Sunday, June 7, 2009

Nerodio! Lake Erie Water Snake Wrasslin'

Yep, now I know what it feels like to be Elly May Clampett. Wrasslin' critters and all. Earlier this month, June 1st and 2nd to be exact, I ventured up to Kelleys Island to help out with the Nerodio, the annual Lake Erie Water Snake roundup. Nerodio (a play on the word Nerodia, the genus of Lake Erie Water Snakes) is a two-week census where the snakes are captured, weighed, measured and tagged. It takes place during mating season when the snakes are out and about. The census helps keep track of the population as a whole and individual snakes, as well. The census has been going on for nine years. The group of scientists/snake enthusiasts are crazy and a lot of fun! And I had a blast!

During my visit, the group caught almost 70 snakes and 59 of those in one day. This is considered a slow day! On good days they catch upwards of 200 +. Unfortunately, I don't have any pics of any of us catching the snakes. But if you would like to watch Kristin Stanford work her magic, there is a great video here. She is known as the Island Snake Lady and was featured on Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, catching these critters.

I will share with you some pics of the sciencey stuff-the measuring, tagging and weighing stuff.

The snakes are measured from their head to their vent or cloaca (where they poo, for my non-sciencey friends). This is Dr. Richard King from Northern Illinois University taking the measurement.

The snakes are scanned to see if they are tagged. The pit-tag is a little ID microchip that is inserted under the skin of the snake and gives them an unique identification. Since information on where it is captured, how much it weighs and its length is taken on each snake, this can be compared from year to year if the snakes are captured again.

Here is a pic to show how small the pit-tags are. They are the small copper colored pellets. Notice how tiny they are when compared to the pencil.

This is the scanner showing the unique number that is read when the snake is scanned.
The microchip is inserted just under the skin of the snake with a syringe.

The snakes are marked so we will know which ones have already been captured. This mark is not permanent; it will disappear when the snake sheds its skin.

How do you weigh a snake when they won't sit still? Place them in a container, of course!

Here is Andrew Moore, a student of Dr. Rich King showing his skills.

This is one of the big boys, or more accurately, girls. The female snakes are usually bigger than the males. What a whopper!

Many of my friends have asked me if I was bit. Yes, I was. Tis, but a scratch....just a flesh wound. It looks much worse than it is. Water snakes have anti-coagulants in their saliva which make their prey bleed quickly. This helps the snakes subdue their dinner. The snakes' diet is mainly fish and amphibians. The bite was completely gone only a week later.

Lake Erie Water Snakes are only indigenous to the Lake Erie region. Why should we protect them and study them? Because everything in nature is interconnected and has its place. This animal is a key player in the ecology of this region and who knows what kind of impact would be felt if the animal disappeared. Even if one is not a snake admirer, one should realize the importance of such an amazing animal.



dAwN said...

how very interesting Janet! I had no idea they did this!
thanks for sharing this..
i hope one day I can watch this type of wrasslin..tee hee

Tom said...

Even though I like herps and consider myself a "herp person" I have never been bitten by a snake and don't intend to. Sounds like a ton of fun though. Up on the Lakeshore last weekend, we saw many, many LEWS, a great sight.

Jessica said...

This sounds like fun, I have caught snakes that look just like these in Akron, Ohio, also other snakes. I would like to volunteer with these people. Jessica

crystaljewellery said...

Sounds like a ton of fun though. Up on the Lakeshore last weekend, we saw many, many LEWS, a great sight.