Image Courtesy of Samantha Kennett
In 2019, a citizen science project was launched studying eastern kingsnakes in Metro Atlanta called The Urban Kings Project. Since then, hundreds of community members have participated by reporting sightings of their neighborhood kingsnakes. This year be the fourth and final year of data collection for the project. Here is everything you need to know about Urban Kings and how you can get involved!
What is The Urban Kings Project?
The Urban Kings Project is a citizen science research project based in Metro Atlanta trying to learn more about how eastern kingsnakes are impacted by increasing urbanization. Kingsnakes are commonly found in urban and suburban areas and seemed to have adapted to city life. This project aims to understand how these snakes are surviving in urban spaces and how urbanization overall can impact wildlife. Urban Kings is a collaborative project based out of Clemson University working in partnership with the Chattahoochee Nature Center, Kennesaw State University, and Georgia DNR.
Where is The Urban Kings Project located?
For this final year of the project, Urban Kings is focused on reports from Cobb, Fulton, South Cherokee, and Paulding counties.
What do I do if I see a kingsnake?
If you see a kingsnake in the counties above, please call Urban Kings while you see the snake if possible. The Urban Kings team will try to come out and respond to collect additional information on each snake. You can reach us by calling (404)-556-1863 or (678)-315-2020.
When you see a kingsnake, please take a photo and send it to Urban Kings with the date and exact location of the sighting. This information is not shared and is used in a private kingsnake population database. Please send your photo to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
What does it mean to “collect data” on the snakes?
The data Urban Kings collects on each snake is a general health assessment, length and weight, and a genetic sample in the form of a small scale clip. For humans, this is the equivalent of clipping a fingernail. Each snake is swabbed and tested for Snake Fungal Disease, which is a disease that is impacting snakes globally. Snake Fungal Disease is not contagious to people or other animals but can be passed from snake to snake. When possible, the Urban Kings team will also collect fecal samples from the snake, which can tell us a lot about what the snake has been eating! After responding to a snake call, data collection is done in a controlled and clean setting (like CNC’s Wildlife Clinic) rather than in the field to minimize stress for the snake. This means that the snake is typically taken for a day or two and then returned to the exact location they were found.
Are snakes harmed, killed, removed, or relocated?
Never! No snakes are harmed, killed, removed, or relocated in any aspect of the project.
What if I find a deceased kingsnake (hit by a car, cat/dog caught, human interaction, etc.)?
Please call Urban Kings! Even deceased there is still a lot to learn from these snakes. To name a few, we can see if they were healthy, what they were eating, if it was male or female, and test it for diseases. Deceased specimens are taken to the Georgia Museum of Natural History in Athens, Ga where people can learn from them for years to come.
What do I do if I find an injured kingsnake?
If you find an injured kingsnake, safely place the snake in a container and take the snake to the CNC Wildlife Clinic. In addition to calling Urban Kings, call the clinic to let them know you are coming. The number for the CNC Wildlife Clinic is (770) 992-2055 x239.
If I’m visiting the Chattahoochee Nature Center, what do I do if I see a kingsnake on the grounds?
The Urban Kings team has been fortunate over the last few years and has collected data on numerous kingsnakes on CNC’s property. If you see a kingsnake on the grounds at CNC, take a photo of the snake, make note of its exact location (dropping a point on a map is helpful), and send this information with the date you saw it over to Urban Kings.
How can I help?
1. Report kingsnakes! Please call when you see kingsnakes to report and email photo sightings to the project.
2. Spread the word! Please share information about the project with your community. If you have a neighborhood Facebook page or something similar, sharing the project flyer there is a great help.
Why is this project important? How will this information be used?
Rapid development increases the overlap between humans and wildlife, often leading to unnecessary conflict. This pattern is increasingly evident in cities across the world, especially those such as Atlanta which have an enormous metropolitan buffer. With your help, we plan to combine information about Kingsnake health and movement to begin building a type of risk map for informing current and future development plans. Our hope is to provide evidence for the requirements of small species of wildlife living in urban areas which can be merged into future development goals. Kingsnakes are our target species, but this information can be applied to many other small species of wildlife living in cities across the southeastern US. Additionally, we hope to strengthen community awareness surrounding the needs of common backyard wildlife by educating people all across the metro Atlanta region, and by encouraging community members to engage in research-based solutions to development-driven issues.
For questions or additional information, please feel free to reach out to Bryan Hudson or Samantha Kennett, or check out the project’s facebook page: facebook.com/UrbanKingsProject.