ANF volunteer ‘Snake Guys’ honored

Each year, the Eastern Region of the US Forest Service recognizes excellence in volunteerism through its Volunteer Awards Program. The Allegheny National Forest (ANF) is proud to announce the award of one of these prestigious awards to two of its volunteers. Earlier this week, Bob Zumstein and Cory Turben, also known as “the Snake Guys” by ANF staff, were presented with the Eastern Region 2013 Volunteer Award in the Group Category for their work on the Forest.

Bob and Cory have been volunteer members of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PAFBC) Den Site Survey Team since 2004 and through their work, have put in countless hours assisting ANF personnel with rattlesnake conservation. Over the course of the past five years, in cooperation with the PAFBC and the ANF, they have checked all historic timber rattlesnake den sites in Warren, Elk, Forest and McKean counties and were instrumental in confirming and documenting three new den sites on the Bradford Ranger District. They have also helped capture, transport, and release radio tagged snakes on the Forest and instructed personnel how to track the tagged snakes using radio telemetry gear. Bob and Cory stay current on all required state and federal training, and have in turn shared their knowledge and skills with ANF employees through conducting presentations on timber rattlesnake safety and awareness at Forest safety meetings. In addition, Forest biologists use the snake habitat survey results gathered by them during project assessments. Their expertise was particularly valuable in 2013 during the government furlough, which occurred at a critical time for monitoring timber rattlesnake den sites.

According to Forest Ecologist Collin Koers, “the accomplishments of all of our volunteers on the ANF is vital to the work we do, so having the work Bob and Cory do for us recognized by the agency is an honor and helps us acknowledge the importance of not just their work but that of all of our volunteers.”

In 2013 alone, the pair contributed more than 230 hours of volunteer time during the timber rattlesnake monitoring season (roughly May through October), totaling nearly 1,000 volunteer hours in the past five years. Bob retired from his full-time job in early 2013 and Cory combines his volunteer work with running his own small trucking company and his part-time work as a Wildlife Conservation Officer. When asked why they choose to work in reptile conservation, they agreed that reptiles are important as biological indicators of the ecosystem, in medical research, and for reasons that may not be evident yet. Cory also noted US Armed Forces studies on the sensory abilities in rattlesnakes with regard to improving our national defense technology. The interest in rattlesnakes is something Bob learned from his grandfather and Cory enjoys sharing his knowledge with his children.

For any additional information, contact Forest Ecologist Collin Koers at 728-6142 or ckoers@fs.fed.us .