David Steen

75 posts · 102,153 views

I am David Steen, Ph.D. I conduct research primarily pertaining to the ecology and conservation biology of reptiles.

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  • July 7, 2015
  • 12:47 PM

I Caught a Fish With a Snake Inside, is it Safe to Eat? Turning Citizen Science into Publications.

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

While filleting a bass I found a dead snake inside, when the fish was caught it was a healthy fighting fish. My question is: Is it safe to eat the fish? Thanks,


    You better believe that this e-mail caught my attention. It reminded me of this letter about whether it was safe to eat a fish that had been bitten by a Cottonmouth. In that case, I probably would not eat the fish. But, I did... Read more »

R. Arbaugh, T. Arbaugh., & D. A. Steen. (2015) Nerodia fasciata (Southern Watersnake). Predation. Herpetological Review. info:/

  • April 23, 2015
  • 08:00 AM

Two Species of Cottonmouths? This Scientist Says Yes!

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife


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... Read more »

Burbrink, F. T., & Guiher, T. J. (2015) Considering gene flow when using coalescent methods to delimit lineages of North American pitvipers of the genus Agkistrodon. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 173(2), 505-526. info:/

  • February 11, 2015
  • 06:38 PM

10 Species Named After Star Wars Characters

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

Pictures courtesy of Lucasfilm and J. Armbruster

    Leaving the movie theater in 1977, with Greedo's death at the hands of Han Solo a fresh memory, a young Jon Armbruster could not have anticipated the role that Jabba the Hutt's go-to bounty hunter would play in his scientific contributions decades later.

    And yet...when he (along with Auburn University researchers Milton Tan, Christopher... Read more »

  • September 18, 2014
  • 08:00 AM

Pythons and the Land - The Bangladesh Python Project Part IV --Guest Post--

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

By Jon Hakim

Make sure to start at Part I.

“Snake call!  It's the python.  Are you up?  We got a call for the python.”

The words were almost the same, but I woke up to see that
Caesar's face held a grimace.  The
call he feared had come. 

Let's back up to the night before.

In the last post I left you in a moment of triumph.  Kanai had led four of us right to our
target species... Read more »

Rahman, Shahriar Caesar, & et al. (2013) Monsoon does matter: annual activity patterns in a snake assemblage from Bangladesh. The Herpetological Journal, 203-208. info:/

  • May 19, 2014
  • 08:00 AM

Turtle Activity: Living the Life in the Sun –-Guest Post–-

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

    Hello, our names are Sara Bresse and Nadeen Masarweh, and we are 5th year biology students at San Diego State University in California. This is our first time writing a blog post, and as a research assignment for our experimental ecology course, we observed turtle activity at our turtle pond on campus. Throughout the course of this semester we have conducted a few ecological class research ... Read more »

  • April 28, 2014
  • 08:00 AM

Changing Night Skies: How an Exotic Disease is Decimating America’s Backyard Bats

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

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  • January 8, 2014
  • 08:00 AM

The Secretive Spotted Skunk

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

Eastern Spotted Skunk

By David Jachowski

    One of the rarest and most secretive mammals in North America might be a skunk. Not your average backyard, dumpster-loving Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) that causes you to hold your breath after passing an overnight road kill on your morning commute. I am talking about the smaller and perplexingly rare Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius).... Read more »

Lesmeister, D.B., & et al. (2012) Landscape ecology of eastern spotted skunk in habitats restored for red-cockaded woodpeckers. Restoration Ecology, 267-275. info:/

  • December 31, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

10 Animals That Went Extinct in 2013

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

Our extinction crisis continues; 2013 allowed us to safely conclude that we will never again see the animals listed below (2012 version here).

One of the last known photos ofa Formosan Clouded Leopard;
taken by Torii Ryūzō.

The Formosan Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura) of Taiwan is now thought to be extinct. None have been seen in over thirty years, despite a recent and ... Read more »

Soto-Azat C, Valenzuela-Sánchez A, Collen B, Rowcliffe JM, Veloso A, & Cunningham AA. (2013) The population decline and extinction of Darwin's frogs. PloS one, 8(6). PMID: 23776705  

  • December 9, 2013
  • 04:00 PM

Kingsnakes Keep Copperheads in Check **Special Blog Carnival Edition - Don't Miss Links at Bottom**

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

 "We just found one of our Kingsnakes doing something really cool." 

    It was 2006 and we had recently started radio-tracking about a dozen Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula) in a big chunk of longleaf pine forest in southwestern Georgia. Kingsnakes were fascinating to me because they were a big, recognizable species for which we knew next to nothing. In fact, this was ... Read more »

  • December 3, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

The Proof is in the Field Notes: Cottonmouths Rarely Bask in Trees --Guest Post--

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

    Some observations come before you realize how important they are. Only later do you slap your forehead and realize that you should have taken more detailed notes, because the likelihood of you seeing such a thing again is slim. This is why I encourage everybody interested in wildlife to take down field notes. 

