Status and Distribution of Florida Sand Skinks, Blue-tailed Mole Skinks, and Other At-Risk Species on Conservation Lands in Central Florida
With funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlands is conducting research to update the current status of Federally-threatened Florida sand skinks and blue-tailed mole skinks on conservation lands of the Lake Wales Ridge, Winter Haven Ridge, and Mt. Dora Ridge in central Florida. This project will directly contribute to the recovery of these species by:
- updating the current status and distribution of these species on private and public conservation lands in this region;
- establishing population estimates for skink species to begin monitoring efforts needed to meet de-listing criteria;
- improving our understanding of the genetic structure of these species throughout the region;
- determining detection and occupancy estimates for these species that can be used to predict occupancy elsewhere;
- identifying standardized survey techniques that maximize the detection probabilities of blue-tailed mole skinks;
- defining co-occurrence probabilities for blue-tailed mole skinks when sand skinks are also present at a site, which will improve targeted survey efforts and inferences about presumed effects on this subspecies;
- identifying research sites and collecting data to investigate life history and population ecology parameters (e.g., habitat needs, dispersal distance, etc.) of blue-tailed mole skinks that are important for informing conservation actions.
In addition, this project will indirectly contribute to the recovery of these species by:
- increasing public awareness of Florida sand skinks and blue-tailed mole skinks;
- refine scrub management guidelines to include the specific requirements of sand skinks and blue-tailed mole skinks;
- improve scrub restoration efforts;
- improve habitat monitoring efforts on conservation lands to ensure the needs of these species are being met.
This research effort will also provide information on the presence of the federally-threatened Eastern indigo snake, and four at-risk reptiles that have been petitioned for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (the Florida pine snake, short-tailed snake, southern hog-nosed snake, and Florida scrub lizard), in addition to several U.S.- and State-listed plant species endemic to scrub habitats of central Florida’s ridges. Determining the presence of these species on private conservation lands with dedicated scrub habitat management funding will contribute to meeting the recovery goals established to de-list these plant species and could affect the determination of whether or not to list either of the snake species.