Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) at the ...Image via Wikipedia
Public welcome to join experts on scientific expedition
JEWELL COUNTY — The Kansas Herpetological Society (KHS) will conduct its annual Fall Field Trip Sept. 16-18 in Jewell County. They will use the KHS campsite at Lovewell State Park as event headquarters. (Kansas State Park vehicle and camping permits are required.) And Kansas nature lovers are being asked to participate by taking a hike across Jewell County this weekend and make a herpetologist’s day. Become the first to find and document the plodding presence of an ornate box turtle or the diminutive brown snake in this northcentral Kansas county.
On the group’s wish list of notable finds are some 28 species of reptiles, amphibians, and turtles that have yet to be officially documented in the county. Another dozen species that have not been reported in the area for more than three decades are also being sought.
The free event — one of two or three such trips coordinated by the group each year — assesses the herpetofauna (reptiles, amphibians, and turtles) of Kansas, and the public is encouraged to attend. KHS members and others will gather at Lovewell State Park campground northeast of Mankato; look for the KHS signs as early as Friday, Sept. 16, although the actual event will begin with off-site field surveys on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 9 a.m.
"Jewell County holds a great deal of potential for significant herpetological discoveries," says Travis Taggart, curator of herpetology at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays and field trip co-chair for the KHS. "It supports great habitat yet little field work has been conducted there." According to Taggart, another impetus behind the visit to Jewell County is its proximity and geographic similarity to the smooth green snake’s range in nearby Nebraska. This weekend, KHS hopes to discover and document the snake’s presence in Kansas.
Folks joining the Jewell County field trip should to prepare for field conditions and the weather. Long pants and thick boots are advised, and leather gloves, a hat, sunscreen, drinking water, snacks, two-way radios or a cell phone, field guides, a map, and a camera are also good items to bring. Old pillowcases and gallon-sized freezer bags can be used to temporarily hold captured animals. Participants are responsible for their own meals and overnight accommodations. Contact the Lovewell State Park office at 785-753-4971 or email for information on camping and cabin rental. Visit for information about accommodations and places to eat or visit in nearby Mankato or other cities in the region.
Non-venomous snakes and other animals will be captured and brought to a checkpoint for identification and documentation. Unless specially trained to do so, participants are discouraged from attempting to catch venomous snakes.
Most animals will be released where they are found although researchers with Kansas scientific collecting permits may retain individual animals for further study.
Since 1975, KHS field trips have allowed people of all ages an opportunity to aid scientists, teachers, naturalists, and students to search for, discover, and document some of the world’s most misunderstood animals. The events assess the distribution and abundance of herpetological species in the state and gain other valuable data. In addition, participants are given an excellent opportunity to photograph and observe closely many different kinds of amphibians, reptiles, and turtles.
A species count from the field trip is published in the KHS Journal of Kansas Herpetology and is also made available to agencies such as the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and other conservation groups.

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