Sunday, March 02, 2008

Throwing Copper

Recently, I was featured in an article in a magazine distributed around Ohio1. If you’re interested in reading it, I’ve linked to it here.

Two months ago, Pcrucifer asked if I take requests—indeed I do. While I’ve written about a number of snakes, I still get the feeling that the general public still thinks: “EEK! A snake!” Until that changes, I will continue writing about them. Water snakes are big and angry enough that they will always find a place here.

Image from Michigan DNR

The Copperbelly Water Snake (Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta), like the rest of the genus, is fond of water, though it is not as aquatic as some of its relatives. Typically found near wetlands and swampy forests in the Midwest, it hunts down any animal it can fit in its mouth2, usually frogs, tadpoles, and small fish. Unlike many Water Snakes, the Copperbelly has is uniform color on its back. Its belly, surprise-surprise, is bright orange. I was asked why they have a bright red belly. I can’t seem to find the answer.

While they are normally found near wetlands, they have a large enough range that they frequently move between wet spots, and even hibernate in the higher, drier areas. This movement causes some issues when there’s a human-made impediment in the way. Pcrucifer even called them “a snake for whom roads are a real problem.” I am familiar with this problem.

However, being squashed by cars is not their biggest threat. Some of these threats are becoming very predictable. I asked my English major girlfriend3: “They’re a wetland species, why are they endangered?” Without hesitation, she answered, “Because wetlands are disappearing.” Yes, I would be hard-pressed to find a wetland animal I’ve written about that doesn’t have “Habitat loss” as one of the threats.

There are people who worry about this snake, and lots of people who worry about wetlands. As the Copperbelly is only recently federally listed, recovery plans are still in the works, but I’m sure current wetland efforts can’t be hurting.

1To people with a certain electric company. So, if you live in Ohio and can’t find it, that’s why.
2Remember, this is a snake we’re talking about here. “Can fit in its mouth” is bigger than “the size of its head."
3Who wrote about the Andean Condor.


Anonymous said...

Very nice article...congrats!

amster said...

This is a beautiful snake...

and could we please please have a post about the burrowing purple frog!!!