Overview

Distribution

Kirtland's snake can be found in the southeastern most parts of Michigan, most of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and north central Kentucky.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Range Description

This species is restricted to the north-central Midwest of the United States. The present range includes disjunct populations in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. Most recent records for the Great Lakes region are clustered near the southern end of Lake Michigan (Cook County, Illinois; northwestern Indiana; and southwestern Michigan) and in Lucas County, Ohio (Toledo area) (Harding 1997). The Kentucky distribution is along the Ohio River valley (Barbour 1971). Historically, the range included northeastern and central Illinois, most of Indiana and Ohio, north-central Kentucky, southern Michigan, western Pennsylvania, and extreme northeastern Missouri. Records from southeastern Wisconsin and from eastern Pennsylvania have been regarded as erroneous (Conant 1943). The species was last recorded in Pennsylvania in 1965. Historically, Wisconsin and Missouri were at best extreme peripheral locations; known in Wisconsin from a single unsubstantiated report in 1883 (Hoy 1883, Vogt 1981); known in Missouri from a single record in 1964 (Jones 1967, Johnson 1987). The area of occupancy within its range is small.
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endemic to a single nation

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Range is restricted to the north-central Midwest of the United States. The present range includes disjunct populations in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and perhaps Missouri. Most recent records for the Great Lakes region are clustered near the southern end of Lake Michigan (Cook County, Illinois; northwestern Indiana; and southwestern Michigan) and in Lucas County, Ohio (Toledo area) (Harding 1997). The Kentucky distribution is along the Ohio River valley (Barbour 1971).

Historically, the range included northeastern and central Illinois, most of Indiana and Ohio, north-central Kentucky, southern Michigan, western Pennsylvania, and extreme northeastern Missouri. Records from Alabama, and West Virginia are clearly erroneous (Conant 1943). Records from the Delaware Valley of eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey are supported by correctly identified specimens collected in the 1800s, but no other records exist for the region; Conant (1943) found these records "difficult to explain" and stated that they might not represent natural occurrences, but he conceded that they could be valid and that the species may be extirpated in the region. A nonspecific record of the species in Ontario, Canada (Wright and Wrtight 1952), is unsubstantiated. The species is known in Wisconsin from two unsubstantiated records published in the late 1880s (Hoy 1883, Conant 1943, Vogt 1981). Kirtland's snake was last recorded in Pennsylvania in 1965 (Hulse et al. 2001). The species is known in Missouri from a single record in 1964 (Jones 1967, Johnson 2000).

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Geographic Range

Kirtland's Snakes can be found in southeastern Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and north central Kentucky.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Continent: North-America
Distribution: USA (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, S Michigan, CN Kentucky, W Pennsylvania)
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Physical Description

Morphology

Kirtland's snakes can grow to roughly around two feet long. They have keeled scales on the upper body that are grayish in color, with two rows of small dark blotches and a row of larger dark blotches along the midline of the snake. They also have an under belly that is reddish with a row of black spots on each margin. The head is dark with a white chin and throat (Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission 1999).

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Physical Description

Kirtland's Snakes can grow to 36 to 62 cm in length. They have keeled scales (scales with a raised ridge along their length) on the upper body that are grayish in color, with two rows of small dark blotches and a row of larger dark blotches along the midline of the snake. These blotches can be faded and difficult to see in both young and older individuals. This coloration on their backs makes them difficult to see. The belly is reddish with a row of black spots on each side. The head is dark with a white chin and throat. Males tend to be somewhat shorter than females. Newborn Kirtland's Snakes are from 11 to 17 cm long and are darker than adults, with a deep red belly.

Range length: 36.0 to 62.0 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

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Size

Length: 46 cm

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Diagnostic Description

Kirtland's snake differs from the red-bellied snake (Storeria occipitomaculata) in having conspicuous dark spots on the belly (and on the dorsum). Brown snakes (Storeria dekayi) lack the rich reddish belly color and conspicuous dark spots on the belly scales found on Kirtland's snake. Queen snakes (Regina septemvittata) have a uniformly brown dorsum, with a light stripe along each side of the body. Copper-bellied watersnakes (Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta) lack large dark spots on the dorsum and also lack the single row of round black spots that border the belly scales of Kirtland's snake. Gartesnakes (Thamnophis species) generally have pale lateral stripes and lack a reddish belly.

