New species and venomous snakes recorded in Decatur County

Published 10:57 am Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Exactly 40 students from the University of Georgia swarmed and inhabited some backwoods areas of Decatur County last weekend for a bio-blitz, or an organized research party to discover and record new species in the county.
The team found all six species of venomous snakes that have been found in the state to be located within the county as well as some species that had never been recorded in the county before like gopher tortoises and a salamander species that looks almost like an eel.
Todd Pierson, UGA student leader, said the team of 40 stayed on property of the Reynolds family who has land on the Flint River. The rules of the program, which allow UGA to compete against other schools like Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College for the number of species found, required the students stay within Decatur and Seminole Counties.
“These are fun events,” Pierson said, “But they serve a double purpose of helping that park or that area to record what plants and animals are there.
Traditionally we have done this with Auburn University’s team, but we typically try to find an area in Georgia or Alabama that is relatively not surveyed. As you can imagine Georgia is a big state and there are only so many herpetologists to record species across the state.”
Pierson said this means scientists do not know, fully, what lives where.
The students throughout the weekend collected records on 33 species of reptiles and 16 species of amphibians. All six species of venomous snakes that have been recorded in the state, were found within Decatur County and seen at least once by students. Those species include three rattlesnake species: the diamond back, canebrake and the pigmy rattlesnake. In addition the ever-common copperhead, water moccasin and coral snakes were discovered and logged.
“We set out traps for the turtles and looked under logs and rocks to find the salamanders,” Pierson said. “For the snakes, generally if you go to a good habitat at dusk and drive down the road, that is when the snakes are crossing and are active at that time — we saw a lot of species this way.”
He also said species of interest seen included the gopher tortoise and the two-toed amphiuma — which is an eel-like salamander that inhabits swampy areas.
“If you find a species that has not previously been recorded in the county then you can publish that as a note of interest,” Pierson said. “We found 12 new county records. These were things we suspected to live in those areas but they had never been recorded before.”

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