David Steen

72 posts · 76,918 views

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

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  • September 18, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 156 views

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
  • 342 views

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
  • 372 views

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

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife



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18 pt
18 pt
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/... Read more »

  • January 8, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 451 views

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
  • 729 views

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
  • 563 views

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
  • 393 views

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
  • 704 views

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
  • 524 views

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
  • 821 views

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
  • 529 views

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
  • 749 views

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

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife





     Cottonmouths,
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
  • 618 views

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
  • 798 views

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
  • 684 views

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
  • 645 views

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
  • 571 views

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 »

  • August 12, 2013
  • 08:00 AM
  • 634 views

Cottonmouths in the Ocean: Fact or Fiction?

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife





           We know that some reptiles love the water. Alligators,
turtles, snakes, the swamps are crawling with them. But what about the ocean?
Are there any reptiles that use saltwater habitats?



            Of course. Sea turtles are well-known for spending their lives in the ocean (aside
from their brief trips to the beach to lay eggs). Not technically a sea turtle
... Read more »

Rasmussen AR, Murphy JC, Ompi M, Gibbons JW, & Uetz P. (2011) Marine reptiles. PloS one, 6(11). PMID: 22087300  

  • July 24, 2013
  • 08:00 AM
  • 538 views

Married to a Hellbender

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife



By David Jachowski

    Who would marry a Hellbender? The name itself sounds unreputable at best, like a biker gang turned rock band. The reality is perhaps worse, an oversized soft and slimy salamander, with a nickname of “old lasagna sides.” But to be married to a Hellbender, or better yet one of the world’s leading experts on Hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), means you spend lots ... Read more »

Jachowski, C. M. Bodinof, & Hopkins, W. A. (2013) Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis (Eastern Hellbender). Aggregate Behavior. Herpetological Review, 44(2), 292. info:/

  • July 22, 2013
  • 08:00 AM
  • 1,046 views

Readers Write In: Are Water Moccasins and Cottonmouths Different Species?

by David Steen in Living Alongside Wildlife



I have recently heard from two independent sources that a cottonmouth and a water moccasin are "in fact" two different snakes. Both stated that coloration, body size/shape, habitat, and swimming behavior were the differentiating traits. I was taken aback by both accounts, never before hearing this in any of my herpetology classes or seeing this for myself in the field. Afterwards, my first ... Read more »

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