Conservation Assessment for Kirtland’s Snake (Clonophis kirtlandii)

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USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region


Kirtland’s snakes occupy moist, open meadow or wet prairie habitats, and old fields, and are found almost exclusively in the Midwest, with the core of their range centered on Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Within the Midwest, Kirtland’s snake populations have declined dramatically, apparently largely as a result of loss of habitat, and are now isolated and widely separated. The Kirtland’s snake was previously reported from more than 100 counties in eight states, but since 1980 it has been observed in only one quarter of those counties (Wilsmann and Sellers 1988). The Kirtland’s snake has no federal protection, but is considered imperiled in all states where it occurs. It is listed as state endangered in Indiana, Michigan, and Kentucky, and state threatened in Illinois and Ohio. Within the Eastern Region of the USDA National Forest Service, the Kirtland’s snake is designated as a Regional Forester Sensitive Species (RFSS) on the Hoosier National Forest in Indiana and on the Huron-Manistee National Forest in Michigan. Literature on this small, secretive snake is scant, and very little is known about it. The majority of information available on the Kirtland’s snake comes from urban and rural settings (Conant 1943). In fact, very little data has been contributed to the ecology of this species since Conant stated in 1943 (p. 313) that “the paucity of information on kirtlandii is attested by the frequency with which authors have quoted their predecessors, meanwhile adding little or no information of their own.” The protection and management of all remaining habitats of known Kirtland’s snake populations should be foremost among conservation and management plans for this species. In addition, since the ecology and behavior of the Kirtland’s snake is so poorly understood, management guidance would be greatly improved by an increase in research on the species.



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