New York’s most endangered animal, the Chittenango Ovate Amber Snail (COAS), now has a new life support strategy preventing extinction. The COAS, which numbers at approximately 400, lives in only one place in the world–and is at risk of being wiped out with one catastrophic event (e.g. a rock slide). It has lived for thousands of years on one rocky ledge in the spray zone of Chittenango Falls, just 100 miles east of Rochester.
During the last two years, Cody Gilbertson, a graduate student at SUNY Environmental Sciences & Forestry (ESF), has developed a highly successful laboratory housing and breeding program with 100% survival of offspring over two generations numbering in the hundreds!
At a recent Snail Summit held at an ESF laboratory, participants from United States Fish & Wildlife Service, NYS Parks Department, NY Department of Environmental Conservation, Rosamund Gifford Zoo and Seneca Park Zoo gathered to discuss the next steps for saving the COAS from extinction. These steps may include development of two additional ex situ laboratory breeding programs, supplementation of the current population with lab reared snails and consideration of translocation to another habitat.
Seneca Park Zoo resources have been devoted over the past fifteen years to participating in field surveys and leading the veterinary support of both in situ and ex situ initiatives. These successes and plans demonstrate the impact of and power of partnerships using science to save species from extinction.
—Dr. Jeff Wyatt DVM, MPH, DACLAM, Director of Animal Health and Conservation
“NYSDEC has been studying Eastern Timber Rattlesnakes, a threatened species, for approximately five years. This year we have started looking at rattle segment widths as a form of age analysis. Getting a better grasp on age of the individuals in New York’s population is extremely important as it allows us to manage them in the best possible way,” says Alfieri.
Timber rattlesnakes add a new rattle segment to their tail when they shed, which may be every other year in their natural range. So, why don’t biologists simply count rattle segments to determine age in wild populations?
It turns out that finding a snake with a complete rattle is very rare in their natural range due to normal wear and tear. Since our Zoo’s three timber rattlesnakes are known to be ten years old, are graced with complete rattles and are documented with an exact number of sheds, we are able to provide a benchmark for standardizing the age assessment by measuring width of specific rattles instead of number of segments.
What an impactful contribution our Zoo’s rattlesnakes have made to better understand and conserve their wild counterparts! New York’s timber rattlesnakes are isolated to southeastern New York, the Southern Tier and eastern edge of the Adirondacks. They serve a unique role in nature’s balance and deserve our utmost protection, admiration and respect.
On your next visit to the Zoo, be sure to visit the three highly-social timbers with their perfect rattles, near the first entrance of the Main Building.
–Dr. Jeff Wyatt, Director of Animal Health and Conservation
On October 16, the Zoo’s Director of Animal Health and Conservation, Dr. Jeff Wyatt, gathered with staff from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Zoo supporters and members of the media at the City Boat Launch near Ontario Beach Park. A small group of those gathered boarded a boat and awaited the arrival of their fellow passengers: sturgeon.
Check out this video to see what happened once the sturgeon were loaded onto the boat and taken to a spot in the Genesee River near Seth Green Island.
Learn more about our continuing partnership with the DEC here and stay tuned for updates on how the reintroduced fish develop during the next year!