Taken by Alli Scott

Written by Houston Chandler

The Tennessee River Gorge was carved through the mountains just west of Chattanooga by a wide stretch of the Tennessee River.  It is home to an impressive herpetofaunal assemblage, including many species of salamanders that make the Appalachians famous as a hotspot for salamander diversity.  However, it is often difficult to protect land sitting next to a large and growing city like Chattanooga — enter the Tennessee River Gorge Trust (TRGT).  Founded in 1981 the TRGT works to “preserve the Tennessee River Gorge as a healthy and productive resource through land protection, education, community engagement, and good land stewardship practices.”  The TRGT has helped to protect over 17,000 acres of the Tennessee River Gorge and invited The Orianne Society and our members to help survey for herpetofauna across some of their property.

 

Taken by Bailey Chandler

Thus, Places You’ve Never Herped 11 brought Orianne staff and 35 members just west of Chattanooga for a 2-day bioblitz along the Tennessee River.  This area of Tennessee is filled with difficult terrain, including steep mountains, rocky uneven surfaces, many small streams and seeps, and the occasional cave.  Over the course of the weekend, we covered all these habitats and more.  The warm weather in late September made this trip ideal for snakes (11 species), although it was a bit dry for salamanders in most of the habitats not directly adjacent to flowing water.  That did not stop our members from finding 11 salamander species, including Green Salamanders (Aneides aeneus) and Cave Salamanders (Eurycea lucifuga).  Both Species can be difficult to find and are two of the more interesting and colorful species in the southern Appalachians.  Other highlights included a pile of Eastern Musk Turtles (Sternotherus odoratus) that were caught in one of our modified crab traps and a beautiful Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) that looked like it should be patrolling somewhere in the Coastal Plain instead of in the mountains.

Over the two days, we completed surveys on four separate tracts of land, compiling a total species list that included 38 species.  We also recorded over 100 point observations of individual animals, making PYNH 11 one of our most successful events to date.  These data will assist the TRGT with their conservation planning, giving them a better idea of which species occur where and of the overall diversity on their property.  We are already looking forward to the next event!

 

 

We would like to thank longtime Orianne member and volunteer Rob Richie for helping us organize and lead this event.  We are also grateful to the TRGT for letting us survey on their property and thank all of their staff, especially Hugh Bullock and Rick Huffines, for making this a successful and enjoyable event.

 

 

 

 

Photo to left taken by Houston Chandler. The Timber Rattlesnake picture featured for this article was taken by Scott Bolick


 Species List for PYNH11

  • American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)
  • Fowler’s Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri)
  • Eastern Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii)
  • Upland Chorus Frog (Pseudacris feriarum)
  • Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)
  • Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea)
  • American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus)
  • Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans)
  • Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus)
  • Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum)
  • Green Salamander (Aneides aeneus)
  • Spotted Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus conanti)
  • Ocoee Salamander (Desmognathus ocoee)
  • Seal Salamander (Desmognathus monticola)
  • Southern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea cirrigera)
  • Long-tailed Salamander (Eurycea longicauda)
  • Cave Salamander (Eurycea lucifuga)
  • Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus)
  • Northern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus)
  • Southern Zigzag Salamander (Plethodon ventralis)
  • Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)
  • Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus)
  • Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus)
  • Six-lined Racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineata)
  • Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina)
  • Eastern Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)
  • Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)
  • Pond Slider (Trachemys scripta)
  • Eastern Wormsnake (Carphophis amoenus amoenus)
  • Midwestern Wormsnake (Carphophis amoenus helenae)
  • North American Racer (Coluber constrictor)
  • Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus)
  • Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon)
  • Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)
  • Gray Ratsnake (Pantherophis spiloides)
  • Queen Snake (Regina septemvittata)
  • Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis)
  • Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
  • Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)
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