Calling all Citizen Scientists - Check your boards and roads!

Spring is here: the wildflower meadows are getting ready to burst, and the songbirds are trilling with all their might. This is when the Sharp-tailed Snake is most active, seeking out meals of molluscs when the ground is wet, but warming.  Western Painted Turtles are waking too.  Young turtles, which have been resting in their nest over the winter, are emerging to travel to nearby lakes and wetlands where they will grow.

For Habitat & Snake Stewards now is the most important time of year to check your boards.  The Sharp-tailed Snake is famously elusive, but early spring is your best hope of finding one these small, harmless, and critically endangered snakes. While checking your boards, please bring a camera if you can, and remember not to disturb natural cover.  If you are fortunate enough to find a snake, take some pictures and send them to HAT!

Sharp-tailed Snake, photo by Moralea Milne

For everyone on the roads, please watch for Western Painted Turtles – young and old.  The young turtles are especially difficult to see. Slow moving (they are turtles), and only about the size of a quarter, it’s extremely easy to accidently squish the young turtles.

Photo by Christian Engelstoft

It is even more important to watch for adults, which can be roads this time of year.  They are easier to see, at about the size of a dinner plate, but not whole lot faster.  Turtles take a long time to mature, and if a lake population loses just one breeding female a year, even a healthy population of turtles can be quickly decimated.   If you see any turtles on the road, please take pictures and let the HAT office know.

Which brings us to slugs.  Lots of slugs are active this time of year, as my garden can attest (no Sharp-tailed Snakes in my garden unfortunately), but what about the Blue-grey Taildropper?  Little is known about the spring habits of this small, endangered, blue-grey slug that lives in the leaf-litter on the forest floor.  When the Blue-grey Taildropper is spotted (a rare occurrence at the best of times), it is usually in the late fall or early winter.  However, this may be because that’s when biologists are looking for the slug.  If you have slug boards out, please check them, and send us photos of any small, blue-ish slugs you find.

Blue-grey Taildropper, photo by Kristiina Ovaska

While these endangered species are difficult to find, citizen scientists have, and continue, to contribute important knowledge that can help us save these species.  Even if you don’t find an endangered species in your yard or park, it’s a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the spring air.

-Adam Taylor


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