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Posted by oldherper on April 29, 2003 at 09:17:39:
In Reply to: Snake population declines due to pet trade? posted by reed on March 16, 2003 at 11:07:28:
..is the Appalachicola National Forest and surrounding area. I haven't been there for a few years, but I noticed a definite decrease in the numbers of animals collected on average for about the last 4 or 5 years I went there. Most noticeable were a decline in Crotalus adamanteus, L.t.elapsoides, Lampropeltis getulus ssp. and E.g.guttata. Also I noticed a decline in numbers of Gopherus polyphemus observed. Populations of Micrurus fulvius fulvius, Nerodia sp., Sistrurus miliarius and Agkistrodon piscivorous seemed fairly constant as well as an isolated pocket population of Agkistrodan contortrix in the northern part of the area near the Ochlockonee River. I have spoken with a few people who also went there frequently and the consensus was that the area was "hunted out". As I said earlier, I haven't been there for a few years so I'm not sure what the status is now. Maybe I'll make a few trips down there, not for the purposes of collecting, but just to see what the populations look like now...sort of a private population survey.
Populations of Crotalus adamanteus in South Georgia and South Alabama are nearly decimated, but I doubt if it's from collecting for the pet trade. More likely it's from a combination of habitat destruction, "kill on sight" attitudes of the locals and collecting for "Rattlesnake Rodeos". My field observations indicate to me that the population is probably less than 10 percent of what it was 30 years ago. The ratio of juveniles to adults observed is also in decline. In one area of South Georgia (approximately 2,000 acres), with which I am familiar, as recently as 10 years ago could be counted on to produce several C.adamanteus sightings as well as a few Gopherus polyphemus each year. In the past three years, I have seen one Eastern Diamondback and NO Gopher Tortoises. The range of Crotalus horridus atricaudatus overlaps this property and C.h.atricaudatus is still fairly common in the area. Canebrakes were always much more common on this property because it is located nearly 80 miles from the Gulf Coast, but Diamondbacks were never this rare. I have never collected these animals on this property, only observed them. I am not sure what is the cause of this decline, because this is private property, is generally unknown and inaccessible to the public and I have never seen anyone else looking for herps in the area.
Probably the biggest impact I've seen on populations of herps in the Southeast is, in my opinion, more due to habitat destruction than collecting. The populations of Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi and Gopherus polyphemus in Southwest Alabama (Mobile County and surrounding area)are a good example.
:I'm working on a project examining the effects of take for the pet trade on native snakes in the U.S. Thus far we haven't come up with many documented examples of population declines due to overcollection, so I thought I'd cast our net a bit wider and start asking folks in herpetoculture.
:If you know of documented declines due to overcollection OR have personally observed declines you suspect to be due to overcollection, I'd appreciate a response. Identities of individuals will be kept confidential unless you indicate otherwise.
:Thanks very much.
:Savannah River Ecology Laboratory