The Rattlesnake Conservancy, Florida
Tony Daly-Crews is the director of the The Rattlesnake Conservancy, a passionate field biologist, and veteran. As a native Floridian growing up in Ocala, he spent a lot of time outdoors. Tony studied Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of North Florida. Research he was involved in was primarily focused on management and restoration of Florida scrub, focused on reptile and amphibian management.
Tony has been part of various aspects of venomous herpetology, from instructing new keepers to participating in the rule making process for venomous in Florida. In 2016, he served as a member of the Venomous Reptile Technical Assistance Group (VRTAG) for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and worked with a group of professionals to improve and update current rules regarding captive venomous reptiles.
As the Executive Director of TRC, he is involved with large scale planning of conservation projects, coordination with other organizations and zoos, fundraising, and field research when he is able to make time!
Outside of his work with TRC, he has worked for the federal government for 5 years. His career began as a regulatory biologist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He now works and resides in Phoenix, AZ, as the Regional Biologist for Western Area Power Administration under the Department of Energy.
Human Dimensions in Snake Conservation.
Translocation, commonly known as relocation, is the act of removing an animal from their home range to another potentially suitable habitat. Snakes are often translocated due to conflict with
land use associated with children, pets, and livestock, as well as in situations where the animal appears to be in danger (crossing roads, etc.). Human conflict with wildlife, especially snakes, is
increasing in areas where urban development encroaches on natural areas. In response, commercial industry (such as animal control), concerned citizens, conservationists, and others
are tasked with relocating “nuisance” snakes to areas well beyond where they may interact with the aggrieved party again. Scientists and conservationists also translocate imperiled snakes in
areas at risk for development, during reintroduction efforts, and to bolster genetic viability of isolated populations. However, little is known about the characteristics of people who regularly
translocate snakes and how they make decisions about translocation.
To explore this, our team designed a brief questionnaire and distributed it through social media groups associated with conservationists, reptile enthusiasts, commercial industry, and wildlife
professionals between the months of February and April 2019. The questionnaire examined who is translocating snakes, frequency, and motivations. We also explored the relocation of
venomous snakes in particular.
74.8 percent of participants (n=140) translocated snakes sometimes or all of the time, and three quarters (74.2%) moved fewer than 20 snakes annually. 40 percent moved less than 5 snakes
annually. Only about 5 percent of participants who translocate snakes say they have no experience with snakes. The remaining participants identified as snake enthusiasts (private
herpetoculturalists, fielder herpers (amateur reptile observers or photographers, similar to “birding”), (53%), biologists or scientists (26%), or both (6.7%).
The majority (88.5%) of participants translocated snakes found on someone’s property who did not want it there and/or the landowner was threatening to kill the animal. Around half (46.2%) of participants translocated snakes that were on roads Almost a third of participants (29.8%) report moving snakes less than half a mile from the original capture site, and less than 3% said they
moved snakes more than 2 miles from capture site. However, nearly 40% of participants separately indicated that they moved snakes to the nearest protected area, regardless of
distance, so these findings need to be interpreted cautiously.
Participants also reported translocating venomous snakes. Of participants who translocate snakes, 83.7% said they relocate venomous snakes. Despite this, over a quarter (26.1%)
reported having no training–formal or informal–in handling venomous snakes. Around a third of participants (34.1%) had informal training on handling venomous snakes, while another third (31.8%) had formal training, such as a venomous course or through their profession. Eight percent of participants reported both formal and informal training.
To our knowledge, our results are the first to describe characteristics of individuals engaged in snake translocation and their motivations for doing so. When done improperly, translocation
may increase mortality in individual animals and inadvertently spread pathogens. As such, understanding who is translocating snakes and why is critical for researchers and
conservationists developing best management practices for translocation and developing conservation strategies for imperiled species. The Rattlesnake Conservancy plans to evaluate
the long-term impacts to multiple species of Crotalid to compliment development of relocation guidelines for the average public, nuisance wildlife trappers, researchers, and conservationists.