Whipsnake Survey

Yesterday, biologist Mandy Murphy allowed me to tag along with her while she ran her string of snake traps in search of Alameda whipsnakes and other reptiles.

We found a whipsnake in the third trap we checked. It was a recapture as she had caught it once before and left it with an identifying mark.

The snake was a large one, about four and a half feet long. She also caught a gopher snake.

IMG_3199 trapped gopher snake

The trap consists of vertical boards which guide the target species towards four wire cages that are similar to minnow traps. Once the snake or other critter enters the trap, it cannot find a way out. In this photo there are four separate wire mesh cages underneath the foam boards which protect the caught snakes from overheating.

The traps are monitored closely so that snakes will not be injured.


Snakes that are caught provide samples for DNA testing to determine their genetic makeup. According to Mandy, researchers have determined that two California racer species, the Alameda whipsnake and the California racer, are closely related. It is anticipated that the snakes captured on our ranch will share the genetic makeup of both species.

Alameda County Hunting Heritage Endangered

This morning, as I read the story in the Tri-Valley Herald (www.insidebayarea.com/trivalleyherald)   about the Koopman Ranch and how the county’s ranching heritage is threatened, I couldn’t help but think that something very important was missing.

Yes, agriculture is dwindling in Alameda County and ranches are disappearing along with wildlife habitat, but often forgotten is the loss of habitat for use by human hunters.

A loss of our hunting heritage will insulate man further from contact with mother earth. Hunting is one of the most compatible uses for open space and wild places. We have very few of those places left in Alameda County. Unfortunately, a large portion of the remaining wild places are owned by agencies that have foreclosed on hunters.


The remaining hunting spaces are more threatened than the kit fox, tiger salamander and red-legged frog. As agencies (primarily East Bay Regional Park District and San Francisco Water Department) close in on consumption of Alameda County’s remaining open spaces, they are signaling a death knell for Alameda County hunters who have worked hand in hand with ranchers to develop and protect wildlife habitat.

Hikers and bikers use open space, but unlike hunters they don’t carry field glasses and sneak through the woods. Bikers speed by, unaware of their surroundings while hikers grunt at the weight of their load intent upon reaching their destination.


Like the mountain lion, human hunters are acutely aware of their surroundings. Both types of hunters are often misunderstood by those who don’t share in their pursuit. Aboriginal tribes appreciated and worshiped the hunter. In our modern world, the venison is not as important, but the characteristics that made those aboriginal hunters valuable to society are just as valid today.

Also like the lion, these hunters depend upon healthy and well-managed deer herds to make their hunting adventures successful. Unlike mountain lions, these hunters are bound by many laws that limit take and insure public safety, laws that are important.

If Alameda County’s rich hunting heritage is to live on, steps must be taken to cultivate a climate in which hunters can survive. That means protecting the remaining large blocks of contiguous habitat and opening up public properties to limited hunting. Or, like the other endangered species, an American culture will disappear from our midst, leaving us all further removed from the outdoors and more susceptible to encroachment upon our remaining wild places.

Once we remove people from the outdoors, the outdoors will be gone forever and nobody will know the difference.