Rattled About the Environment

Derek Hennen took us into the woods in search of millipedes in our August 6 blog post. He mentioned encountering other forest dwellers – rattlesnakes.

His remark called to mind a Research Frontiers video that follows University of Arkansas biology professor Steve Beaupre and graduate student Lara Douglas as they track rattlesnakes in the Ozark forest in Arkansas. The researchers are trapping and tagging rattlesnakes and then radio-tracking the snakes in their daily life, slithering about in the wild. The aim is to learn more about the relationship between forest composition and the health of mammals and rattlesnakes in different ecosystems.

A memorable moment in the Beaupre video: It takes the bip-bip-bip of a radio-tracking device for researchers to locate a well-camouflaged and quiet rattlesnake nestled in a bed of leaves not far off the trail. Less dramatic, but still important to the research, are the live trapping (and release) of the mice and voles that are the snake’s prey.

In the long run, Beaupre’s research suggests that rattlesnakes could act as sensitive indicators of climate change.

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