Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kurt Boker and Snakes of the Lake Erie Islands

Among the numerous historical notebooks from the Kurt Boker Collection of the Sandusky Library’s Archives Research Center, is a collection of documents related to Snakes and Snake Stories of Kelleys Island and Surrounding Areas. The articles are from the Firelands Pioneer, Sandusky Register, and several other periodicals. As article from the May 17, 1911 issue of the Sandusky Weekly Register, by E. L. Moseley, urges area residents not to kill the fox snake, which were helpful to farmers by eating rodents.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers the Lake Erie water snake to be a threatened species. The non-venomous eastern fox snake is found in the northern most portion of Ohio, as well as on the Lake Erie islands. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, rattlesnakes were once prevalent on Rattlesnake Island. The last sighting of the poisonous timber rattlesnake was in 1961. Pictured below is Mr. Boker and a rattlesnake he found on Put in Bay in 1961.

In May of 1961, Mr. Boker was hoping to transport three snakes from Ohio to the Philadelphia Zoological Garden. Roger Conant replied to Kurt Boker, with instructions on how to ship live snakes via train or air, along with instructions for shipping pickled specimens.

Mr. Boker successfully managed to ship three snakes to the Philadelphia Zoo. All were of record size: an eastern garden snake with a length of 48 ¾ inches, an eastern hognose snake which was 45 ¼ inches long, and an eastern fox snake with a total length of 78 1/8 inches. Roger Conant wrote about the three snakes in the December 31, 1965 issue of the Journal of the Ohio Herpetological Society. Mr. Conant felt that the most interesting of the three snakes was the eastern fox snake. He wrote that besides being of great size, it was eyeless, and many of its scales were fused together. During its time at the Philadelphia Zoological Garden, the eastern fox snake ate freshly killed white mice that the zookeepers placed near its head.

Visit the Archives Research Center to view the Kurt Boker Collection which contains a wealth of historical and genealogical information about the families and businesses of Kelleys Island.

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