EcoTrack 11: OSU group works to save lake snakes

Reported by James Canterbury -- email

Posted by Kate Oatis -- email

A once endangered, native snake species is now thriving in the waters of Lake Erie, thanks to state and federal protection, reports Meteorologist James Canterbury.

They're looking for good news about the growth of Lake Erie water snake populations at The Ohio State University Stone Lab.

"The fact that over the last few years we've seen these populations probably triple in size is a really good sign that the lake is doing really well," says Stone Lab researcher Kristin Stanford.

Once the snakes are caught, they are measured, weighed, tagged, then released. And what they're finding is a healthy snake population, which means Lake Erie provides a sustainable habitat for them.

The researchers are "recommending that the water snakes be removed from the endangered species list which is a fantastic... fantastic success story in the case of this animalm" Stanford says.

Success shows in how many snakes they find. Sometimes they catch the snakes out in the wild and stick them in bags. Other times they find them under mats. They'll dive at the water's edge, look under logs, and blindly stick their hands into cracks in rocks for the chance to catch one -- all the while shrugging off bite after bite.

"The first bites of the season are... you're a little bit hesitant. Then after you've had 20, 30 on each arm, you just grab them and forget about it. It's not even a big deal anymore," Stanford explains.

This non-venomous, local species is being saved by some remarkable people right in your back yard. That's a big deal.