What’s All the Buzz About? Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) Movements at Urban Parks and Public Safety

Shipley, Bryon                              
basnakluvr@gmail.com                                                                                                                         
Adaptation Environmental Services, LLC                                                                                                    
Denver, CO USA

 

Bonnell, Mary Ann                                                                                                                                              
DuBois, Andrew                                                                                                                                                          
Jefferson County Open Space                                                                                                                    
Golden, CO USA

 

Triece, Kelly                                                                                                                                                                     Borgmann, Ryan                                                                                                                                                           Ehrenberger, Joseph                                                                                                                                              
Adaptation Environmental Services, LLC                                                                                                    
Denver, CO USA

 

Public visitation in Colorado’s Jefferson County Open Space (JCOS) parks is projected to increase annually. In 2017, an estimated 6.9 million visitors enjoyed the 28 JCOS parks. Contact with potentially dangerous wildlife, such as the Prairie Rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis), has raised concerns for public and pet safety on trails and other landscape features in both parks as visitor usage grows. Adaptation Environmental Services (AES) investigated the potential for negative visitor interactions with rattlesnakes in at JCOS parks, North Table Mountain (NTM) and South Table Mountain (STM) in Golden, CO. We did this by determining locations of over-wintering dens and identifying areas of snake movements relative to trails. At NTM and STM we also conducted media interviews, contacted hikers, provided public presentations, produced a safety video and investigated visitors’ knowledge, opinions, and beliefs about rattlesnakes. In addition, 26 visitors accompanied Adaptation Environmental Services staff on guided rattlesnake tracking experiences with pre- and post-tracking surveys given to measure changes in knowledge of Prairie rattlesnakes. Biological and social sciences surveys are important for species conservation and ecosystem health. Information about snake movements and denning locations will also be incorporated into park infrastructure development plans to minimize snake/human contact.

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