Ernst and Ernst (2003) includes an identification key.

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Type Information

Paratype for Clonophis kirtlandii
Catalog Number: USNM 115116
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: West Northfield, Cook, Illinois, United States, North America
  • Paratype: Kennicott, R. 1856. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 8: 95.; Conant, R. 1943. Studies on North American water snakes--I. Natrix kirtlandii (Kennicott). The American Midland Naturalist. 29 (2): 313-341.
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Paratype for Clonophis kirtlandii
Catalog Number: USNM 115115
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: West Northfield, Cook, Illinois, United States, North America
  • Paratype: Kennicott, R. 1856. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 8: 95.; Conant, R. 1943. Studies on North American water snakes--I. Natrix kirtlandii (Kennicott). The American Midland Naturalist. 29 (2): 313-341.
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Holotype for Clonophis kirtlandii
Catalog Number: USNM 1514
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: West Northfield, Cook, Illinois, United States, North America
  • Holotype: Kennicott, R. 1856. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 8: 95.; Conant, R. 1943. Studies on North American water snakes--I. Natrix kirtlandii (Kennicott). The American Midland Naturalist. 29 (2): 313-341.
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Ecology

Habitat

This snake prefers open damp areas like marsh edges and wet fields. This species also has been known to find its way near the outskirts of large cities (Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commision 1999).

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This snake inhabits relict Prairie Peninsula habitats: prairie fens, wet meadows, lakeplain wet prairies and associated open and wooded wetlands, seasonal marshes, open swamps, sparsely wooded hillsides, and the vicinity of ponds and sluggish creeks. In the more recently glaciated parts of the range, occurrences are on gently sloping pitted outwash, till plains, and former glacial lake plains; in the more highly dissected, recently unglaciated areas, the species occupied larger river valley drainages (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). In Illinois and west-central Indiana, it is most often found on mollisols, soils that develop under grasslands and have excellent water retaining abilities (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988).

The current distribution of this snake is centered in metropolitan areas, often in vacant lots associated with streams or wetlands; these are remnants of much larger populations that have been reduced by urbanization and may now be rapidly dying out (Minton et al. 1983). However, this species can be locally abundant in inner city situations (Minton 2001). There are few records of this species from relatively undisturbed habitats (Minton 2001). This species is most readily found in habitats with abundant debris on the ground surface; open grassy habitats may harbour populations that are relatively difficult to detect and document. Individuals are secretive and usually are found under debris, but in general these snakes are likely most often below ground (Harding 1993, pers. comm.). They commonly use Chimney Crayfish (Cambarus diogenes) burrows as cover and underground passageways; the burrows provide moisture, less severe temperature extremes, and food resources (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). Fossorial habits allow survival of grassland fire. Hibernation occurs apparently underground, possibly in crayfish burrows, in or near the wetlands that are inhabited the remainder of the year.

Mating has only been observed on the ground surface under cover in the spring (Sellers pers. comm. 1993).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Comments: Kirtland's snake occurs in relict Prairie Peninsula habitats: prairie fens, wet meadows, lakeplain wet prairies and associated open and wooded wetlands, seasonal marshes, open swamps, sparsely wooded hillsides, and the vicinity of ponds and sluggish creeks.

In the more recently glaciated parts of the range, occurrences are on gently sloping pitted outwash, till plains, and former glacial lake plains; in the more highly dissected, recently unglaciated areas, the species occupied larger river valley drainages (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). In Illinois and west-central Indiana, it is most often found on mollisols, soils that develop under grasslands and have excellent water retaining abilities (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988).

The current distribution of this snake is centered in metropolitan areas, often in vacant lots associated with streams or wetlands; these are remnants of much larger populations that have been reduced by urbanization and may now be rapidly dying out (Minton et al. 1983). However, this species can be locally abundant in inner city situations (Minton 2001). There are few records of this species from relatively undisturbed habitats (Minton 2001).

This species is most readily found in habitats with abundant debris on the ground surface; open grassy habitats may harbor populations that are relatively difficult to detect and document.

