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Priority Species Update: A Museum Full of Smooth Greensnakes

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Created: 8/22/2017      Updated: 8/22/2017

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Allison Sacerdote-Velat holding an adult Smooth Greensnake

Curator of Herpetology Allison Sacerdote-Velat has spent much of her summer working with one of our priority species - the Smooth Greensnake. Allison and her team have been surveying for Smooth Greensnakes in sites in several counties in Illinois, but took a break to give us a quick update on teh work they've done so far and the work that's still ahead.

We have been surveying for Smooth Greensnakes in sites in Lake, DuPage, Cook, DeKalb, and Grundy Counties. Some sites are part of a long-term population monitoring study and some are previous release sites for headstarted snakes.

Smooth Greensnake hatchlings emerging from eggs

When we headstart Smooth Greensnakes, we can focus on improving two aspects of their survival; hatching success of eggs and hatchling overwintering survival. In DuPage County, we are improving hatching success by incubating half of the eggs from nests that we find in the field at our Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's partner facility, Willowbrook Wildlife Center. Once the eggs hatch, we measure, mark, and release the hatchlings back to their nest sites. By individually marking hatchlings, we hope to find them again next season to improve estimates of hatchling overwintering survival.

Tiny Smooth Greensnake hatchling held by Allison Sacerdote-Velat

Meanwhile, we monitor the fates of the remaining eggs in the field to determine wild hatching rates. In partnership with Lake County Forest Preserve District, we are using the second headstarting strategy, improving both hatching success and hatchling survival by caring for the hatchling Smooth Greensnakes until next summer. We aim to improve their chances of surviving that critical first year, by keeping them safe from predators until they are larger, and increasing their body size so they are better able to survive winter and produce more young once they are released.

Smooth Greensnake hatchlings in the Nature Museum lab

This season, we have incubated, hatched, marked, and released snakes from 75 eggs in DuPage County, and we are currently headstarting 81 hatchlings from Lake County at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.  



Allison Sacerdote-Velat
Curator of Herpetology

Want to learn more about this project? Be sure to follow us on Twitter as we share Allison's updates from the field!

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