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Trip to Calif.

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Posted by Richard F. Hoyer on May 11, 2002 at 13:27:54:

With respect to your inquiry below about how the Calif. trip went re Sharptails, let me mention that I had a number of objectives of which only one dealt with Sharptails. That goal was to try and find one or more specimens in Tulare County and that was accomplished. Brad Alexander found the first one on 4/25 in the area known as "Trail of the 100 Giants" along highway 190 about 13-15 miles north of Kern County. I then found a second specimen on 4/27. These two snakes probably represent a new southerly range extension for the species and were found around 6200 -6300 ft. elevation. The reason for trying to find these Sharptails is that in my examination of preserved material, the Sharptails from that region possessed very high caudal counts in relation to most other population of Sharptails and thus tissue samples were needed in order to run mtDNA tests to possibly determine if the higher elevation Tulare population was different from other Sharptail populations.

Because similar habitat in the region extends southward, one of our goal's, is to see if the species occurs further south into Kern County. Brad drove to a site near Posey, Calif., just a couple of miles or so north of Kern County where a Sharptail had been observed many years ago. We did not do alot of searching in the area as we were headed south to the Frazier Park region but I did find a L. zonata beneath the bark of a pine stump.

As it turned out, I also was able to examine one more specimen of the new species (Forest Sharp-tailed Snake) from the Santa Cruz Mts. on my way south (collected by another individual). Also on the way south on 4/19, I was able to examine two specimens from just north of Redding (Shasta County) and take tissue samples as that group also has high scale counts in relation to other populations. Then on the way home on 5/5, I acquired a Sharptail that had been found in Sutter County (possibly a new county record) and one from near Oroville in Butte County.

Besides the major goal of finding Sharptails in southern Tulare County, my other major goals during the trip involved my ongoing examination of the Rubber Boa populations in southern Calif. I literally turned tons of rocks and as far as boas (and other species) found, the number of specimens was quite low. But the quality of the finds by myself and others more than made up for the lack in quantity.

As you know, Brad found a specimen in the Scodie Mts. which probably is a new locality record for the species. Last year I had suggested we investigate those mts. as with my binocs, it appeared there might be suitable boa habitat at the higher elevations. I was not able to get free for the trip on 4/13 but my inclination that the species may exist in those mts. was confirmed by Brad's find. The specimen he found is a reproductive female from which I hope to obtain a litter and is most assuridly of the dwarf form of Rubber Boa much like those found in all of the isolated mountain ranges and peaks in Kern County on south in southern Calif.

Besides that great find, I was able to about double my sample size from Breckenridge Mt. which is just a little southwest of Lake Isabella and Kernville confirming that the population in that region is definately of the dwarf form of boa.
A specimen was found on Frazier Peak which is just south of Frazier Park, Calif. along I-5 just before the summit on the
'Grapevine'. That specimen possibly represents a new locality record for the species. Was able to examine a specimen captured last year on the Kern Plateau about 4 miles west of the south fork of the Kern River and then I captured an second specimen just about a mile further west. The species has been sighted in that region before but there are no preserved specimens from the region nor any tissue samples available for DNA analysis.

I returned to my study sites in the Tehachapi Mts. for just part of 5/4 and found three boas one of which I know is a recapture as she exhibits the small scar on her tail where I had taken a tissue sample. Then on my way north on 5/5, I found two boas south of the Mt. Lassen area along highway 36. I would now like to find specimens from the east, west, and north sides in future years to clarify a point mentioned in a recent scientific study dealing with C. bottae. Also during my trip, I was able to examine boas captured by others from three additional regions, a male from the Greenhorn Mts., a pair of adults and 4 juveniles (neonates) from Fresno County, a pair of adults from central Plumas County and 3 males and 1 female from the very southwest corner of the same county.

Richard F. Hoyer

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