PAUL RUTHLING: SNAKE CONSERVATION IN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Robert Jan "Roy" van de Hoek, President
Los Angeles, California 90293
İMarch 17, 2013
Robert "Roy" van de Hoek
Paul Ruthling (1897-1972) was a very special natural historian of Los Angeles, California. At 17 years old, he wrote his first article on the snakes of Los Angeles in the journal called COPEIA which was for members of a Society that were interested in Herpetology and Ichthyology. Paul also wrote articles in a journal called LORQUINIA for members of the Lorquin Natural History Club (LNHC), which later changed the name to the Lorquin Entomological Society (LES). Paul also served as the fourth president of the LEC (aka LNHC) from 1916-1917, when he wrote about conservation of snakes in COPEIA and LORQUINIA. Featured here is his first article on conservation in COPEIA in 1916.
SNAKE CONSERVATION IN CALIFORNIA by
PAUL D. R. RUTHLING Los Angeles, California November 24, 1916
The Lorquin Natural History Club of Los Angeles, Calif., is at present devoting some time and money to calling attention of Californians to the use of some of the harmless snakes and the reasons why they should not be killed. In the vicinity of the city signs are being posted at mountain resorts, small cities and along roads. These signs read as follows:
DO NOT KILL HARMLESS SNAKES.
They are useful in destroying disease-bearing rodents.
The only snake in California that can harm you is the Rattlesnake. Lorquin Natural History Club,
The club is not a snake club, for only about two out of its twenty Active Members are deeply interested in herpetology.
Among the most useful of the California snakes is the Pacific Bull Snake (or Gopher Snake), Pituophis catenifer, which is common on the Pacific Coast. Its food consists chiefly of rodent pests, such as gophers, mice, ground-squirrels and small rabbits. Although he prefers these animals for food, the Pacific Bull Snake has a rather accomodating appetite, which must under the force of necessity adapt itself to circumstances and include in his ophiological menu, birds, and occasional rat, bats, and sometimes a lizard or two. Sometimes an egg (or several) is commandeered, but I have never known of a Pacific Bull Snake's having eaten any egg as large as a chicken's.
One sixty-four inch Pacific Bull Snake that was brought to me was handled too much. A slight touch of mal de mer resulted in his vomiting four full-grown gophers, none of which was more than slightly digested. On another occasion more than a dozen mice had the misfortune to run foul of a mosue trap I had set for living mice. These same mice had the additional misfortune all to find their way into the stomach of a good-sized hungry Pacific Bull Snake.
Taking it all in all, the good done by the Pacific Bull Snake has already earned him the protection of many ranchers and far outweighs any harmful depredations his lack of discretion may at times mislead him to make.
Robert "Roy" van de Hoek
In this excellent article we find out that Paul Ruthling cares deeply about snakes, so much so that he actively preached conservation of snakes to residents of Los Angeles. In fact, this amazing effort of conservation took place about 100 years ago! The hope is that Los Angeles residents will realize that past residents of Los Angeles have been fascinated and curious about the natural history of snakes, as well as concerned about plight of snakes in the future for more than a century. So let all of us now appreciate and protect snakes such as the Gopher Snake and Kingsnake which are found in the upland grasslands at the baseball fields of the Ballona Wetlands State Ecological Reserve. This unique geographic area of Los Angeles: " AGeography of Hope" is very special with so much potential for nature study by our youth and adults. "Saving the Snakes in Los Angeles" and "Bringing Back the Snakes of Los Angeles" are thoughtful considerations to live by in Los Angeles in thte 21st Century!