Rare Snake and Lizard Populations Along the Talus Slope and Ledge Areas of Shaw Mountain in Benson Vermont
Master of Arts in Earth Literacy
The focus of this study was to determine if any of Vermont's rare snake and lizard species utilize the talus (rocky debris) and ledge areas of Shaw Mountain. The main study site consisted of a talus area and a rocky ledge on the south facing side of the mountain. A secondary study area comprised the adjacent field, pasture and farm buildings. This location appears to have favorable habitat for reptiles, and because some species have been reported in the surrounding area, it is reasonable to assume they might also be utilizing the Shaw Mountain site. Specifically | wanted to know if Vermont's rare snakes, Easter Racer (Coluber constrictor), Eastern Ratsnake (Elaphe alleghaniensis), Eastern Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus), and Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), were using the talus area as winter denning sites, and if the only lizard species in Vermont, Common Five-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus), are using the rocky ledges as permanent habitat. There are reports of targeted snake and lizard species at the site but we have no photographs or specimens to confirm the findings. The field research was conducted in the spring of 2005 on sunny days when the outside air temperature was between 12C (53F) and 25C (80F). Observations were made at the site using passive and active search methods. The study resulted in no sightings of Eastern Racer, Timber Rattlesnake or Common Five-lined Skink. Three Eastern Ratsnakes and one Eastern Ribbonsnake were observed at the secondary study site. The main conclusion is that this is not a site heavily used by rare species. The site appears important to Common Gartersnakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) which were observed along the talus and in the secondary study area. Because we have had reports of Common Five-lined Skinks at the site, a longer study may be useful in determining if a population exists there.