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Forty years of snake and lizard surveys help scientists understand the consequences of invasive species, wildfires, and other environmental stressors in sagebrush ecosystems.

Using survey data that dates back to 1977, USGS scientists are partnering with the Idaho National Guard, the Bureau of Land Management, and several universities to document changes in reptile abundance over a 40-year period in southwestern Idaho. Surveys have been repeated periodically across the decades and a new effort is underway to assess the status and trends of 16 species in 2018-2019. Capture methods replicate trap style and locations used in the original surveys. In addition, scientists and students are implementing new genetic techniques to assess population sizes and connectivity across the vast, semi-arid landscape. This dataset represents one of the longest reptile monitoring programs in the western US and the information will improve understanding of the effects of changes in habitat, land use, and climate. 

Weighing a snake
Boise State University graduate student Kristina Parker weighing a Great Basin gophersnake on the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area in Idaho.(Public domain.)