July 2019 KSNH News and Events
As the newly elected President of the Kentucky Society of Natural History, I want to thank all of you for your continued support of the society, especially as we went through a transition period and reconstituted our Board of Directors. I would like to welcome and thank our other new officers for being willing to serve and to rejuvenate our society: Billy Bennett (Vice-President), Emily Sedgwick (Secretary), Mary Alice Bidwell (acting Treasurer), Luke Dodd (webmaster), and Berl Meyer (e-newsletter Editor). I would also like to offer a special thank you to Berl for his persistence in preserving this very important society that has been around for over 75 years!
The KSNH includes all of the field sciences of natural history— geography, geology, biology, environmental chemistry, and others. Our primary mission is to promote natural history by encouraging scientific inquiry, supporting the next generation of naturalists and scientists, disseminating research within scientific and public venues, and promoting conservation and preservation of nature by offering public lectures, hikes, and other opportunities to interact with our living and non-living environment. As impacts by humans to our natural landscapes continue to grow, so does the importance of all aspects of our mission.
Over the next months, we plan to send out a survey to learn about what you would like from the society, along with opportunities for you to get involved if you so choose. We then plan to modify programs, meetings, and other offerings to better meet the needs of our members. In the past, full member meetings at our two conferences and nature hikes were offered fairly regularly, and we plan to continue having these. Another major focus of the society has been the support of natural history research through student research grants, which enhance our understanding of Kentucky natural history while training and recruiting students. These are made possible through membership dues and donations, so please continue to maintain your membership and consider donating to the cause.
Stay active and do you part to promote natural history! I encourage all of you to recruit others to our society so that our impact will grow. Please know that while you are doing your part, no matter how small you think it is, others are doing theirs. Together we can accomplish much!
President, Kentucky Society of Natural History
I personally would like to thank all of you that marked our ballot. You vote does make a difference. I , more than likely, send out another update later this month. Thanks to all the volunteers who filled our positions on the board
Just in case you missed it, The following Courier Journal article has one of our former Naturalist of the Year interviewed. June 25, 2019:
More rain means more snakes in Louisville
It’s Ky.’s ‘snakiest city,’ says state herpetologist
Louisville Courier Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
Louisville has had a wet year so far, and you know what that means. New memes will circulate the internet that make Kentucky look like it's morphed into the Great Lakes.
But it also means lots of slithery, scaly snakes will be out exploring, and there's a greater chance they'll find their way into your pool noodles, your home and on your garage rafters.
Louisville had one of its wettest years in 2018 and 2019 has done its part to stay as wet as possible so far. May 2019 was ranked as the second wettest month in the U.S. by the weather channel.
More rain means more snakes, said John MacGregor, the state herpetologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
That's because snakes, who usually spend their time hiding in wheat fields or under litter and trash, get run out of their natural environment when it rains. During breaks between rainfalls, they want to get out and dry off. If their burrow or hole gets flooded, they have to go somewhere else.
'A lot of times, that's somebody's yard,' MacGregor said.
The rain alone can't be blamed. Louisville is especially 'blessed,' he added, as it's the 'snakiest city in the state. It's probably the snakiest city I've ever been in.'
That's because Louisville enjoys enough forested areas that some snakes can do very well in and around town with a shortage of natural predators. They're free to explore and eat mice and other rodents.
'The good part of all that,' MacGregor said, 'almost all of them are harmless.'
People in and around Louisville are most likely to see Eastern garter snakes, which eat earthworms, and DeKay's brown snakes, which eat slugs.
And, no luck for those people who hope that the snakes will pass under
their radar because they're small. King snakes, black racers and rat snakes are all also common for the area.
'Louisville has a lot of big snakes,' MacGregor said, including the abundance of rat snakes, which measure about 5 feet and are 'pretty good climbers.'
They'll climb onto garage rafters, up the sides of trees, up people's houses. He gets pictures regularly from people of these larger snakes in elevated positions and 'they think it's a python that got loose,' he said, laughing. 'But it pretty much is always a rat snake.'
He once heard of someone reaching for a towel from a stack in their bathroom, and finding a rat snake perched on the pile. Rat snakes eat rodents and birds, and spend most of their time off the ground — in trees, attics or on houses.
Louisville is also home to a plentiful number of a rare snake called a Kirtland's snake, MacGregor said. They're very small, a large one measuring about 16 inches, and have a red belly with a row of black dots.
He once found one of these distinctive snakes in a Cheetos bag in someone's back yard.
It's unlikely that a person in Louisville will find a poisonous snake in their home. They're more likely to come across venomous breeds in Jefferson County Memorial Forest, where copperheads and timber rattlesnakes hang out. He said at least once a year, he hears about a copperhead sighting in Iroquois Park.
What to do if you come across a snake on your property
The Humane Society recommends a few things if you come across a snake, whether in your home or outside on your property:
❚ Leave it alone. Especially if it's outside, if you let it go, you'll probably never see it again.
❚ Identify the species. If it is venomous, it needs to be removed immediately so nobody gets hurt. Call Animal Control, local police or the local fire department and let professionals remove the animal. But do not panic and scare the snake.
❚ MacGregor added that if a snake isn't poisonous, you can wrap your arm in a towel for safety before lifting it and transporting it outside. He also suggested gently sweeping it into a laundry basket and transporting
it. 'That's a pretty traumatic experience for the snake,' he said, which means it isn't likely to return.
What to do if a snake is in your home:
❚ Remain calm. If you panic, the snake may panic and retreat further into the home.
❚ Open a door or window and use a broom to carefully encourage the snake to go outside.
❚ If the snake won't go outside, try to box it in a room so it's accessible for the experts to recover when they arrive.
The Humane Society also recommends inspecting your home and property to ensure that it isn't an attractive place for snakes.
You can do this by removing or fixing objects that could serve as a habitat, such as rocks, tall grass, cracks in porches and space under storage shed floors. MacGregor said that any warm, out-of-sight area is likely to attract snakes looking to dry off and get warm.
Happy slithery summer.
Reach Sarah Ladd at 502-582-4078 or email@example.com
Here's some food for thought written by Dr. James Conkin, former professor at U of L, some years ago about KSNH.
The Kentucky Society of Natural History was, in a real sense, a training
ground for future scientists. Several of the youngsters who "came out" of the
KSNH became scientists in later years. My best friend then, Jimmy Arnold,
later became a University of California Ph.D. in entomology and later
professor at Wayne State and the Cancer Institute in Detroit, as an example.
While a student at the University of Louisville, I was vice-president of the
Geology Section of the KSNH, and later when I returned to teach at
Louisville, I was ultimately vice-president for geology and president. In later
years, I gradually dropped out of the KSNH but still acknowledged its great
value in promoting science and natural history studies in general and its
nurturing of budding scientists.
All humans are flawed, however, and I must confess that my reluctance to
continue with the KSNH was mostly the result of a conflict with another
member whom I, rightly or wrongly, considered had done me an injury. It
was mean-spirited of me and I admit I should have stayed the course and
done more for the society rather than to have "run away*' in anger because of
my dislike for an individual member. General neglect of the KSNH by
professionals has brought the society to a low ebb; particularly absent is a
cadre of young science students who formerly populated the society.