Islands for Snakes

A biologist at Washington University in St. Louis had just finished a census of snakes on a conservation preserve in Missouri when the great flood of 1993 hit.

Instead of viewing the flood as a problem for his study, Owen Sexton took advantage of the disaster, and used it to see how snakes might recover from a natural disaster. A year after the flood he went back to the same spot. Almost three quarters of five species were missing or dead, and three other species could not be found at all.

Which ones survived? You may not like this: The bigger the snake, the better it's chance of survival. Those that could climb trees fared the best. Aquatic snakes, surprisingly, didn't do as well.

While many of the snakes may have died, others just moved to higher areas, like people's backyards and gardens. To keep this from happening next time, Sexton has proposed floating man-made islands amid the flood waters for the snakes and other animals to bask on.

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