By Anna Smith
Redcliff’s Snakes on a Plain is looking to reward those with an eye for scaled friends, with their new citizen science project.
The goal is to put some of the research into where snakes are living in the area in the hands of their two-legged neighbours, said Sheri Monk, founder of the organization.
“I’ve heard so many anecdotes, about where people see snakes the most. And that doesn’t always correlate with where I’m seeing snakes,” said Monk. “So it is one way to maximize my efforts, it gives me clues of where to look for really important habitat features, like den sights were what we call rookeries, which is where they give birth. Those things are incredibly important when it comes to conservation.”
Finding these sites is also vital for calculating the chances of an encounter for those who live in rattlesnake country; while the prairie rattlesnake isn’t aggressive, said Monk, close encounters when residents aren’t expecting it can still carry risk.
Additionally, due to the protections needed when dens are found on public land, knowing where those dens are is an important part of planning development.
“Den sites can’t be altered or damaged in any way. And if they are on public land, then there also is a setback that’s required if there’s any development nearby. And that’s one of the only hard and fast conservation measures that we have in place,” said Monk. “So just knowing where they are, what habitat they’re using, at what times of the year. And what they might be using can be instrumental in their conservation, but also serves a purpose of protecting pets and people as well.”
In order to accomplish this, Snakes on a Plain is using the EpiCollect5 app to encourage people to record their snake sightings, for the chance to win a $250 dollar gift card from Gravity Sports in Medicine Hat.
“It only takes a minute. It’s an app that people download, and then they just have to search for the Snakes on a Plain public project,” said Monk. “And if they happen to see a snake, they’ll be able to report that sighting. So we’ll have the date, the time, their GPS location, and then if they can identify the snake, there’s an option for that. And then it just takes a minute to fill out. But with every person that does provide a submission, they will be entered into the contest.”