Reserve Naturelle St. Denis Du Payré

Herpetology in France Herpetology in France
Herpetology in France

The Reserve Naturelle St. Denis Du Payré is a protected area of extensive marshland close to my survey area. In 2010 officials from the reserve invited me to attend a special day of filming and education for wardens of National de Forêts (PYGARGUE Productions). The photos show local herpetologist Jean-Pierre Baron being filmed capturing and identifying snakes and discussing the techniques used to capture and study different species with the wardens (below right). Jean-Pierre is conducting a long-term study of snake populations that monitors, among other things, annual changes to snake numbers on the reserve using the mark-release-recapture method.

Herpetology in France

The snakes in the photographs are viperine snakes and here Jean-Pierre illustrates how to identify males by examining for the presence of the male sexual organs by everting the hemipenes. In reptiles hemipenes (= dual sexual organs) are found only in lizards and snakes, a single organ is present in crocodiles, tortoises and turtles.

A standard method in field studies for capturing snakes is by placing flat boards in appropriate locations in the snakes habitat. The photograph shows a board set in an ideal location. To a snake the board appears to offer both opportunities for thermoregulation and a secure hide area from predators. Regular checking is often rewarded with one or two individuals, sometimes of different species. Years ago in Montenegro I once lifted an old carpet at a dump on the outskirts of the town of Budva and found around 15 slow worms (Anguis fragilis), two grass snakes (Natrix natrix), numerous newts and a common toad!

Information centre for Reserve Naturelle St. Denis Du Payré
situated in the centre of St. Denis Du Payré village.

© Roger Meek 2015. All rights reserved