FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 16, 2011
Lake Erie Watersnake Population Rebounds
Species Being Removed from Federal Endangered Species List
COLUMBUS, OH – The Lake Erie watersnake, a federally threatened and state endangered species, is being removed from the federal government’s list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This reptile of has one of the smallest geographic distributions of any North American vertebrate and is found almost exclusively on the Lake Erie Islands. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife will proceed to down-list the species from state endangered to state threatened.
“I cannot overemphasize how the partnership of government, university, conservation organizations, and private individuals allowed for this relatively rapid turnaround for the Lake Erie watersnake,” said state Wildlife Diversity Coordinator Kendra Wecker. “The commitment of island landowners, our biologists, and particularly Kristin Stanford, our Lake Erie watersnake Recovery Coordinator, contributed to this great success. Only through this continued commitment will this remarkable recovery be sustained. The snake population on the islands will be monitored and we want to continue public outreach efforts”.
The Lake Erie watersnake was listed as a federally threatened species in 1999, and elevated to state endangered status in 2000. At that time, three primary issues existed threatening the continued survival of this non-venomous species: small population size, habitat destruction, and direct mortality from people. Since then, the Division of Wildlife, with the help of federal and private partners, has worked to secure habitat as well as inform and educate the public about this unique species. ODNR established a land management plan on all state-owned island properties to ensure enough suitable habitats were available for long-term conservation.
State Wildlife Grant funds were used to conduct research and surveys of the snake, help establish permanent conservation easements, and to inform and educate the public about this unique island reptile. As a result, the watersnake population has stabilized and flourished; population estimates of 8,000-plus adult Lake Erie watersnakes exceed the 5,555 snakes designated as a marker for recovery in the USFWS Recovery Plan for the species.
These efforts have been supported by the Wildlife Diversity and Endangered Species Fund, which receives donations from Ohioans through the state income tax check-off program, the sale of the Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp, and the purchase of cardinal license plates. Individuals wanting to donate can also make an online contribution at wildohio.com.
The ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR Web site at ohiodnr.com.