History of the Herpetology of Southern Sumner County, Kansas (Caldwell area)

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Below you will find a copy of the information that was given to everyone that participated in the 30th ANNUAL HERPETOLOGICAL SURVEY OF SOUTHERN SUMNER COUNTY, KANSAS. Click on this text to go to the main web page for the event.


The 30th Annual Herpetological Survey of Southern Sumner County, KS

11-13 May 2006 “A Brief Summary of the History of the Research”

You are attending the 30th annual herpetological survey of the amphibians, reptiles, and turtles found in the southern part of Sumner County, Kansas. The first formally organized event of this type was planned by the late Gene Trott of Hunnewell, Martin B. Capron of Oxford, and Larry L. Miller of Caldwell and held during late March of 1977. It was officially named the Chikaskia River Wildlife Study and continued as an annual event for the next ten years with Miller, Trott, and Carpon continuing as the main organizers. Much of the research during the Chikaskia River Wildlife Studies took place on the Freeman Dillard property located north of Drury along the banks of the Chikaskia. However, each year since 1977 some type of research has been conducted on one or more tracts of land south of Caldwell in Sumner County. It has often been conducted on the land being researched today. This land is now owned by Nina and Carson Ward of Caldwell.

The first somewhat documented records of serious herpetological research in the area appear to date to the 1950’s when a young Caldwell biology teacher, George Toland, conducted a number of field trips to the area south of Caldwell. Toland and his students collected a number of specimens. Apparently some of these specimens made their way to Toland’s next teaching job in Salina where he taught biology for more than 30 years. At some point in time during the 1970’s at least a few of the specimens collected by Toland and his students found their way to Emporia State University where they were cataloged by James L. Knight, a former student of Toland’s at Salina High School. Other specimens may still be in the possession of the Toland family.

Students at Caldwell Elementary School became involved with the documentation of new herpetological records about a year after the first edition of AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES IN KANSAS by Joseph T. Collins was published in 1974. The first of dozens of new records was brought to Larry L. Miller, Caldwell Elementary School 5th and 6th grade science teacher, during the fall of 1975. It was an adult Speckled Kingsnake (Common Kingsnake) that had been killed at the west edge of Caldwell by one of the Caldwell 5th grade student’s domestic cats. The student, Debra Walta, is pictured holding the preserved specimen on page #23 of the 1976 edition of the Caldwell (USD# 360) School Yearbook.

Historic information as well as a number of images from past herpetological field trips and surveys of the southern Sumner County area and information in regard to a number of other scientific and historic happenings in and around Caldwell can be found on the Internet. Access http://www.KsHeritage.com and follow links related to herpetology, Caldwell, the Chikaskia River, and the Ornate Box Turtle. Links to information about some of the more recent field trips to the Caldwell area can be found at http://www.nhjhbiology.com.

Images and information in regard to this survey will be posted at one or both of the above websites sometime before the end of May 2006.

The students and science staff members from Northern Hills Junior High School (USD# 345) located north of Topeka in Shawnee County, Kansas wish to thank everyone from the Caldwell area that participated in the 2006 survey. They also wish to thank the landowners that have granted access to their property and the City of Caldwell for its hospitality.

Cindy Cummings, 7th grade general science teacher, NORTHERN HILLS JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL

Ed Cowen, 8th grade physical and Earth science teacher, NORTHERN HILLS JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL

Larry L. Miller, freshman biology teacher, NORTHERN HILLS JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL