Northern rubber boa
(Photo credit: J. Maughn / Flickr)

Some animals, like polar bears, make headlines because of the threats they face from climate change.

“But there’s so many other animals and plants that are just overlooked or not considered by most of the public, and I think reptiles is one of those groups,” says David Pilliod, an ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Boise, Idaho.

He says that because lizards and snakes are cold-blooded animals, they’re sensitive to temperature changes. His ongoing research suggests that as the climate warms, their geographic ranges will likely shift.

“What we’re finding is that there’s a number of species that are going to be moving northward or moving up in elevation,” he says.

For example, he points to a snake called the northern rubber boa, which lives mostly in the northwestern U.S. As the climate warms, its habitat in the U.S. may shrink. It may be able to move farther into Canada.

“But whether the animal can get there is a whole other thing because of roads and cities and other types of fragmentation or barriers,” Pilliod says.

So he says it’s important to predict where species will survive in the future, so wildlife managers can prepare now and take steps to protect even the scaly, slithery ones.

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Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Species & Ecosystems