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Habitat Management For Amphibians and Reptiles
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Habitat Management For Amphibians and Reptiles

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  1. Habitat ManagementFor Amphibians and Reptiles

  2. Who cares? “As a group [reptiles and amphibians] are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad,’ but are interesting and unusual, although of minor importance. If they should all disappear, it would not make much difference one way or the other.” • Zim and Smith (1954), Reptiles and Amphibians: A Guide to Familiar American Species. Golden Guide Series.

  3. Who Cares? • Private Land owners • Wildlife Managers • Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) • North American Amphbian Monitoring Program (NAAMP) • Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) • Frog Watch USA Photo by Gabe Strain

  4. Why Manage for Herps? • Population declines • Important link in food web • Bioindicators Photo by Gabe Strain

  5. Population Declines • Amphibians • Extinction of 6 montane populations of leopard frogs (Rana pipiens) in Colorado (Corn and Fogleman 1984) • Decline of red-legged frogs (Rana aurora) in the Willamette Valley of Oregon since the 1970’s (Blaustein and Wake 1990) • Western spotted frog (Rana pretiosa) missing from 1/3 of its range since the mid-1970’s (McAllister and Leonard 1990)

  6. Population Declines • Reptiles • Decline of bunchgrass lizard (Sceloperus scalaris) due to grazing of native bunchgrass (Ballinger and Congdon 1996) • Collection of eastern box turtles (Terrapene caronlina) has led to declines in at least 16 states (Lieberman 1994) • 30,000 turtles collected in Louisiana since 1995 • Number of northern populations of bog turtles (Clemmys muhlenbergii) reduced by 50% over the last 20 years (Copeyon 1997)

  7. Reasons for Declines • Introduced/invasive species • Habitat loss and degradation • Acidity, toxicants, and other pollution • Diseases • Climate change • Unsustainable use

  8. Rare or Critically Imperiled in WV • Eastern cricket frog (Acris crepitans crepitans, S2) • Streamside salamander (Ambystoma barbouri, S1) • Smallmouth salamander (Ambystoma texanum, S1) • Six-lined racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineata, S1) • Spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata, S1) • Eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis, S2) • Black Mountain salamander (Desmognathus welteri, S2) • Red cornsnake (Elaphe guttata, S1) • Coal skink (Eumeces anthracinus, S2) • Broad-headed skink (Eumeces laticeps, S2) • WV spring salamander (Gyrinophilus subterraneus, S1)

  9. Rare or Critically Imperiled in WV • Eastern kingsnake (Lampropeltis g. getula, S2) • Cheat Mountain salamander (Plethodon nettingi, S2) • Cow Knob salamander (Plethodon punctatus, S1) • Shenandoah Mtn. salamander (Plethodon virginia, S2) • Upland Chorus frog (Pseudacris f. feriarum, S2) • Northern red-bellied cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris, S2) • Midland mud salamander (Pseudotriton diastictus, S1) • Northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens, S2) • Eastern spadefoot toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii, S1) • Eastern ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus, S2) • Mountain earthsnake (Virginia v. pulchra, S2)

  10. Important Link in Food Web • Large biomass • Salamander biomass in Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest equal to mammals and 2x that of birds at peak of breeding season (Burton and Likens 1975)

  11. Important Link in Food Web • Central link in food web • Preyed on by raccoons, birds, other larger herps • Prey on invertebrates, small mammals

  12. Bioindicators • Permeable skin (amphibians) • Dual life cycle or habitat use • Amphibians and semi-aquatic reptiles • Sensitive to habitat degradation (Gibbons et al. 2000) Photo by Gabe Strain

  13. Why are amphibians and reptiles clumped together as “herps”? • Independent lineages that have been separated for 300 million years • Integument • Reptiles have scales, amphibians have glandular skin • Eggs • Reptile eggs covered by calcerous shells, amphibian eggs surrounded by gelantinous membranes • Home range • Reptiles move, amphibians don’t (generally) • Both ectothermic tetrapods • Occupy similar habitats • Equally vulnerable to habitat degradation

  14. Ecoregions

  15. Physiographic Provinces • Appalachian Plateau • Largest area • Less extreme ranges of temperature and precipitation

  16. Species restricted to: • Appalachian Plateau Smallmouth salamander Map turtle Kentucky spring salamander Smooth softshell turtle Midland mud salamander Eastern spiny softshell Blanchard’s cricket frog Ground skink Ravine salamander Black kingsnake Green salamander • Allegheny Mountains Cheat Mountain salamander Mountain earth snake • Ridge and Valley Valley and Ridge salamander Wood turtle White-spotted salamander Spotted turtle Cave salamander Eastern painted turtle Upland chorus frog Corn snake Eastern cricket frog Eastern kingsnake Northern pine snake

