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Annual Eagle Lake Summer Nature Programs Begin June 15th

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

Dr. David Miler at Eagle Lake. photo by Carli Dinsmore

Eagle Lake Nature Programs kicks off the 2018 Summer season this Friday, June 15th with “Snakes at the Lake” as the topic for the first program at the Amphitheater adjacent to Merrill Campground.

Carli Dinsmore, the presenter for Friday’s program, is a graduate student working with Dr. David Miller from Penn State University.

“Most people are familiar with garter snakes,” says Dinsmore. “The common, rather non-descript reptiles which are frequently found in our gardens or in the high grass around buildings, parking lots or pretty much anywhere they can find a safe place to hunt for a meal, bask in the sunshine and avoid becoming dinner themselves.”

“The muscled and limbless body, scaly armor and flickering forked tongue of the snake have fascinated people for centuries. Whether captivated by their unusual morphology and curious behavior or repulsed by the enigmatic and mystifying nature of these commonplace yet alien animals, snakes captivate our attention and engender strong emotions, whether fascination or hatred.”

“It is this very strangeness that fosters and feeds our curiosity,” explains Dinsmore. “Why do these animals live where they live and look the way that they look? As scientists, we have the tools to go a step further in our questioning of nature, because by understanding what we observe, we can then begin to discovery why and how these things are so.”

“Human emotions aside, snakes play an integral role in the environments in which they function. Both predator and prey, snakes have amassed the necessary tools to thrive in many different environments and provide important clues about the health of the ecosystem.”

Research of the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake has been happening at Eagle Lake and the temporary mountain meadow lakes that are formed from winter precipitation and spring run-off.

Why have many universities and research organizations study garter snakes at Eagle Lake since the 1970s?

“Over the course of many years, researchers have learned a lot, and this information is valuable. Eagle Lake and the surrounding forest have experienced big changes in precipitation and temperature over the past thirty years, and likewise have the snakes experienced fluctuating patterns in the climate and food they rely on. Over time, populations may blink out, meaning they become locally extinct, while others may move to habitats that have become more suitable.”

“The behavior, choice of prey and even physical appearance of populations of snakes can change over time, as some individuals out-compete others for resources and leave more offspring behind to carry on their genes into future generations. There have been literally hundreds of students, volunteers and researchers who have helped collect data on the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake populations around Eagle Lake over the many years they have been studied here. The welcoming expanse of Eagle Lake and ponderosa and lodge-pole pine forests with their scrubby juniper understory provide rich habitat for wildlife viewing opportunities.”

Dinsmore enjoys her visits to beautiful Eagle Lake, “When we’re not catching snakes, we may look up to catch a glimpse of a Bald Eagle or osprey fishing for Eagle Lake trout, or perhaps spot an alligator lizard basking in the sun. The Lassen National Forest is a very beautiful and unique place to visit.”

The program begins at 7:30p.m. at the Amphitheater adjacent to Merrill Campground on County Road A1. Everyone is welcome to attend.


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