Would you like to try a “Telemetry Tour”?

There is some exciting research happening at Murphys Point, thanks to funding received by the Friends of Murphys Point Park.

In 2013, the Friends received a two-year Species at Risk Stewardship Fund Project grant related to Gray Ratsnake stewardship and population monitoring. The first year of the funding was devoted to analysing existing research and assessing long-term management of the population.

“Based on that analysis, we were able to proceed with field work to collect additional data in order to continue our protection efforts for the Gray ratsnake,” explained Tobi Kiesewalter, senior park naturalist at Murphys Point. “Our main goal is to determine if there are additional hibernacula, or overwintering sites, for the snakes in certain areas of the park so that we can protect that habitat.”

The Gray ratsnake is listed as threatened species. In the 1990s, several snakes were implanted with radio transmitters in order to track their movements and determine where they hibernate in the park. When that program ended, monitoring efforts continued with a capture-and-release program. A tiny microchip was inserted into captured snakes so that upon recapture they could be measured, weighed and their health assessed to collect data pertaining to the population at Murphys Point.

This year the funding allows for the hiring of technicians to track the snakes in order to locate new hibernacula. Brock Ogilvie is filling the position this summer. He started in late April by monitoring and recording the gray ratsnakes that emerged from known hibernacula.

“From April 19 to May 25 I, along with some other park staff, visited two different sites for an hour or two to conduct a grid search in order to find the snakes as they emerged,” he explained. “Upon capture we assessed whether the snake already had a pit tag. If it had a tag, it was measured, weighed, recorded and released. Those without tags were implanted and added to the database.”

The next part of the project has been to collect up to six gray ratsnakes that are large enough to be implanted with a small radio transmitter so that their movements can be tracked throughout the summer until they return to their hibernacula. So far, three large snakes have been implanted with the radio transmitters.

“This surgery is completed by trained veterinarians from the Smiths Falls Veterinary Clinic,” explained Mr. Kiesewalter. “The clinic must follow very strict protocols as part of the program.”

Upon recovery the snakes are then released back into the park. Each transmitter has its own frequency, with pulses emitted at a rate that corresponds with the snake’s body temperature. “This pulse can be detected by the radio antenna I carry,” Mr. Ogilvie says. “Distance and direction can be determined by how loud the pulse is.”

Tracking occurs daily and the actions and status of the snakes are recorded by Mr. Ogilvie. “This constant monitoring allows us to identify critical habitat for the Gray ratsnake, including egg-laying sites, preferred locations for basking and shedding skin, as well as the hibernacula. We are also learning about typical days in the life of a gray ratsnake while contributing valuable information to our database.”

The tracking will end once the snakes enter their hibernacula. In the spring, researchers will return to the sites to find the snakes and surgically remove the transmitters.

“We are really pleased to be able to complete this research in order to add to our database and further protection efforts for Gray ratsnakes,” said Stephanie Gray, Friends president. “We are also taking the opportunity to use the funds to enhance education about this snake. We have a beautiful new display in the visitor centre at the park and we are taking advantage of social media to update people on the tracking efforts.”

Brock is posting regular updates on Twitter – you can follow the feed by clicking on the @grayratsnake Twitter feed to the right. You can also find links to articles (click our Gray Ratsnake page) and regular updates on Facebook by liking “Friends of Murphys Point Park” or “Ontario Parks – Murphys Point” – again, the icons are on the right!

“We also plan to offer special opportunities for people to accompany Brock as he tracks the snakes,” Ms. Gray adds. “These telemetry tours will be advertised online and in the park. They are geared to adults due to the type of rugged terrain that may be encountered and we are asking for donations to the Friends for the sessions. Tax receipts can be issued. We can accommodate individuals or groups of up to about three people per session.”

Throughout the summer there will also be occasional demonstrations, prop talks and evening programs about Gray ratsnakes at the park. The program schedule is posted each week on the Friends’ website.

For more information or to sign up for a telemetry tour, contact the park at 613-267-5060 ext. 234 or e-mail friendsofmurphyspointpark@yahoo.ca.

Brock Ogilivie, our Gray Ratsnake Technician, with the radio telemetry equipment.

Brock Ogilivie, our Gray Ratsnake Technician, with the radio telemetry equipment.

