4th Annual Places You’ve Never Herped Event at Dixie Plantation

By Kim Sash, Conservation Biologist

On April 26 and 27, the Orianne Society held their fourth annual Places You’ve Never Herped Event. Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy hosted the event at Dixie Plantation in Jefferson County, Florida. For the event, Tall Timbers partnered with the Orianne Society to start documenting the herp-to-faunal (reptiles and amphibians) species on Dixie Plantation. The Orianne Society is a non-profit organization focusing on conservation of imperiled snakes around the world. Each year the Orianne Society puts on the Places You’ve Never Herped event and advertises for a limited number of slots on their website (www.oriannesociety.org). After the event was posted this year, the 35 slots available filled up in less than three hours. Due to demand, we added an additional seven spots that were also filled that day.

A diverse group of people attended the event from all over the southeast; the oldest person was in their 60s and the youngest was a 9-year old aspiring herpetologist. The Orianne Society took care of the logistics for the event with help from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission employees who provided team leaders for both days of “herping” (looking for reptiles and amphibians). We divided into four teams and over the course of two days checked traps and did a lot of hiking through the various habitats on Dixie Plantation. On Saturday night the group was enlightened by two presentations, one by herpetologist, Pierson Hill on rare amphibians of the Florida Panhandle; I gave the other presentation on Tall Timbers Land Conservancy’s conservation efforts in the Red Hills.

At the end of day two, there were a bunch of muddy, wet and blistered folks on Dixie Plantation. We counted all the species we caught and produced a species list. A total of 55 species were found over the two days of searching, the most ever found for a Places You’ve Never Herped Event! A few of the standouts included the dwarf and lesser sirens (similar to a salamander, but without legs), a gopher tortoise hatchling, pine woods tree frogs and mud snakes. We also found a few pinewoods snakes, which had not been documented in Jefferson County since the 1980s. The group also got a county record finding the first black swamp snake ever recorded in Jefferson County. After the list was compiled, the Orianne Society gave out several prizes to individuals for the most amphibian/reptile species found, the largest snake found, the prettiest turtle, and the smallest salamander found.

Overall, it was a very fun weekend and several people saw species they had never seen before. The event could not have gone as smoothly as it did without the collaborative effort of the Orianne Society, Tall Timbers, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; the fine crew at Dixie Plantation contributed to the success. If you would like to join the Fifth Annual Places You’ve Never Herped Event, go to the Orianne Society webpage (www.oriannesociety.org) and become a member.

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