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By Diana Chaburka, Invasive Species Survey and Monitoring Technician

In July of the 2022 field season, WNY PRISM Survey and Monitoring Technicians focused on surveying ​for Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) at Rattlesnake Hill Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Rattlesnake Hill WMA is 5,100 acres and located between Livingston and Allegany Counties in Dalton, NY. It is owned by New York State and under the management of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). This location was named after the threatened species, timber ​rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus).

Last season, a patch of Japanese stiltgrass was found by the DEC late in the season along the main skid trail. Japanese stiltgrass threatens ecosystems by outcompeting native species, altering soil pH and nutrient cycling, and may contribute to suppression of tree regeneration. As part of the WNY PRISM Crew Assistance Program, a survey for Japanese stiltgrass was conducted ahead of management efforts. WNY PRISM Survey Technicians, with help from the DEC, proceeded to survey, map, and flag the locations where Japanese stiltgrass was found within the 1,216-acre searched area this summer. The area was treated with herbicide by the DEC at the end of the survey, to work towards eradication of this species at Rattlesnake Hill WMA. Flagging will be left in place to guide future management efforts.

Two people standing in front of a sign

Invasive Species Survey and Monitoring Technicians, Diana and Jason, after a day of flagging to assist management


A person eating raspberries

Diana, Invasive Species Survey and Monitoring Technician, snacking on wild raspberries

On the first day of surveying the DEC joined WNY PRISM staff during Japanese stiltgrass efforts. It was nice to talk with the DEC about management and restoration plans for Rattlesnake Hill WMA and learn about other projects in the area. The Japanese stiltgrass populations were found in scattered areas, mainly along the skid trail. The area where we found Japanese stiltgrass was surrounded by tall grass and plants with little shade. The infestation was dense in some areas but mostly sparse and scattered away from the dense patch, and sometimes just two or three singular plants were found at certain locations. This shows that survey work takes a keen eye to ensure all plants are spotted in an area! We also found many wild raspberries and blackberries, which we snacked on along the way.


A garter snake on the forest floor

A large garter snake

On the last two days of the survey, we did not find any additional Japanese stiltgrass, which was great news. We did, however, hear a large animal in the brush, most likely a black bear native to the region, who eats the berries as well. Although not a timber rattlesnake, we did come across a large garter snake.


By the end of our survey efforts, we surveyed 11.81 miles in total at Rattlesnake Hill WMA. It is important to prevent the spread of these invasive species by cleaning footwear before and after hiking, picking or brushing seeds off clothing, cleaning mud and seeds from pets (especially their paws and hooves), and cleaning bikes or ATVs off with water or compressed air. Management efforts will continue at Rattlesnake Hill WMA to maintain valuable native ecosystems, plants, and biodiversity.

A group of people standing in front of a sign

Terrestrial Program Manager, Brittany, and Survey and Monitoring Technicians Diana and Jason, taking a selfie while surveying