  17. WV amphibians and reptiles • 35 salamander species • 14 anuran species • 13 turtle species • 16 lizard and skink species • 20 snake species Photo by Dave Kazyak Photo by Dave Kazyak

  18. Where to Start? • Identify and understand the area and species of concern. • What are the issues? • Justify and implement management options. • Monitor (ideally, many years)

  19. Goals and Guidelines for Landowners and Land Managers • Ideal • To make amphibian and reptile conservation a primary objective • Maximizing Compatibility • Goal is to contribute to the conservation of herpetofauna while primarily managing their land for other uses

  20. Landscape Scale and Connectivity • Connectivity is important • The smaller the patch, the smaller the population size • Small populations more vulnerable to genetic and environmental problems • Many herps use different habitats during different times of the year • Fragmentation may prevent herps from accessing required habitat components

  21. Habitats Important to Herps • Aquatic • Terrestrial Photo by Dave Kazyak

  22. Seasonal Isolated Wetlands • Marbled and spotted salamanders, wood frog • Vernal/autumnal pools, shallow depressions • Protect and restore – cannot be created • Avoid clearing surrounding native vegetation • Buffer zone management (500 feet or more)

  23. Wet Meadows, Bogs, and Fens • Spotted and bog turtles, four-toed salamander • No draining, ditching, or damming • Mow grasslands around meadows at high blade and limit livestock grazing • Control encroachment

  24. Permanent Wetlands • Snapping and painted turtles, northern watersnake, American bullfrog, green frog • Buffer zone of at least 50 feet (500’ for animals) • Habitat, prevents erosion, protects water quality • Leave logs, snags, and other woody debris • Do not stock with fish • Recreational use

  25. Small streams, springs, and seepages • Dusky salamanders, box turtle, garter snake • Sensitive microhabitats – cool and clean • Watershed landuse critical • Avoid building roads too close, dumping, sediment runoff via construction, keep livestock out • Riparian corridor maintenance critical • Allochthonous/autochthonous inputs • Temperature and oxygen Photo by Dave Kazyak Photo by Dave Kazyak

  26. Rivers • Hellbender, mudpuppy, spiny softshell and redbelly turtles • Floodplain management • Do not channelize • Backwater areas, sand bars • Riparian corridor important to maintain • Restrict public use to focal areas Photo by Ed Thompson

  27. Hardwood Forests • Woodland salamanders, ratsnakes and milksnakes • Fragmentation a serious issue • Careful placement of roads, crop fields, and other barriers • Dry season or winter timber harvest • Do not clearcut, limit use of monocultures • Intact understory, leave timber harvest slash • Protect wet areas in forests • Forested wetlands, streams • Hikers ok, ORVs not ok Photo by Gabe Strain

  28. Spruce and Fir Forests • Cheat Mountain, Shenandoah, and Wehrle’s salamanders • Connectivity of suitable habitats • Maintain deer populations (understory)

  29. Pine Forests • Racerunner, fence lizard, skink, pinesnake • Fire regime important • Aquatic habitats critical Photo by Gabe Strain

  30. Grasslands and Old Fields • Leopard frog, cricket frog, spadefoot toad, ribbon snake, cornsnake • Maintain open nature • Promote spatially variable canopy cover • Control livestock access • Fire suppresses succession • Mowing • November - February • 12 inch height

  31. Rock Outcrops and Talus • Timber rattlesnakes, green salamanders • Protect from heavy use • Prevent erosion • Fills gaps between rocks • Fire to promote openness

  32. Caves and Karst • Cave, long-tailed, slimy, and spring salamanders • Total darkness, no soil, cool and moist • Harsh environment • Protect water supply entering cave • 50 foot buffer around cave recommended • Habitat, prevents erosion • Restrict human use

  33. Agricultural Lands • American bullfrog, American and Fowler’s toads • Less disturbed areas within farmed areas critical • Successful population maintenance • Corridors connecting natural areas preferred • Provide vegetated buffer around water bodies • Do not mow right up to shoreline or streambank • Raise deck height of mower to reduce mortality • Keep livestock out of water bodies • Fencing around streams and ponds (include buffer) • Limit use of pesticides/herbicides

  34. Urban and Residential • Northern two-lined salamander, garter snake • Protect and buffer remaining natural areas • Parks, stream corridors, other undeveloped areas • Historical water regimes should be maintained • Prevent point source pollution and dumping • Limit channelization • Educate public

  35. Developing a Management Plan • Learn about what you’re dealing with - Preliminary surveys, historical records - Use maps and aerial photos • Find compatibility with other wildlife and land management goals • Collaborate with experts and landowner • Measure success by monitoring

  36. Resources • Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (parcplace.org) • Amphibians and Reptiles of West Virginia (1987) - N.B. Green and T.K. Pauley

  37. Enjoy amphibians and reptiles Show people how cool they are Photo by Jen Eells Photo by Dave Kazyak