Community members and biology students from Southern Oregon University traipsed through the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument on May 20 to collect information on amphibian and reptile species.
The third annual BioBlitz, sponsored by the Friends of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, drew 60 community members and 18 SOU biology students. The group members observed 18 species, including five lizard species, six snakes, one turtle, three salamanders and three frogs.
SOU Biology Department Chairman Michael Parker, whose herpetology class participated in the BioBlitz, said January's expansion of the monument added incentive to the effort.
“Despite our knowledge that diverse habitats exist on the monument, there is no knowledge of the abundance of amphibians and reptiles there," Parker said in a press release. " ... this BioBlitz provides an opportunity for citizens to see and experience the diversity of the new protected areas.”
In January, President Barack Obama used the federal Antiquities Act to add 47,624 acres of public land to the monument — 42,349 acres in Oregon and 5,275 acres in California. That brought the total acreage to 137,500 acres. President Donald Trump, who took office Jan. 20, is reviewing all monuments of more than 100,000 acres and has indicated he could reduce that acreage or rescind the monument status of some sites.
This year's BioBlitz was the first large-scale survey of the herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) within the Cascade-Siskiyou monument. Student leaders led participants to numerous sites, including the Sampson Creek Preserve, Mayfield Gardens, Upper Parsnip Lakes, Baldy Creek, Boccard Point, Agate Flat, Shoat Springs, Box-O Ranch, Jenny Creek (upper and lower), the Oregon Gulch and Fredenburg Meadow.
In the 5½ hour search, the most widespread and frequently encountered species was the western fence lizard, which accounted for 76 percent of all observations and was found at all nine locations. Racers, southern alligator lizards and western skinks were also frequently encountered. The three least common species encountered were the striped whipsnake, western pond turtle and boreal toad, each represented by a single individual at a single site.
The initial inventory that was collected at the BioBlitz will provide the basis for future surveys and research into biodiversity on the monument.