In order to determine the different species at any given state park, we employ a variety of methods. Our surveys consist of turtle trapping, walking and searching, natural cover board surveys and road cruising. Natural cover board surveys refers to turning over rocks, decaying logs and leaf litter. However, this is done carefully and with gloves and tools to stay protected in case we flip anything dangerous (e.g. a surprise Prairie Rattlesnake). Road cruising is an important technique because roads hold heat longer compared to other surfaces, this makes it attractive to reptiles who can’t regulate their heat internally and therefore, look for warm surfaces for basking. Furthermore, roads create transects that are easy to survey.
“Herps”, as we like to call them, play important roles in their ecosystems. Some keep prey populations in check, for example, frogs eat insects and snakes eat rodents, which controls the spread of disease. Many herps are also important prey for predators and help keep food webs in balance. A diverse herp population is indicative of a healthy ecosystem. When herp populations are diverse and healthy, this means that the environment they are in can support a variety of wildlife. More biodiverse environments are more sustainable and lead to more balanced, functional systems.
It was very promising to see such a diverse population at the state park. With records of these animals, CPW and park rangers can work together to help protect and maintain these ecosystems and animal populations so many of us can enjoy them for as long as possible.