Past Meeting, May 2021: Dave McNaughton, Herping in the Southwest


May 23, 2021 by lancasterherp

The Lancaster Herpetological Society (LHS) wants to thank everyone that attended the digital meeting this past Friday evening. It was our pleasure to welcome back our group’s previous president, Dave McNaughton!

It has been around two years since Dave accepted a job as a Natural Resources Specialist for the Navy and moved to San Diego. In that time, he has been monitoring and helping to conserve the wildlife on Navy sites, including numerous herps! You can watch a recording of the meeting HERE.

He has been able to work with California Tiger Salamanders at a site near what had been the town of Port Chicago. The town was the site of a munitions depot during World War II, though it was destroyed due to a munitions explosion that killed hundreds of servicemen and hurled munitions into the nearby hills. One of these hills is the home to endangered California Tiger Salamanders. The land is slowly being transitioned into a county park, though it needs to be cleaned of munitions and the soil examined for toxicity first. Dave has been helping with a project to capture the salamanders in bucket traps and move them to a nearby pond such that the land can be cleaned.

An arroyo toad!

Dave has been able to work with Arroyo Toads on some Marine Corps bases around San Diego. They are similar to Spadefoot Toads, since they bury underground for years. The toads will emerge after a heavy rainfall, much to the chagrin of the Marine Corps who have to halt construction projects because of an abundance of toads. Dave has also had the opportunity to spend some time with Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes and Red Diamond Rattlesnakes, often being called to remove them from the premises of local childcare facilities. Not all snakes in southern California are venomous of course; there are only two native boa species to the United States, both of which live in southern California, the rosy boa and the rubber boa!

As for lizards, Dave told us about Western Fence Lizards which live around his house. Unlike the Eastern Fence Lizards in Pennsylvania which are flighty and hard to capture on camera, Dave has been able to document the Western Fence Lizards. This may be due to their close proximity with people, such that they have become accustomed to them. Not to leave out turtles/tortoises, the Mojave Desert Tortoise is a large free-roaming tortoise that lives in the deserts of southern California. Despite having a fairly large range on Federal land, they are ill-prepared for climate change as they are sensitive to changes in the aridity and temperature of their environment. Furthermore, they are difficult to maintain with captive breeding programs.

Dave is active with the San Diego Herpetological Society, which meets on the 3rd Tuesday of every month, 10pm EST. Due to the pandemic, the meetings have been virtual so if you are interested, you can attend their meetings! Watch their Facebook page for news of what is coming next month!

Once again, thanks Dave for coming back to talk with us, and thanks everyone who attended. Our next meeting is Friday, June 18th, and will be an in-person nature walk! It will be at the Nixon Park Nature Center in York, PA. Longtime supporter of the LHS and former board member Kelsey Frey manages the center!

-Gregory Wier


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