Individuals are secretive and usually are found under debris, but in general these snakes are likely most often below ground (Harding 1993, pers. comm.). Kirtland's snake commonly uses crayfish burrows as cover and underground passageways (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988, Bavetz 1994, Anton et al. 2003); the burrows provide moisture, less severe temperature extremes, and food resources (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). Fossorial habits allow survival of grassland fire. Hibernation occurs apparently underground, possibly in crayfish burrows, in or near the wetlands that are inhabited the remainder of the year.

Mating has only been observed on the ground surface under cover in the spring (Sellers, pers. comm., 1993).

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These snakes prefer open damp areas like marsh edges, wet prairies, fens, and pastures. They are not aquatic but are usually found in the vicinity of streams, marshes, or ponds. Kirtland's Snakes are also sometimes found in suburban areas and abandoned urban lots.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

This snake does not exhibit significant migrations. Home range size and other movement characteristics are poorly known, but most evidence suggests that movements are not very extensive.

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Trophic Strategy

This snake's preferred diet consists mainly of earthworms and slugs (Rigg 1998).

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Comments: The diet includes mostly earthworms; also slugs and leeches (Conant 1943, Tucker 1977, Minton 2001, Wilsmann and Sellers 1988); sometimes insects (Thurow 1993) and crayfish (Bavetz 1993). Reports of amphibians and minnows in the diet (Minton 1972, Barbour 1971) have been discounted by other authors. Tucker (1977) stated that Kirtland's snake eats native slugs but not the introduced European slug (Limax maximus).

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Food Habits

The diet of Kirtland's snakes consists mainly of Oligochaeta and Gastropoda. They may also eat terrestrial Hirudinea.

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Kirtland's Snakes control populations of their prey, earthworm, leeches, and slugs. They also act as prey items for larger snakes and other medium-sized predators.

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Predation

Kirtland's snakes spend much of their time under cover so are less vulnerable to predation than many other kinds of snakes Squamata. They are most vulnerable to burrowing predators such as Lampropeltis triangulum, Soricidae, and Mustela. They may be preyed on by Accipitridae, Strigiformes, Vulpes vulpes, Procyon lotor, Mustela, Mephitis mephitis, and Felis silvestris when they are aboveground. When they are threatened by a predator, Kirtland's snakes flatten their body and remain stiff. If touched they will writhe violently and attempt to dart into cover. They may even try to strike and bite, but they are relatively small and harmless.

Known Predators:

  • Lampropeltis triangulum
  • Mustela
  • Soricidae
  • Vulpes vulpes
  • Procyon lotor
  • Accipitridae
  • Strigiformes
  • Mephitis mephitis
  • Felis silvestris

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 21 - 300

Comments: Between 1980 and 1987, 48 extant occurrences were documented in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). In Illinois, the species is "known from only a few isolated populations" (Phillips et al. 1999). This snake is difficult to detect and all occurrences probably have not been documented. Failure to locate this snake at historical sites does not mean that the populations are extirpated. The uncertainty of site survey results and the ability of this species to survive in small urban and agricultural sites makes it difficult to determine extirpation, except where habitat destruction or other disturbances are obvious (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). Accordingly, there may be as many as 100 total occurrences in the range.

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Global Abundance

1000 - 100,000 individuals

Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely is at least a few thousand. Fairly dense local populations exist in scattered locations (Harding 1997). Minton (1972) mentioned that some colonies near suburbs might be quite dense. Minton (2001) reported that 44 individuals were removed from a threatened inner-city site in two days, yet the snakes subsequently remained common there. The species was easiest to find during 1980s rangewide surveys in suburban areas with much litter. The largest number reported recently at a site was 24 found along 20 feet of a state road in Washington County, Indiana (Sellers, pers. comm., 1993). This suggests that some sites may have fairly large populations. In general, population size at a site is difficult to determine, even with a mark-and-recapture study, because these snakes are so secretive. In Kentucky, Barbour (1971) stated that this species "now seems nowhere common."

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General Ecology

Potential predators include other snakes, birds, carnivorous mammals, and fish (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988).

