Eastern Hognose Snake Feeds on Endangered St. Andrew Beach Mouse (?) - FaunaClassifieds
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Herps In The News Local or national articles where reptiles or amphibians have made it into the news media. Please cite sources.

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Old 12-20-2023, 07:33 PM   #1
Martin Nowak
Eastern Hognose Snake Feeds on Endangered St. Andrew Beach Mouse (?)

Gist of the story: five endangered animals and the animals which have a natural history life relationship with the named animal.

Example is the St. Andrew Beach Mouse.
The author explains this beach mouse needs protection as it is a food source for other animals.
She indicates a snake that depends on the mouse for sustenance is the Eastern Hognose Snake, with a picture of the snake. The range of the mouse is only 4 square miles. (see captions on the pictures)

My experiences observing herptiles on beach front sand dunes in Alabama and portions of the Florida panhandle, includes seeing gray rat snakes, corn snakes, king snakes, pygmy rattlesnakes, coachwhips, and EDBs. Admittedly, my singular observation experiences do not create certainty, nor absolute facts in the range of the mouse. I’ve just never seen an Eastern Hognose in those beachfront dunes or dead in beachfront hotel parking lots. My general experiences with Eastern Hognose Snakes would not support their diet being mouse dominant or even sufficient to be the life determinant for the species' population. Reader’s comments and experiences with this topic and article assertions about Eastern Hognose ?

Other credible sources describe animals cohabiting with this beach mouse. None describe co-dependency such as being a food source. The only snake I could find mentioned is the coachwhip; which does frequent beachfront sand dunes. Certainly, rat snakes, king snakes, coachwhip, rattlesnakes, would eat the mouse upon opportunity.

The issue I have with the NatGeo story is that credible literature clearly indicates primary threats to the mouse are construction and house cats. Along with fox and coyote. Yet the author ignores these specific issues. She “weaves in” the Eastern Hognose Snake as a predator needing the endangered mouse as food. Very few authors of stories in this lane will openly castigate house cats and feral house cats. Protecting the mouse is fine - using such protection to assert having a food source for hognose snakes seems a stretch. Readers?

Endangered Beach Mouse
National Geographic. January 2024 issue. Pages 114-115
Author: Natasha Daly https://www.natashaldaly.com/about
Photographer: Joel Sartore https://www.joelsartore.com/

As this magazine is by subscription, pictures of the two pages are attached.
Readers may access the story for free in exchange for their email address.
Attached Images
Old 12-20-2023, 11:15 PM   #2
Socratic Monologue
I entered 'peromyscus polionotus peninsularis' into Google Scholar and got a bunch of hits. I entered that name and 'heterodon', and found nothing. So I agree that this part seems a stretch.

But aside from the fact that the predator-prey relation may not exist, I read 'Protecting the beach mouse means preserving an important food source for owls, snakes, ghost crabs, and other native species' as seeing snakes et al in a positive light, not castigating them. She's saying that even if you don't care about a mouse, think of the other native species that you may care about -- and she even mentions snakes specifically.

The author notes that threats to the mouse include "host of pressures, such as hurricanes, artificial lighting, and invasive predators", none of which are hognose snakes (and 'invasive predators' sure could include cats.

Maybe I'm misreading your point, but I see this as fairly friendly to snakes. But yeah, NatGeo could stand to employ more fact checkers.
Old 12-20-2023, 11:47 PM   #3
Martin Nowak
John, excellent comments - I agree with you. I do post and sometimes comment to generate thoughtful replies. My points are two:
1. I wish the author had either not used a specific snake species - or used a more factual representative of mouse eating snake species (I think Eastern Hognose really is a stretch for this example). And,
2. I actually hope this subspecies beach mouse (along with the others) can be saved from extinction. Just wish the mission would be to save it on the merits of a fine incredible creature that is part of the whole ecosystem and less that it is a food source for other critters.

I also did some research and found same as you. If you have time - read some of the lit describing reintroduction from lab raised beach mice. Limited gene pool yet they are reintroducing lab offspring.

Perhaps the most important issue is decline of beach mice is development and invasive animals such as cats and foxes. Once again cats are cited as the worst invasive. Development generates tourism and taxes and cats are off limits to control. In any event, always appreciate your comments along with those of other readers. Couple addes references here:

Cohabiting animals:
“A variety of animals live with beach mice in these dune habitats, including the six-lined racer, monarch butterflies, snowy plovers, and coachwhip snakes.”

Threats to beach mice:
“In addition, domestic cats can affect beach mice populations.”
“The domestic cat (Felis catus) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes) hunt beach mice.”
“They lack appropriate predator recognition and avoidance mechanisms and are highly vulnerable to predation by foxes and cats. Many scientists and agencies have cited introduced cats and foxes as a major threat to beach mouse populations and a potential cause of their decline. Removal of these species from beach mouse habitat is now recommended as a conservation practice. Some effort has been made to eradicate cats from Anastasia Island and foxes from Santa Rosa Island. However, no broad campaign has been established to control or eliminate introduced predators from beach mouse habitat as a whole.”

Other than coachwhip, no mention of relationships with any snake species.

“Other threats include increased predation from feral and free-ranging cats, foxes, raccoons, and coyotes.”

No mention of relationships with any snakes.
Old 12-21-2023, 09:50 AM   #4
Socratic Monologue
"Just wish the mission would be to save it on the merits of a fine incredible creature that is part of the whole ecosystem and less that it is a food source for other critters."

I agree completely. Seems a little peculiar to say 'endangered' and 'food source' about the same animal.

"Preservation through consumption!" "We had to eat them to save them." The slogans for such a project could be hilarious, if a little dark.
Old 01-02-2024, 11:49 AM   #5
Karma Kritters
Eastern hogs do not eat beach mice. I grew up in Saint Andrews an area of Panama city Fl. One hognose are very rare near the coast. Two I have never seen an Eastern hog that did not take work to switch to rodents. Plainly not their natural diet.
On the other hand if you are out walking the dunes at night you can stumble on some of the biggest corn snakes I have seen. other than the occasional salt marsh snakes not much other reptile life enjoys the beach.
The feral cats are horrific down here. They have stray cat colonies all over. They need to be removed. Habitat destruction is the biggest issue though. There is no such thing as protected land if you have the cash in this state. I have watched many protected areas turned into shopping centers or housing.
Old 01-02-2024, 11:52 AM   #6
Karma Kritters
Sorry just caught that came from nat geo. That explains it all. Used to be good now just trash.
Old 01-02-2024, 01:44 PM   #7
Martin Nowak
Excellent comments from Day. Thanks. I agree, NatGeo has become a fairly useless rag with low regard for fact checking and accuracy. Focus on subscription revenue to a public that accepts whatever it publishes with glossy pictures.
I also agree with your comments about beach front snakes. I've found corn snakes crawling up the sides of beach hotels. The occasional white oak gray rat - which seem to be the lightest I've seen in the upper panhandle. And in the proper habitat some years ago I found a couple L. "goini" within view of the surf. Never ever an Eastern hog.

Sadly, much of the public will swallow this story (and other stories) as fact because it appeared in NatGeo.

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