What is a drift fence?

One way to determine the species of amphibians and reptiles that occur in an area is to use a drift fence.  Our fences are constructed from stiff vinyl held up by pieces of rebar.  The Y-shaped design has a bucket in the center, buried flush with the ground, and two wire minnow traps on either side of the ends of the fences—see the photograph.  We have 17 of these drift fence arrays at our study site in southeastern Oklahoma.  As animals move through an area, they encounter the fence and follow it to the right or left, ending up either in the center bucket or a trap at the other end.  Drift fences must be checked every day so that animals do not spend very long in the traps. We will periodically let you know what we are finding in our traps.

We have already started some long-term studies on snakes. We use “pit-tags” to identify individual snakes so that we can follow their movements and keep records on growth. Pit-tags (passive integrated transponders) injected under the skin of snakes work like price codes on things that you purchase. We simply read each snake’s “code” with a scanner every time that we capture it. Pit-tags don’t bother the snakes at all.

A drift fence used to capture amphibians and reptiles

A drift fence used to capture amphibians and reptiles. Wooden squares are used to shade the traps from the sun, and large sponges provide moisture and protection for animals in the bucket.

One Response to “What is a drift fence?”

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