Posted in flora and fauna, Friends of Murphys Point, Gray Ratsnake, Murphys Point, Murphys Point Provincial Park, radio telemetry, Tay Valley Township, telemetry, telemetry tour, Uncategorized, visitors centre, wildlife tracking

Long Weekend Activities at Murphys Point!

Heritage Mica Days is excited to bring to you three fabulous events at the park this weekend! 

First, come out on Sunday, Aug. 3 from 10 a.m. to noon to our Silver Queen Mine Open House Tour where you can explore the mine at your own pace and participate in our Junior Mica Miner program. Over 150 young miners have been certified, will you be next? Later that evening join us for the David Archibald concert at the amphitheatre starting at 8 p.m. David has played at numerous national and provincial parks across Ontario and we are thrilled to welcome him back to Murphys Point! He has written for and performed on Sesame Street in New York and CBC’s Mr. Dressup.          

On Monday, Aug. 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. we will be celebrating the long weekend at the beach with a big BBQ featuring local food and a variety of activities to suit all tastes and ages. You can participate in the sandcastle contest (with prizes for each group), check out our story-reading tent, challenge yourself at the heritage games, and get your face painted. As a special treat, Temple’s Sugar Bush will be on hand with maple taffy on snow ($2). You can’t beat that for an August long weekend!

Don’t forget to check out the park’s regular natural heritage education programming, too! Just click on the owl at the right.

Visitors will need either a camping permit or a daily vehicle permit for the park, which allows you to enjoy all of the park’s facilities for the day! That means you can cool off at the beach or grab an ice cream cone at the store while you’re here. Hope to see you soon!

Bob and Jeff at the BBQ

Posted in Friends of Murphys Point, Heritage Mica Days, Heritage Mica Festival, Mica Festival, mica mine, Murphys Point, Murphys Point events, Murphys Point Provincial Park, Seven Wonders of Lanark County, Silver Queen Mine, Tay Valley Township

Lots to do at Murphys July 18-20

It looks as if it’s going to be a scorcher this weekend, so head over to Murphys Point and frolic! Here are some of the great activities on offer:

On Saturday, the park’s Natural Heritage Education staff have two programs, starting with a kids’ program at the amphitheatre at 11 a.m. “The Salamander Room” is about a boy who wanted to bring a salamander home to live with him, but the task was harder than he thought! Based on a children’s book, come join a cast of characters for a story, some songs and a lot of fun! The program will last about 45 minutes.

Return to the amphitheatre at 8 p.m. for an evening program on Butterflies. Butterflies are a familiar sight in the park in summer. In fact, to not notice them you would have to be living in a cocoon! Join Tim for a glimpse into the lives of some of the park’s most colourful and interesting insects, the butterflies. This slide talk will last about 45 minutes.

On Sunday, Heritage Mica Days, a program of the Friends, is excited to present our Heritage Display Day from 10 a.m. to noon. Various heritage displays and trades will be set up along the trail to the Silver Queen Mine for your enjoyment during our Open House tour of the mine. Interact with our weaver and our blacksmith, visit the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario’s display, and try and guess the artifacts at our “What Is It?” table. Make sure you go to the bunkhouse and enjoy the wonderful tunes from Ken Ramsden. Ken is a Canadian heritage fiddler, singer, and guitar player who entertains families with humorous songs and stories. Of course you can also take a tour underground into the Silver Queen Mine and take part in the Junior Mica Miner program. Over 100 young miners have already been certified as Junior Mica Miners this summer. Will you be next?

The events are free, but visitors need either a camping permit or a daily vehicle permit for the park, which allows you to enjoy all of the park’s facilities for the day! That means you can cool off at the beach or grab an ice cream cone at the store while you’re here. Hope to see you soon!

Be sure to check our Events page for a full list of activities, as well as a link to the Park’s weekly program schedule.

Weaver at Work

 

Posted in Friends of Murphys Point, Heritage Mica Days, Heritage Mica Festival, Mica Festival, mica mine, Murphys Point, Murphys Point events, Murphys Point Provincial Park, Seven Wonders of Lanark County, Silver Queen Mine, Tay Valley Township, Weekly Activities | Tagged , , , , , , , ,