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Herpetological Inventory of Sumter National Forest

Brian Metts, Judy Greene, and Whit Gibbons


Introduction: The Savannah River Ecology Lab (SREL), in conjunction with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), began a project to inventory and monitor the amphibians and reptiles (herpetofauna) inhabiting the Sumter National Forest. The USFS chose the northern dusky salamander (Desmognathus fuscus) and eastern kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) as management indicator species for the Sumter National Forest. Northern dusky salamanders are medium sized, stream-dwelling salamanders that generally occur east of the Mississippi from northern Maine and Canada to the panhandle of Florida, but are absent from the Coastal Plain of Georgia and the Carolinas. Eastern kingsnakes are large, smooth, black snakes with white chainlike markings, which occur in much of the southeastern U.S. Kingsnakes are chiefly terrestrial, but are good swimmers and prefer to be near water.

Methods: In October and November of 1999, fourteen sites were selected in the Sumter National Forest to sample herpetofauna. Sites were chosen that contained small streams and had some topographical relief adjacent to the streams. Six sites were chosen in the Andrew Pickens district, and four in both the Enoree and Long Cane districts.

Ten metal coverboards and ten tarpaper coverboards were set out at each site. The coverboards are used as artificial habitat by many herpetofaunal species. By periodically looking under the coverboards scientists can catch whatever may be hiding beneath. Ten coverboards were placed along the stream within five meters of the water, and the remaining ten were placed in a perpendicular line extending away from the stream. All coverboards were approximately 10 meters apart.

To sample the herpetofauna, coverboards were checked about once per month. In addition to checking coverboards, time constrained searches were conducted, and herpetofauna were located by turning logs, rocks and other debris in and around the streams.

northern dusky salamander

Northern Dusky Salamander

eastern kingsnake

Eastern Kingsnake

Results to date: A total of 287 individuals of 27 species were captured from January to December 2000 (Table 1). Four species of anurans, nine species of salamanders, six species of lizards, six species of snakes, and two species of turtles were captured. The most abundant species captured in the Enoree district were the northern dusky salamander (Desmognathus fuscus, n=10), the worm snake (Carphophis amoenus, n=9), and the ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus, n=7). In the Long Cane district the worm snake (n=19) and box turtle (Terrapene carolina, n=7) were most abundant. In the Andrew Pickens district, the Ocoee salamander (D. ocoee, n=35), seal salamander (D. monticola, n=33), and slimy salamander (Plethodon glutinosus, n=32) were most abundant.

In the three districts combined significantly more (p< 0.0001) individuals were captured within five meters of the stream (n= 209) than were captured away (>10 m) from the stream (n=78).

As for the management indicator species, northern dusky salamanders were captured in the Enoree and Long Cane districts (Table 2). In fact, northern dusky salamanders were found at 3 of the 4 sites in the Enoree district, and at one site in the Long Cane district (Table 1). Apparently, the range of northern dusky salamanders extends only into the extreme southern portion of the Andrew Pickens district. There were no sampling sites in that area. Throughout the Andrew Pickens district the northern dusky is replaced by three other stream dwelling salamanders: seal salamanders, blackbelly salamanders, and Ocoee salamanders, all of which are abundant at the sampling sites. No eastern kingsnakes (the other indicator species) have been captured thus far.


Table 1. Species captured in 2000 and their abundance by district.

Species Enoree Long Cane Pickens Total
Anolis carolinensis 1 3 0 4
Agkistrodon contortrix 0 0 2 2
Acris crepitans 2 2 2 6
Bufo terrestris 0 2 0 2
Carphophis amoenus 9 19 7 35
Chrysemys picta 1 0 0 1
Cnemidophorus sexlineatus 1 0 0 1
Desmognathus fuscus 10 1 0 11
Desmognathus monticola 0 0 33 33
Desmognathus ocoee 0 0 35 35
Diadophis punctatus 7 5 10 22
Desmognathus quadramaculatus 0 0 27 27
Eurycea cirrigera 0 0 1 1
Eurycea guttolineata 0 5 1 6
Eumeces inexpectatus 1 0 0 1
Eumeces laticeps 0 2 0 2
Elaphe obsoleta 0 1 0 1
Eumeces spp. 2 1 0 3
Nerodia sipedon 2 3 0 5
Notophthalmus viridescens 0 0 1 1
Nerodia sp. 1 0 0 1
Plethodon glutinosus 1 1 32 34
Plethodon jordani 0 0 26 26
Rana clamitans 0 0 1 1
Rana utricularia 3 3 0 6
Rana sp. 0 2 1 3
Scincella lateralis 0 2 0 2
Storeria occipitomaculata 2 1 0 3
Sceloporus undulatus 0 1 0 1
Terrapene carolina 3 7 1 11
TOTAL 46 61 180 287

Table 2. Dusky salamander (Desmognathus fuscus) captures in 2000.

Date District No. of specimens
March 30 Enoree 1
May11 Enoree 2
June 6 Enoree 1
August 11 Enoree 3
September 26 Enoree 1
December 14 Long Cane 1
December 27 Enoree 1
January-December Andrew Pickens 0
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