Kirtland's snake occurs in association with many wetland, grassland, and forest edge reptiles including Butler's garter snake, brown snakes, eastern massassauga, water snakes, queen snakes, eastern fox snakes, spotted turtles, and the five-lined skinks. Too little is known of the ecology of most of these species to conclude that resource competition is occurring, except perhaps with Butler's garter snakes in Michigan and Indiana (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Little is known about communication among Kirtland's Snakes. Like most snakes, Kirtland's Snakes rely heavily on their sense of smell. They use their forked tongues to collect chemicals from the air and insert these forks into a special organ in the roof of their mouth, which interprets these chemical signals. Snakes are also sensitive to vibrations and have reasonably good vision.

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Cyclicity

Comments: This snake is inactive during cold periods, but live individuals have been found on the surface in every month (Sellers, pers. comm., 1993; see also Gibson and Kingsbury 2004), with basking occurring on warm winter days. Annual emergence from hibernation is usually in early spring; activity peaks in April-May and October (Conant 1943, Minton 1972);

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
8.4 years.

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Lifespan/Longevity

Little is known about lifespan of Kirtland's Snakes in the wild. They are shy and secretive and have become rare in many areas. They are coveted as pets by snake enthusiasts but rarely live longer than a year in captivity. They almost certainly live for 5 years or more in the wild, once they have survived their first year.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
1.0 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
8.4 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 8.4 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Mating occurs in May and the female will give birth to her live young in late summer. The size of the litters usually ranges from 4 to 15 babies. The young snakes will grow rapidly in the first year and reach sexual maturity at the age of two (Harding 1997).

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Courtship or mating have been noted in the field in February, March, May, August, and September (Minton 1972, 2001; Martin 1986; Brown 1987; Anton et al. 2003). Multiple males may attend one female (Anton et al. 2003). Gravid females can be found as early as May (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). In Indiana, Minton (2001) found 6 gravid females in mid-June. The life cycle does not include a shelled egg stage; females give birth in summer or early autumn. Gravid females often share favorable gestation sites. Individuals reach maturity probably in their second year of growth (Ernst and Ernst 2003). Typical longevity is unknown.

The following information is from captive studies by Conant (1943), Minton (1972), Tucker (1976), Mierzwa (1985), Martin (1986) Brown (1987), and Anton and Mauger (2004). Parturition generally occurs in summer, recorded dates range from late July (Minton 2001) through late September (Conant 1943). Brood sizes range from 4 to 15 (Conant 1943, Tucker 1976; record of 22 young apparently is erroneous, Wilsman and Sellers 1988).

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Mating occurs in May and females give birth to live young in late summer or early fall. Litter size ranges from 4 to 15 babies. The young snakes will grow rapidly in the first year, almost doubling their size, and reach sexual maturity in the second spring after their birth.

Breeding interval: Kirtland's Snakes breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs in May and young are born in late summer or early autumn (August and September).

Range number of offspring: 4.0 to 15.0.

Average gestation period: 3.0 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2.0 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2.0 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); ovoviviparous

The young are carried in the mother's reproductive tract for several months while they develop. Once they are born, the young are immediately independent from their mother.

Parental Investment: precocial ; female parental care

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Clonophis kirtlandii

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

The species is considered rare throughout its range. In Michigan it is considered "endangered" and in Indiana it is considered "threatened" (Harding 1997). Because this species likes to make its home around big cities it encounters development and pollution (Rigg 1998).

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: endangered

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2007

Assessor/s
Hammerson, G.A.

Reviewer/s
Cox, N., Chanson, J.S. & Stuart, S.N. (Global Reptile Assessment Coordinating Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Near Threatened as its area of occupancy might not be much greater than 2,000 km², its distribution is severely fragmented, and the extent and quality of its habitat is declining, thus making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable under criterion B2ab(iii).
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G2 - Imperiled

Reasons: Confined to the Midwestern United States, with the range centered in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio; distribution and abundance have declined due to loss of prairie wetland habitat; rare and local throughout range; little suitable habitat remains, and most of this is subject to human alteration.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements common.

