Campbell Brown Ecological Reserve Wardens report April, 2017
Apr 17, 2017
Campbell Brown Ecological Reserve
In 2015, we saw very few snakes despite monitoring the dens in the Spring and the Fall. Last year’s 2016 Spring capture and marking program was also very disappointing. Only 29 snakes observed – 25 rattlesnakes and 4 blue racers total in the two dens and only 7 of those were new ie. not previously pit tagged. In contrast in 2014, 69 were observed and 22 captured and marked, though not PIt tagged because we had not started using Pit tags at that time. We were alarmed at the drop in numbers and the fact that at the CB Den only one snake was found close to the long used den mouth. The others seemed to be emerging from a small opening closer to the highway fence.
In planning for work this Spring Mike Dunn suggested that we put a snake proof fence around each den so we could be sure we capture all the snakes that emerge. We still had some money from the PCAF grant and some money left in a separate fund contributed by individual donors which gave us $6,350.00 to continue with. We had a conference call with Parks (Orv Dyer, Kirk Safford,) Purnima Govindarajalu Min. of Envir. and Karl Larson from TRU who oversees students doing the rattlesnake work and has had a long association with the Campbell Brown Eco Reserve dens. They supported Mike Dunn’s proposal with the understanding that the dens and fences would be checked every day. The NO Naturalists Club and a long time supporter of the snakes contributed a total of $2000. Parks supplied all the materials for the fence and Mike was willing to volunteer some time if necessary so we went ahead with the project.
With the help of NONC volunteers Mike had the fences (made of landscape fabric and rebar) up by April 2 – before there was any sign of the snakes. Someone (mostly Mike) has spent time every day at the dens watching for snakes and making sure the fences are in tact and that no snake is caught in it. He is also monitoring the snakes that have emerged so that they can be released from the enclosure when they are ready to leave the den area to forage for food. However the weather has been cold and rainy and just now seems to be warming up.
It seems it is a very slow year with observers in the south Okanagan and the Kamloops areas reporting that they have seen very few snakes emerging at known dens. The total number of snakes Mike has seen so far is 3 rattlesnakes and 3 blue racers all at the CB Den (lower one) The 3 rattlesnakes all had Pitt tags put in last year. Mike and/or volunteers are at the den everyday hoping to see more snakes emerging. Mike captures each one to check its condition, weigh and measure it and Pitt tag it if it doesn’t already have one. The PIt tag is a relatively permanent means of identifying a snake so a record of it’s location and health can be kept.