Snake Encounters of the Third Kind

Snake Encounters of the Third Kind


DURING MIDDAY ON MAY 21ST, PARTICIPANTS OF
THE 2016 CABRILLO NATIONAL MONUMENT BIOBLITZ MADE A RATHER COMPELLING OBSERVATION. TWO SNAKES WERE FOUND INTERTWINED AND CRAWLING
THROUGH THE DENSE COASTAL SAGE SCRUB. WITH DISTINCT BLACK AND YELLOW STRIPES SPANNING
THE LENGTH OF IT’S BODY, ONE OF THE SNAKES WAS EASILY IDENTIFIED AS A CALIFORNIA KING
SNAKE, A NATIVE INHABITANT OF THE PARK AND GREATER AREA. THE OTHER SNAKE, HOWEVER, STOOD OUT TO THE
HERPETOLOGY TEAM AS OUT OF PLACE. WITH IT’S MOSAIC LIKE BLACK AND YELLOW SPLOTCHES,
IT WOULD SEEM AS IF THE SNAKE WAS A NON-NATIVE HYBRID FORM OF KINGSNAKE. THOUGH THIS WAS A UNIQUE OBSERVATION, IT IS
NOT THE FIRST TIME SOMETHING OF THIS NATURE HAS OCCURRED AT CABRILLO. HISTORICALLY, WE HAVE SPOTTED NON-NATIVE AND
HYBRID KING SNAKES IN THE PARK AND THEY CAN POSE TWO RATHER SIGNIFICANT THREATS- GENETIC
VARIATION AND HYBRID VIGOR. THE FIRST OF THESE, GENETIC VARIATION, IS
WHERE A NON-NATIVE SNAKE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO INTRODUCE MALADAPTED GENES INTO THE NATIVE POPULATIONS. THESE BAD GENES CAN LEAD TO OFFSPRING THAT
ARE NOT WELL-ADAPTED TO THEIR ENVIRONMENT AND STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE. THE OTHER SCENARIO, REFERRED TO AS HYBRID
VIGOR, IS WHERE A NON-NATIVE SPECIES IS INTRODUCED AND PRODUCES OFFSPRING THAT ARE MORE VIGOROUS
THAN THE NATIVE POPULATIONS. THESE HYBRIDS OFTEN HAVE MORE DESIRABLE PERFORMANCE
TRAITS AND EASILY OUT COMPETE THEIR PREDECESSORS. A GOOD EXAMPLE OF HYBRID VIGOR IS WHEN HORSES
AND DONKEY’S ARE BRED TOGETHER TO PRODUCE MULES. THOUGH THE MULES ARE STERILE ANIMALS, THEY
ARE STRONGER AND MORE ROBUST MAKING THEM EXCELLENT WORK ANIMALS. IN NATURAL SITUATIONS HOWEVER, HYBRID VIGOR
CAN BE DETRIMENTAL TO A POPULATION. CURRENTLY, REPTILES IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
AND BEYOND ALREADY SUFFER FROM A DIVERSE ARRAY OF THREATS. FROM HABITAT LOSS AND DISTURBANCE TO PRESSURES
CAUSED BY OTHER INVASIVE AND DOMESTIC SPECIES SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD PETS THAT ACT AS VORACIOUS
PREDATORS. AND ALWAYS THE SHIFTING TEMPERATURE REGIMES
AND LACK OF WATER BROUGHT ON AS A RESULT OF CLIMATE CHANGE PLAYS AN EVER-HARMFUL ROLE
ON THE SURVIVAL OF THESE SPECIES. AS A UNIT OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, CABRILLO
NATIONAL MONUMENT IS FULLY COMMITTED TO OUR ONGOING MISSION TO PRESERVE AND PROTECT THE
FLORA AND FAUNA THAT CALL THE PARK HOME. WE DO THIS THROUGH EXTENSIVE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH,
RESOURCE MONITORING, AND OUR EDUCATIONAL ENDEAVORS. BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP. WE ASK THAT YOU BE MINDFUL TO STAY ON TRAILS
WHILE VISITING YOUR NATIONAL PARKS. THIS HELPS US MAINTAIN THE HEALTHY HABITAT
FOR NATIVE CALIFORNIA KINGSNAKES AND OTHER ANIMALS THAT USE IT FOR FOOD OR SHELTER. ADDITIONALLY, BY KEEPING A KEEN EYE OUT ON
YOUR HOUSEHOLD PETS, YOU INCREASE THE SURVIVAL OF ANIMALS WHO RELY ON OUTDOOR SPACES. TO MITIGATE THE SPREAD OF INVASIVE SPECIES,
NEVER RELEASE AN ANIMAL BACK INTO THE WILD. BY FOLLOWING THESE SIMPLE STEPS, YOU CAN ASSURE
THAT NATIONAL PARKS WILL CONTINUE TO THRIVE AS BEAUTIFUL NATURE SANCTUARIES FOR MANY GENERATIONS
TO COME.

Randy Schultz

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