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Kirtland's Snakes are considered rare throughout their range. In Michigan they are considered endangered and in Indiana they are considered threatened. Because Kirtland's Snakes are sometimes found around big cities they encounter development and pollution, and populations are continually being lost this way. Kirtland's Snakes occupied the wet prairie regions of the Midwest, which have been virtually eliminated throughout this region, so they have lost almost all of their native habitat.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened

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Population

Population
Between 1980 and 1987, 48 extant occurrences were documented in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). In Illinois, the species is "known from only a few isolated populations" (Phillips et al. 1999). This snake is difficult to detect and all occurrences have probably not been documented. Failure to locate this snake at historical sites does not mean that the populations are extirpated. The uncertainty of site survey results and the ability of this species to survive in small urban and agricultural sites makes it difficult to identify it as extirpated, except where habitat destruction or other disturbances are obvious (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). Accordingly, there may be as many as 100 total occurrences in the range. The total adult population size is unknown but is probably at least a few thousand. Fairly dense local populations exist in scattered locations (Harding 1997). Minton (1972) mentioned that some colonies near suburbs might be quite dense. Minton (2001) reported that 44 individuals were removed from a threatened inner-city site in two days, yet the snakes subsequently remained common there. The species was easiest to find during 1980s rangewide surveys in suburban areas with much litter. The largest number reported recently at a site was 24 found along 20 feet of a state road in Washington County, Indiana (Sellers pers. comm. 1993). This suggests that some sites may have fairly large populations. In general, population size at a site is difficult to determine, even with a mark-and-recapture study, because these snakes are so secretive. In Kentucky, Barbour (1971) stated that this species "now seems nowhere common." Kirtland's snake was once known from more than 100 counties in eight states. Since 1980, it has been observed in only one quarter of those counties (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). Many urban populations have disappeared in recent years (Harding 1997). Once common in northern Illinois, it declined before the turn of the century and is now rare in Illinois and most of its present range (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). Most records for Illinois are pre-1980 (Phillips et al. 1999). The species can be regarded as rare and declining across its entire historical range, despite fairly dense local populations (Harding 1997).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Global Short Term Trend: Decline of 10-30%

Comments: Trend over the past 10 years or three generations is uncertain, but probably the species can be regarded as rare and declining across its entire historical range, despite fairly dense local populations (Harding 1997, Gibson and Kingsbury 2003).

Global Long Term Trend: Decline of 50-90%

Comments: Kirtland's snake is known from more than 100 counties in eight states. Since 1980, it has been observed in only 58 counties in five states; since 1990, it has been found in 39 counties (mapped by Gibson and Kingsbury 2004). Many urban populations have disappeared in recent years (Harding 1997). Once common in northern Illinois, Kirtland's snake declined before the turn of the century and is now rare in Illinois and most of its present range (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988, Edgren 2000). Most records for Ilinois are pre-1980 (Phillips et al. 1999).

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Threats

Major Threats
Human activities, especially housing development and habitat alteration, are the major threats. Most of the former habitat has been lost to agriculture (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). Grassy habitats are subject to succession when surrounding land use patterns change. Conversion of native prairie to agricultural uses is a threat. Many remnant populations inhabit small areas in urban or suburban areas where they are highly vulnerable to extirpation by development; colonies near housing developments may thrive for a time but eventually decline, according to Minton. Activities that negatively impact crayfishes and their burrows are detrimental. Other potential threats to this species are disease, predation, competition, pesticide use, road kills, long-term climatic changes and collecting for the pet trade. Collecting for the pet trade is a threat in urban populations (Harding 1997) where large amounts of litter and debris increase the chances of finding these snakes (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988).
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Degree of Threat: High

Comments: Human activities, especially housing development and habitat alteration, are the major threats. Most of the former habitat has been lost to agriculture (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). Grassy habitats are subject to succession when surrounding land use patterns change. Conversion of native prairie to agricultural uses is a threat. Many remnant populations inhabit small areas in urban or suburban areas where they are highly vulnerable to extirpation by development; colonies near housing developments may thrive for a time but eventually decline, according to Minton. Activities that negatively impact crayfishes and their burrows are detrimental. Other potential threats to this species include pesticide use, road kills (reviewed by Gibson and Kingsbury 2004), mowing operations, long-term climatic changes, and collecting for the pet trade. Collecting for the pet trade is a threat particularly in urban populations (Harding 1997) where large amounts of litter and debris increase the chances of finding these snakes (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). Disease has not been identified as a significant threat (Gibson and Kingbury 2004).

