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What's all that metal?

May 20, 2021

Large pieces of sheet metal have recently been placed in Koeneman Lake Nature Preserve to survey the population of Copperbelly Water snakes (Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta) in the Clear Lake Township area by Loyola University professors.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, copperbelly water snakes, located in the tri-state area of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, are a threatened species. A threatened species is a species that is “likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.” These snakes are threatened primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

Copperbelly water snakes are non-venomous snakes about 2-4 feet in length with a dark (often black) back and bright orange belly. They live in shallow wetlands surrounded by forested uplands where they hunt for frogs, salamanders, tadpoles and toads. Throughout the months of May-July, researchers will be checking the coverboards in Koeneman Lake along with completing visual surveys of the shoreline habitat and aquatic minnow and turtle traps. The coverboards create an optimal environment for a copperbelly water snake to hide. The area under the coverboard will remain moist and provide shelter. The researchers will gently lift the coverboards to discover what is hiding beneath.

Copperbelly water snakes found under the coverboards will be weighed, measured, photographed and a GPS location recorded before being released. Any massasauga snakes, blandings turtles and spotted turtles found will also be measured, photographed and have GPS locations recorded before being released.

Surveying the population of copperbelly water snakes in Steuben county, Indiana will allow Loyola Univeristy professors to provide an updated conservation recommendation for the population of copperbelly water snakes in Northern Indiana.

You can help the copperbelly water snake population by helping to preserve wetlands and telling others about copperbelly water snakes. For the duration of this study, please leave the coverboards in place and avoid disturbing them. If you think you have seen a copperbelly water snake in Steuben county, please report your sighting to the US Fish and Wildlife service at so they can investigate the sighting further.

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