    When I was in high school, every afternoon when I got home I would take a ... Read more »

  • November 25, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

Plastic for Dinner: Marine Debris and its Effects on Seabirds --Guest Post--

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

Plastic Dinner. Photo by Alex Bond.

    Imagine carrying around several kilos (or
pounds) of plastic in your stomach, unable to rid yourself of it, and gradually
adding pieces day by day.  This is
what many marine animals go through every day.  Millions of pieces of plastic enter the world’s oceans each
day, and once it’s there, it doesn’t go away.  Instead, it breaks into smaller and ... Read more »

  • November 20, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

Indigo Snake Found Last Week in Southwestern Georgia! --Guest Post--

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

    Like many other people these days I finally succumbed to the allure of social media and created a personal Facebook page; the main benefit for me is that it has allowed me to hear from lots of old friends. Another benefit is getting tagged in those, "Hey what is this critter?" posts I'm sure all other biologists probably get. Usually, the critter ends up being some spider in a garage or a ... Read more »

K.M. Enge, D. J. Stevenson, M. J. Elliot, & J. M. Bauder. (2013) The historical and current distribution of the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi). Herpetological Conservation and Biology, 8(2), 288-307. info:/

  • November 18, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

An Unstoppable Anaconda Invasion in Florida? What Slate Got Wrong.

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

Photo By Dave Lonsdale, Wikimedia

    Last week Slate ran a piece in their Wild Things blog
entitled, “Green Anacondas in the Everglades: The Largest Snake in the World has Invaded the United States.” Obviously the sensational headline caught my attention as did the subtitle, which refers to this invasion as "unstoppable." However, after reading the actual article I realized that it was ... Read more »

Dorcas ME, Willson JD, Reed RN, Snow RW, Rochford MR, Miller MA, Meshaka WE Jr, Andreadis PT, Mazzotti FJ, Romagosa CM.... (2012) Severe mammal declines coincide with proliferation of invasive Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(7), 2418-22. PMID: 22308381  

  • November 11, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

Taking Note: I Finally Found the Snake that Feigns Death

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

By Brian Folt

    The skies were blue, the water was beige, and the sun was basically white on a September Monday in Macon County, Alabama. Turkey Vultures soared above and Cricket Frogs skipped below as I made my way down a dried-up dirt road, heading down to the river. I was leading the Auburn University Vertebrate Biodiversity class to catch stream fishes, and I was mighty content.

    ... Read more »

Grinell, J. (1912) An afternoon’s field notes. Condor, 104-107. DOI: 10.2307/1362226  

Steen, D. A. (2010) Snakes in the grass: Secretive natural histories defy both conventional and progressive statistics. Herpetological Conservation and Biology, 183-188. info:/

  • November 4, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

5 Ways How to Tell the Difference Between Cottonmouths (Water Moccasins) and Copperheads

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

Agkistrodon piscivorus, and
Copperheads, Agkistrodon contortrix,
are venomous snakes that are closely related and frequently encountered in the United States.
Because these two species may seem similar at first glance, they are often
confused for one another. I first noticed this trend on Twitter; if you follow me there then you already know that I am ... Read more »

  • October 28, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

In Defense of Beavers --Guest Post--

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

    When I lived in Wisconsin's North Woods, my favorite walk was a path that skirted the shore of one of the area's many kettle lakes. I walked it in all kinds of weather, at all times of year, and saw all sorts of interesting things as a result. One of my favorite memories of that lake is the time I got to observe a beaver hard at work doing beaver things: the sound of bubbling and splashing ... Read more »

  • October 7, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

The Only Good Dog is a Dead Dog: Why it Doesn't Make Sense to Kill Venomous Snakes in your Yard

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

    We have often discussed here on this blog how and why killing snakes whenever and wherever you see one is a questionable land ethic. But, in the past I conceded that I understand why people would kill venomous snakes when they are found in their backyards because of the perceived threat to their families. Prompted by some comments left on a recent blog post, I’ve reflected on this a bit ... Read more »

  • September 23, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

Cougars and Wolves in the East: Where Would They Live? --Guest Post--

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

    In my first post to this blog, I made the ecological case for returning the top predators, wolves and cougars, to the eastern United States. I argued that the eastern ecosystem needed their star actors to make it all work. In ending, I posed several questions that needed to be addressed beyond the ecological necessity of bringing back cougars and wolves. The first of these was: Can wolves ... Read more »

  • August 26, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

Indigo Success

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

By Jim Godwin

    It’s the end of another season of monitoring of the Eastern Indigo Snake reintroduction project in Conecuh National Forest. During the winter months biologists and experienced volunteers have been systematically scouring the sandhills and longleaf forest for indigo snakes, using Gopher Tortoise burrows as cues in their searches. With the close of this round of ... Read more »

  • August 19, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

Two Trips to the Rainforest

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife

By Brian Folt

    Growing up, a summer-time ritual in our family was to visit the zoo. Most of my younger years were spent growing up in the greater Detroit, Michigan area, and the Detroit Zoo was a staple in our summer circuit of activities. While visiting the zoo during the dog days of summer, my favorite exhibit to see, without a doubt, was the Penguin House. These strange little birds had... Read more »

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