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Several occurrences are in protected areas. Protection needs include the following: 1) identify and protect a large number (perhaps at least 20) of suitable sites throughout the range; 2) do whatever it takes to curtail pet trade exploitation (state legislation); and 3) educate the public about conservation needs.
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Restoration Potential: Restoration potential depends upon the degree of habitat alteration. Permanent alterations such as pavement prevent restoration. Remaining wet prairie habitats that have not been altered can be used for restoration.

Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: Preserves that will benefit this species should include natural open areas, streams or ditchs, and upland hillsides with underground refuges. Adjacent managed open areas such as yards or parks need to be considered in overall management of the preserve, as the snakes may frequent these areas (Sellers, pers. comm., 1993).

Management Requirements: Effective management requires consideration of mowing schedules, foot and car traffic, potential environmental contaminants, hydrology, and ground cover (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). One management concern is the modification of wetlands by flooding or draining. These practices may enhance habitat for other species but can make unsuitable habitat for this snake (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988), which requires unsaturated soil with a high subsurface water table (Sellers, pers. comm., 1993).

At many managed sites, controlled burns are used for maintenance of prairie species. The fossorial habits of Kirtland's snake and the typical cool burn near the ground in wetlands allows the snake to survive grassland fires.

A study of Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area in Ohio, which is a state-owned remnant of prairie managed for Canada geese, reported snake mortality from mowing and vehicle traffic. During the fall hunting season when both factors were heavy, snake mortality was high. The study recommended rescheduling mowing operations to coincide with the snakes' periods of inactivity, and rerouting traffic, placing speed bumps and signs to caution motorists to avoid hitting snakes. See Gibson and Kingsbury (2004) for further discussion of mortality from mowing and vehicle traffic.

If urban litter must be removed it should be replaced with litter from natural materials such as tree bark and limbs, leaves, cut brush, or hay and straw (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988).

Management Research Needs: Information on response to fire and other management techniques is needed. Effective survey/monitoring techniques need to be developed.

Biological Research Needs: Studies of basic life history and population ecology are needed.

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Global Protection: Few to several (1-12) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: During the 1985 rangewide survey, two populations were found on dedicated natural areas, while two were in wildlife sanctuaries. The species is nominally protected rangewide under state wildlife regulations, but these regulations do not necessarily protect the habitat or extant occurrences.

Kirtland's snake is designated as a Regional Forester Sensitive Species (RFSS) on the Hoosier National Forest in Indiana and on the Huron-Manistee National Forest in Michigan, but poor knowledge of the effects of various management practices on this species reduces the effectiveness of this designation (Gibson and Kingsbury 2004).

Needs: Adequate conservation probably will require the identification and protection of a large number (perhaps at least 20) suitable sites throughout the range. Efforts to curtail pet trade exploitation are needed; this should include development of state wildlife regulations where those are not currently in place). The public should be informed about the species' conservation needs.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Comments: Kirtland's snake has been collected for the pet trade in some areas (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988).

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Kirtland's Snakes will help to control populations of slugs in areas where they are abundant.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Risks

Stewardship Overview: Kirtland's snake inhabits open damp grassy areas, wet meadows, wet prairie remnants, floodplains, fens, and the vicinity of ponds and swamps. In urban areas it can still be found in a few vacant lots associated with streams or wetlands. It now exists in 33 populations found in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky (Sellers, pers. comm., 1993). This snake has declined in abundance over its entire range. The major threat to this species is habitat loss; much of its habitat has already been lost to development. It is vulnerable to extirpation by development. The existing populations and their habitats need to be protected. Surveys can be used to detect undiscovered populations, although this species is secretive and surveying may be difficult. Drift fences might be a useful surveying technique in spring and fall.

Species Impact: Kirtland's snake is not known to significantly impact other species that may be of conservation concern.

