Not a lot of people can state on their resumes that they’ve been the project manager for the successful construction of more than 70 new homes – all built within just a few months.
Except for TC Energy Environmental Representative Melissa Dettling who worked with the BXP project team to construct log homes and two-layered rock structures for snakes along the right of way of the BXP pipeline, which went into service on Jan. 1, 2021.
Timber rattlesnakes are the largest venomous snake in Ohio and are listed as an endangered species of the state. They also have a low rate of survivability – with only approximately one in 15 newborns surviving into adulthood.
With known habitats in the Wayne National Forest, our environment team collaborated with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service to ensure the snakes have new habitats that can be utilized for various functions.
Prior to and during construction, protection measures included field surveys, avoidance of known snake habitats, establishing “exclusion areas,” and working with state-approved herpetologists – also known as snake wranglers – to provide species awareness training and construction monitoring, among other measures.
After construction, the team began working on building the snakes new habitats as part of the work to restore the land.
“One of the challenges is that Timber rattlesnakes will not typically create new den habitats if one is lost or destroyed, once they establish one, they will not relocate it,” Melissa says. “So, the project team was happy to get the opportunity to create suitable hunting, gestating and basking habitat areas for the snakes. Some of these may also become new dens to juvenile snakes.”
Using local rocks and trees from the project, more than 70 timber and rock structures were created for the snakes spanning 4.2 km (2.6 miles) through the forest.
The project team collaborated closely with the USDA Forest Service and Doug Wynn, the state-approved herpetologist who worked alongside the team throughout the project and has been monitoring the snake dens in the area long before the BXP project began.
“I am incredibly impressed by the habitat enhancements…They will provide shelter from the sun and larger predators,” managing herpetologist says. “The snakes can access or leave them by moving a short distance from an existing cover. The large numbers are also impressive.”
Melissa adds, “Our hope is that the snakes living in the forest can use the habitat, have their young and improve their survivability rate.”
“Every animal has a crucial part in the local ecosystem,” says Melissa. “It’s important to me that we encourage environmental biodiversity on our projects.
Coexisting with rattlesnakes in southern Ohio (tcenergy.com)
Snake wrangling a slithery business
Keystone XL snake monitoring program helps protect biodiversity
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