Bubbling Ponds Citizen Science Opportunity

Bubbling Ponds Citizen Science Project Description

Northern Mexican Garter Snake

Arizona Game & Fish Department would like to collaborate with the Northern Arizona Audubon Society on a citizen science project to investigate the impacts of wading birds on the federally threatened Northern Mexican Gartersnakes at Bubbling Ponds Fish Hatchery. The hatchery supports one of the largest Northern Mexican Gartersnake populations in Arizona and is an ideal location to investigate how the snakes interact with other species. Because of consistent abundance of fish, and high density of non-native bullfrogs, the hatchery supports a diverse and abundant suite of egrets and herons which also occasionally catch and prey on gartersnakes.

The aim of this project is to determine if, and how often wading birds catch and eat gartersnakes. Previous research at the hatchery has found that ~25% of gartersnakes have scars and missing tails, but the source of these injuries is not known. In other environments wading birds catch and prey on snakes, with the snakes often escaping if captured near the tail.

In the spring and summer of 2019 we want to initiate an observational study where participants will follow a standardized protocol to observe wading bird foraging behaviors and the types of prey they catch and consume. In brief, participants will observe wading birds around the 17 Bubbling Ponds Hatchery ponds, watch the bird activity for a minimum of 45 minutes [no maximum time limit]/day, and record observations in a provided data sheet. Participants can collect observational data on their own schedule and as often they wish over the 2019 season. A short training will be provided at the hatchery, and all coordination will be done by Mason Ryan, the AZGFD Gartersnakes Projects Coordinator [email: mryan@azgfd.gov].