

Ultimately the Eastern Indigo Snakes must be accepted by the human visitors of Conecuh National Forest. Being a national forest dictates a multi-use approach, and the visitors to the forest span all of society. Signs have been posted within the forest to alert and educate visitors of the presence of the indigo snake. Some will see the presence of the indigo snake as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience first-hand an iconic ruler of the longleaf pine ecosystem, others, unfortunately, not so much. But when we set forth with this reintroduction effort we made the decision that snake persecution would be a real possibility and that information and education were the best tools to combat it.

Read the rest here, including a great explanation of using telemetry to monitor introduced populations.
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