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Posted by Bill on March 24, 2000 at 08:19:02:
In Reply to: obtaining native herps posted by kris on February 24, 2000 at 21:02:20:
I do Environmental Education in Illinois. At first, I was like you, very uncomfortable with field collecting herptiles. Fox snakes are native to my location, so I went to Wisconsin and bought one to use for programs. Which I regret now because it encouraged the pet store owner to collect from the same locale every year. Captive bred Western Fox snakes are hard to find.
Then, as I started to get more serious into herps, I started flipping rocks and boards to see what herps were around. And let me tell you, when you flip 100 things and find 40 garter snakes, 30 brown, 15 red bellied, and 5 or so milk snakes all in the space of about an acre, you feel less bad about taking one or two snakes. Now I understand that you have different species of snakes where you are, but here plains garter snakes are really really really common and I wouldnt think twice about taking one for educational purposes. Thats one (or two or three) snakes that will go a long way easing peoples fears about snakes. Long term, it could help all snakes survive with humans.
If garter snakes are really really really common where you are, then I recommend that you DONT get that one. Why? Because people will be learning little from exposure to it. Bull snakes are a good one, Hognose also fine (and you might consider buying a western hognose since they are so readily available captive bred). If you would like help finding those things, post a question on the field collecting forum.
Also, Yellow Mud Turtles (ssp spoonerii) are endangered in Illinois and have been found at my site. Well, I cant very well go out and collect one since they are really quite rare. I bought a Yellow Mud Turtle from Texas (ssp flavescens) which looks very similar and is the same species, but is not the endangered subspecies. It works great for presentations.
So what do I have right now? I bought The fox snake and the turtle (which are an unbelievable pain in the ass to care for and I recommend you do not get a turtle). I've collected a milk snake, a brown snake, and a smooth green snake, all of which are native to my area and are common enough to merit collecting.
Something I should say is that I refuse to collect these critters from the site where I work. First of all, its illegal in Illinois to collect in public lands; second, if a kid sees a snake in our park, I give that snake a 15% chance of not being handled and taken home. So the snakes have undo pressure on them here; third, I prefer to collect in places that are doomed to suburbia. My favorite locale is behind a gas station! Of course, Im done collecting snakes now. I just go and look. I may get a salamander, though.
Ask the people that you speak to and certainly they will tell you stories about this or that snake in their yard and, sure, you could take one. Besides, it is great find to find those things. Watch out for those Bull snakes, though. Those suckers can bite!
Hope that helps. Good luck.