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  • The snakes among us

    The snakes among us

    By Christina S. Murrey
    Christina S. Murrey
    Published: Dec. 14, 2010

    Dr. Travis LaDuc helps students learn about urban ecosystems by studying the snakes of Waller Creek, the watershed that runs through campus.

    Watch this video

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    • Quote 2
      Heicer Ledezma said on Jan. 11, 2011 at 12:11 p.m.
      It is important to know how the wildlife adapt to our urban ways, so we need to know what to do in order to preserve this wonderful environment. What is the first step?
    • Quote 2
      Travis LaDuc said on Jan. 11, 2011 at 12:02 p.m.
      Thanks for all of the wonderful comments! As you probably could tell from the video, this has been a fun project and I've really enjoyed the feedback from the public and UT community. I'll try to briefly answer some of the questions listed in the comments. We've marked over 75 snakes since 2006, all blotched watersnakes. There are no other large snakes inhabiting the waters of Waller Creek. Why? We're not sure, but modifications to the creek over the past half a century (or more) have caused a reduction in adjacent habitat as well as a likely reduction in the available prey base (mammals, amphibians, and fish). We have only radio tracked four female snakes to date - we've learned that they have a great deal of site fidelity from year to year, with home ranges ranging about 300 m along lengths of the creek. We've found the females on "dates" with male snakes as well as watched the snakes eat toads and fish. We hope to track some males this coming year; our guess: they have longer home ranges than the females. And as for distinguishing between watersnakes and venomous cottonmouths, definitive identifications can be a tricky thing, especially if the snakes are moving in the water. Cottonmouths are typically more heavy-bodied, but other distinguishing features, such as pupil shape, require a much closer (and more risky) inspection. My suggestion: best thing to do is to give all unidentified snakes a wide berth and enjoy observing them from a safe distance.