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Wikipedia

Kirtland's snake

Kirtland's snake (Clonophis kirtlandii) is an endangered North American species of nonvenomous snake of the subfamily Natricinae, of the family Colubridae.[1] It is the only species in the genus Clonophis.[2]

Etymology[edit]

The specific name, kirtlandii, is in honor of Dr. Jared Potter Kirtland, an American naturalist of the Nineteenth Century.[3][4] The snake was first identified by Robert Kennicott in 1855. Kennicott sent a specimen to Spencer Fullerton Baird, the assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, who offered to publish a description of the animal in Kennicott's name. Baird suggested Regina kirtlandii as a scientific name, as Kirtland had been a mentor to Kennicott.[5]

Common names[edit]

Common names for this species include: Cora Kennicott's snake, Kirtland's red snake, Kirtland's water snake, little red snake, Ohio Valley water snake, and spread head.[6]

Description[edit]

Kirtland's snake is small and slender. Adults reach a total length (body + tail) of 12-18 inches (30–46 cm). They are grayish brown with a series of large black spots and alternating smaller spots running down each side of the back.[7] The ventral scales are brick red with a prominent round black spot at each outer end.[8] It has 19 rows of keeled dorsal scales at midbody, and the anal plate is divided.[9]

Geographic range[edit]

This species is found in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, southern Michigan, northern Kentucky, and western Pennsylvania.[8]

Habitat[edit]

Clonophis kirtlandii inhabits prairie or prairie-like areas. It is usually found not far from a water source, even though it is less aquatic than water snakes of the genus Nerodia which share its geographic range.[6]

Conservation status[edit]

The species is listed as endangered in Indiana,[10] Michigan, and Pennsylvania;[11] it is listed as threatened in Illinois and Ohio.

Diet[edit]

Kirtland's snake feeds on earthworms, slugs, minnows, salamanders, frogs and toads.[6]

Defensive behavior[edit]

When alarmed this snake flattens its entire body to a remarkable thinness, and becomes rigid.[12]

Reproduction[edit]

Kirtland's snake is ovoviviparous. Females give birth in August and September. Brood size varies from 4 to 22. Each newborn is 13–17 cm (5-6¾ in.) in total length and averages 1.4 gm in weight.[6]

Further reading[edit]

  • Behler, J.L., and F.W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 743 pp.
    ISBN 0-394-50824-6. ("Clonophis kirtlandi [sic]", p. 596 + Plate 551).
  • Kennicott, R. 1856. Description of a new Snake from Illinois. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia 8: 95-96. (Regina kirtlandii).

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Reptile Database. www.reptile-database.org.
  2. ^ ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System). www.itis.gov.
  3. ^ Beltz, Ellin. 2006. Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained. ebeltz.net/herps/biogappx.html#K.
  4. ^ Beolens, Bo; Michael Watkins; Michael Grayson. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 312 pp.
    ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Clonophis kirtlandi, p. 142).
  5. ^ Vasile, Ronald S. (Autumn 1994). "The Early Career of Robert Kennicott, Illinois' Pioneering Naturalist". Illinois Historical Journal 87 (3): 165 – via JSTOR. (subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ a b c d Wright, A.H., and A.A. Wright. 1957. Handbook of Snakes of the United States and Canada. Ithaca and London: Comstock. 1,105 pp. (in 2 volumes) (Natrix kirtlandi, pp. 496-499, Figure 146 + Map 40 on p. 491).
  7. ^ Boulenger, G.A. 1893. Catalogue of the Snakes in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume I., Containing the Families ... Colubridæ Aglyphæ, part. London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xiii + 448 pp. + Plates I.- XXVIII. (Ischnognathus kirtlandii, p. 286).
  8. ^ a b Conant, R. 1975. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Second Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. xviii + 429 pp.
    ISBN 0-395-19979-4 (hardcover), ISBN 0-395-19977-8 (paperback). (Natrix kirtlandi, p. 151 + Plate 22 + Map 106).
  9. ^ Smith, H.M., and E.D. Brodie, Jr. 1982. Reptiles of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. New York: Golden Press. 240 pp. ISBN 0-307-13666-3.
    (Clonophis kirtlandi, pp. 156-157).
  10. ^ Indiana Legislative Services Agency (2011), 312 IAC 9-5-4: Endangered species of reptiles and amphibians, Indiana Administrative Code, retrieved 28 Apr 2012 .
  11. ^ Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission.
  12. ^ Schmidt, K.P., and D.D. Davis. 1941. Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 365 pp. (Natrix kirtlandii, pp. 209-210 + Plate 22, Center, on p. 342).
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: This snake was referred to as Natrix kirtlandi in older literature.

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