Ran up to Lake Erie last Monday to participate in the 2009 Nerodio! What's the Nerodio? Its an annual survey of the federally-threatened Lake Erie Water Snake or LEWS (Nerodia sipedon insularum). A look at the scientific name gives you some insight into the derivation of the name for this annual event. Organized by Rich King and Kristin Stanford, the Nerodio is a fun time - good company and plenty of herping, a sweet combination indeed - but of course it serves valuable scientific and regulatory purposes as well.
The weather in the morning was not ideal, with rains and a cool breeze. We used that as an opportunity to search for some salamanders. Very cool in their own right, these unisexual salamanders exhibit some pretty amazing reproductive strategies (i.e., "kleptogenesis"?). I probably can't explain it properly, but the link below takes you to an article on the topic. Wild stuff. http://biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/8/158
The weather improved in the afternoon, so we hit the shores with pillowcases in hand. Didn't take long after the clouds moved out for the LEWS to make an appearance. Strolling along the rocky shorelines, we found quite a few snakes. And in typical LEWS fashion, they were a bit feisty - but that's completely understandable given that they were minding their own business, chilling in the sun, perhaps flirting with a neighbor, when something large comes along and grabs them. A couple of bites later, as well as a healthy dose of stinky excrement, and they are in the pillowcase for processing. After processing, which gives them an opportunity to share a bit more of their unique cologne, they are returned unscathed to their homes.
For additional information on Kristin's efforts, check out this link: http://respectthesnake.com/
Or you can check this link for some regulatory information pertaining to the LEWS: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/reynoldsburg/lews.html