By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
GALENA, Kan. —
A scientific study to be held at Schermerhorn Park this spring also will serve as a teaching experience and fun outing for anyone interested in the snakes, frogs, lizards, turtles and salamanders of Southeast Kansas.
The Galena City Council this week approved a request by the Kansas Herpetological Society to camp at the park from April 26-28 in order for as many as 100 to 150 members to conduct a survey of the reptiles and amphibians there.
An estimated 30 percent of the state’s threatened and endangered species are evident at the park, which was a finalist for the 8 Wonders of Kansas contest in 2010.
Three times a year, the society chooses an area of the state in which to assess both the distribution and abundance of herpetological species. This will mark the fourth time the group has surveyed Schermerhorn since it began the trips in 1974; previous surveys were conducted in July 1979, April 1994 and October 1999.
“This is quite an honor to have these folks here, because their findings will go on record in the state, the nation and all over the world,” said Linda Phipps, who directs the Southeast Kansas Nature Center at the park.
Travis Taggart, associate curator of herpetology at the Sternberg Museum in Hays, Kan., and a past president of the society, is coordinating the trip. He said the group always extends an invitation to the public, including schools, scouts and youth groups, to participate in such surveys.
“It will be a chance for you to see things you wouldn’t normally see,” he said. “And for us, it will be a chance for a lot of our new members and young members who have never experienced the area to see how unique it is, how special it is.”
Seasoned herpetologists will help beginners safely learn basic fieldwork. Seines, dip-nets and turtle traps will be in use and made available, and participants will have the opportunity to photograph wildlife.
Taggart, who grew up in Southeast Kansas, said the park is a jewel because its 50 acres are adjacent to the Ozarks and attract species not found anywhere else in the state.
The group’s findings will be included in an online database called the Kansas Herp Atlas administered by Taggart. Now with 62,667 records, it includes maps, information about various species and updates about their current status. The group also will send data from Schermerhorn findings to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.