Over 1,000 species found at Snake Den Park


There are more than just snakes living at Snake Den State Park.

Last weekend, about 200 or so volunteer naturalists from throughout New England took part in a BioBlitz survey at the park. Conducted each year by the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, the BioBlitz attempts to count as many species of organisms as they can find in 24 hours on a particular parcel of land.

David Gregg, Ph.D., is the director of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, a non-profit seeking to further knowledge and understanding of Rhode Island’s biota, geology, and ecosystems. His organization has conducted similar surveys since 2002, which have included other parks such as Rocky Point in Warwick. The BioBlitzes are intended to bring naturalists together to demonstrate the biodiversity happens everywhere.

“Don’t write off any place, even in Johnston where people think that it’s an industrial zone but it’s not. It’s got wonderful rural landscapes and well preserved forests and streams,” said Gregg. “Biodiversity happens everywhere, and it happens in Johnston, not just in rainforests.”

Snake Den was chosen as this year’s survey site as many of the BioBlitz team had never been there and were curious to explore the landscape. The event started Friday afternoon at 3 o’clock and lasted for exactly 24 hours. Teams scouted the park’s 744 acres of farm and woodland, and checked rivers and small ponds for wildlife of all kinds.

“The plant team is really happy, I think that there’s a lot of interesting plants here,” said Gregg.

While the park’s name was derived from a canyon-like stone fissure on the property, the BioBlitz found that six snake species call the park home; the water snake, black racer, milk snake, ring neck, garter snake and ribbon snake.

“The preliminary result is 1,073 species. That's conservative and by the fall we should have the first the final numbers and I expect it to be 1,150 or there about,” said Gregg after the BioBlitz was completed. “That would be the fourth highest out of 18 BioBlitzes and the highest for a site without a marine component?”

Gregg said that the park’s farm and the forest have essentially grown together. He added that there were not a lot of tree lichens, which may be due to the park’s proximity to Providence as they’re sensitive to air pollution. The park’s streams were observed to be clean and clear with a good variety of plants and fish.

Considered one of the better finds, the team caught a red fin pickerel, which is a native species. Gregg also said that there was an abundance of bird species seen as well.

“It’s really well preserved for where it is,” he said of the park. “If this much land were elsewhere I think we’d get more diversity, but if you want a place that’s near to Providence to see some pretty cool things with a lot of variety and healthy streams, this is a good place to come.”

Final tallies and analysis of the team’s finds are expected to be presented publicly this fall after all research is complete. For more information, visit www.rinhs.org.


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