By Dr. Allison Sacerdote-Velat, Curator of Herpetology
We have been surveying for Smooth Greensnakes in sites in Lake, DuPage, Cook, DeKalb, and Grundy Counties. Some sites are part of a long-term population monitoring study and some are previous release sites for headstarted snakes.
When we headstart Smooth Greensnakes, we can focus on improving two aspects of their survival; hatching success of eggs and hatchling overwintering survival. In DuPage County, we are improving hatching success by incubating half of the eggs from nests that we find in the field at our Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s partner facility, Willowbrook Wildlife Center. Once the eggs hatch, we measure, mark, and release the hatchlings back to their nest sites. By individually marking hatchlings, we hope to find them again next season to improve estimates of hatchling overwintering survival.
Meanwhile, we monitor the fates of the remaining eggs in the field to determine wild hatching rates. In partnership with Lake County Forest Preserve District, we are using the second headstarting strategy, improving both hatching success and hatchling survival by caring for the hatchling Smooth Greensnakes until next summer. We aim to improve their chances of surviving that critical first year, by keeping them safe from predators until they are larger, and increasing their body size so they are better able to survive winter and produce more young once they are released.
This season, we have incubated, hatched, marked, and released snakes from 75 eggs in DuPage County, and we are currently headstarting 81 hatchlings from Lake County at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.