Lined Snake surveys completed

Earlier this year I was awarded funding from South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to survey for the state-endangered Lined Snake (Tropidoclonion lineatum) along the James River in southeastern South Dakota (see earlier post). As part of this survey work, two trips were planned: one trip in the spring corresponding with the the first days of warm temperature and one trip in the fall, corresponding with the final warm days of the year before snakes enter hibernacula. I recently completed the fall survey trip and despite most overcast days, I was able to overlap with an unusually warm day (3 October 2018; 30°C/86°F), and found eight Lined Snakes; unfortunately, all were dead on the road. These specimens were collected as voucher specimens and will be used as reference material and provide tissue samples from this population of Lined Snakes in Hutchinson County to determine if there is gene flow between this population and populations along the Big Sioux River. These eight Lined Snakes, combined with the eight individuals I found during the spring survey period (6 live, 2 dead) confirm an established population of Lined Snakes in this region along the James River. Due to the lack of detection of Lined Snakes outside of this locality, this may be a small, isolated population rather than a large, widespread population along the lower James River. 

Funding awarded to survey for endangered Lined Snakes in South Dakota

Today I received notice that I was awarded a Wildlife Diversity Small Grant from South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to survey for the state-endangered Lined Snake (Tropidoclonion lineatum)Within South Dakota, the Lined Snake was thought to occur only in habitats along the Big Sioux River watershed, until I collected a specimen was collected near the James River in Hutchinson County in October 2017. This recently collected snake represents the most northwestern occurrence for this species, provides evidence that populations of Lined Snakes may exist outside of the Big Sioux River watershed, and suggests that the distribution of Lined Snakes in South Dakota may be greater than expected. To better understand the distribution and occurrence of Lined Snakes in southeastern South Dakota, I proposed to conduct a series of targeted surveys for Lined Snakes along the lower James River valley.

Grant Title: Surveys for the state-endangered Lined Snake (Tropidoclonion lineatum) along the lower James River Valley

Lined Snake distribution map from

Specimens deposited at Biodiversity Collections

I recently deposited approximately 3600 amphibian and reptile specimens (DRD Field Series) and 3000 tissue samples at the Biodiversity Collections, University of Texas at Austin. These specimens are primarily collected from South Dakota and northeastern Nebraska, but also represent recent collecting trips to Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Further, this collection includes former South Dakota State University, W. H. Over Museum of Natural History, University of Sioux Falls, Augustana University, and Wayne State College specimens. Travis LaDuc, Curator of Herpetology at the Biodiversity Collections, recently traveled up to Vermillion to pick up these specimens from me at the University of South Dakota. Two days of driving later, they have all arrived safely in Austin, Texas. Specimens will be cataloged over the coming months and soon be available for researchers to loan out for studies.


Mud Turtle Research: 2017

I’ve recently returned to South Dakota from my annual trip out to the Chihuahuan Desert of west Texas where I have been collaborating on multiple research projects involving the Yellow Mud Turtle (Kinosternon flavescens). I have been marking and studying turtles in both ephemeral and permanent cattle ponds at this study site for 11 years. In addition to taking morphometric measurements of individuals, we have tracked movement, used iButtons to measure temperatures (as a proxy for when turtles are moving to and from these ponds), and monitored an undescribed shell disease. This trip (6 days of mark-recapture) resulted in over 200 unique turtles collected, with numerous young (1–2 year-old), unmarked individuals.