Researchers tracking snakes in NJ Pinelands
Researchers are tracking New Jersey's snake population in the Pinelands so that more can be done to protect them from the threat of overdevelopment.
Emile DeVito, manager of science and stewardship at the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, said his studies have shown there are at least 15 or 16 different species of snakes in New Jersey's Pinelands.
"If you wanted to count all of the common species of small snakes, then I am sure you could say, hundreds of thousands," DeVito said.
Regardless, there's really just no way of being absolutely sure of the total number of snakes that exist in the Pinelands.
"There is some tiny species that live in the soil and leaf litter and they are incredibly common. And then there are other species that are extremely rare, and we don't have a good feel for how many there are," DeVito said.
Some of the species have been labeled as endangered.
DeVito and other researchers have been using radio transmitters attached to the reptiles to learn more about how they move and where they go. Thanks in part to Drexel University, expansion of the transmitter program has allowed researchers to keep tabs on about 30 snakes.
DeVito said roads and development are the biggest enemy of snakes in New Jersey. "We have to conserve their habitats, and then we have to reconnect their habitats."
He said in many parts of New Jersey there are almost no species left because there's just no place for them to live.
"They couldn't possibly survive in highly suburbanized areas because of all the traffic and roads and things like that. There are a couple of very small species, the northern brown snake and garter snake and maybe one or two other species that could conceivably live in very large urban parks."
Do poisonous snakes exist in New Jersey?
According to DeVito, the timber rattlesnake in the Pinelands is poisonous and so are some copperheads in the northern mountains. The timber rattlesnake is classified as endangered in the state, and the copperhead is extremely secretive, and is classified as "special concern." DeVito said the copperhead is likely to be highly threatened or endangered, but more information is needed.
Snakes aren't the only things lurking in the Pinelands.
"There are a few species of lizard. There are another three or four dozen species of reptiles and amphibians that are pretty fascinating. A few hundred species of birds and quite a number of species of fish that are incredibly rare and unique and only live in the acid waters.