A bark-shaving technique to deter rat snakes from climbing red-cockaded woodpecker cavity trees
We developed a bark-shaving technique to deter rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta) from climbing red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) trees as an aesthetically pleasing, more cost-effective, and safer alternative to other snake excluder devices. We used a drawknife to carefully shave the bark around the circumference of 4 treatment trees in a l-m-wide band to eliminate any furrows or rough surfaces, without cutting into the cambium. Four control trees were not altered. We tested our method from April 1997 to August 1997 and found that shaved trees were nearly 100% effective in preventing rat snakes from climbing (n=40 climbing attempts), whereas control trees were successfully climbed (n=20 climbing attempts) on each attempt. One shaved barrier was crossed by one snake 14 weeks after the barrier was initially created. The bark had roughened from tree growth. After we reshaved the barrier, the snake was unable to cross the barrier again. Despite loss of effectiveness over time, the shaved barriers can provide red-cockaded woodpeckers a head-start in developing their own defenses against rat snake predation in a manner that is more natural in appearance than other snake-excluder devices.