Diamondbacks not out of woods yet

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dr. Bruce Means, a wildlife biologist at Florida State University and one of the main advocates of the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake being placed on the Endangered Species List, said Wednesday that just because the snake did not appear on the newest released list, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

“Our petition is under review, and a USFWS ruling about whether our petition has merit won’t come out for a couple of months,” he said. “If our petition has merit, that won’t make the Eastern Diamondback a threatened species. Then, there is a long process before any final ruling is decided.”

Means said he has formally studied the biology of the eastern diamondback since 1976, and said he has spent many weeks in newspaper files in Opp and other places researching the data he used to determine that roundups originally had local effects on rattlesnake numbers; but lately reflect general declining numbers that are not necessarily due to roundups, per se.

“It was not often possible to obtain data from roundups themselves, but where I could, I cross-checked the data closely,” he said. “I have been attending all of these roundups since the 1970s, so I am quite familiar with them.”

Means said from his research he has determined that the eastern diamondback had a greater range than it does today, especially in Alabama.

One of the reasons for the decline in Alabama is the decline of its native habitat, the longleaf pine ecoystem, which has been replaced by planted loblolly and slash pine plantations.

“After these planted pine stands get to 10 years and beyond, Eastern Diamondbacks cannot survive in them,” he said. “If you know about the decline of this once widespread and important native longleaf pine ecoystem, you will also know that many of the species that once occurred in it are declining or have also disappeared.”

-Kendra Bolling