Plywood and Carpeting: Crime Scene Clues in Nature

April 05, 2016 Posted by: Zach Behrens
Plywood boards strewn in a field of grass in Decker Canyon of the Santa Monica Mountains. (Photo: National Park Service)

These simple plywood boards, strewn in a field, look like trash. And they definitely are on the surface. Illegal dumping is something we unfortunately have to deal with in the Santa Monica Mountains. But there's more going on here.

Last month, law enforcement rangers organized a staff cleanup at Decker Canyon, one of the open space properties in the western half of the range managed by the National Park Service. We picked up 60 boards and two pieces of carpeting in an area of about one square mile. Trash in one spot off the side of the road screams illegal dumping. This? It screams something else: snake poaching (and sometimes other reptiles and amphibians).

Rangers carefully lift a plywood board during a clean-up. (Photo: National Park Service)

Plywood and carpeting are attractive shade structures for snakes. They're like baiting a bear with honey. Plop them down on the ground and check them on a hot day and there's a good chance you'll find snakes.

Whether endangered or not, plants and animals on national parkland in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area are protected resources. There is no hunting or animal collecting allowed. Our public lands are not farms for animals to be shipped off and sold in pet shops.

Plywood boards, carpeting, and other trash piled in a truck after the clean-up. (Photo: National Park Service)

Although no arrests were made in the Decker Canyon case, evidence during the investigation assisted a related case elsewhere. 

If you ever see something like this, please let us know! And for your safety and investigative purposes, do not disturb the site or try to clean it up yourself! Contact our dispatch at 661-723-3620.

poaching, snakes, reptiles, amphibians

2 Comments Comments icon

  1. Dean
    December 29, 2018 at 01:56

    Your intentions are irrelevant. Keep your trash in your own back yard, not on our trails

  2. June 26, 2016 at 11:55

    Many official research study sites have the same type of cover laid out, as it is often the only way to regularly locate many reptiles. My family enjoys seeing snakes and we place boards and tin out to make locating them easier. There are certain snakes that we can find under the same boards year after year, and it's a great feeling to repeatedly find these "friends". I do agree that some have more sinister intentions, but the vast majority of people who do this these days are simply increasing their chances of a good photograph, and it provides many opportunities to raise awareness and provide teaching moments to those who would otherwise kill snakes. A beautiful picture of a misunderstood snake is often all it takes to open a sliver of interest in the most prejudiced of minds. Please don't demonize reptile enthusiasts due to a lack of understanding

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Last updated: April 8, 2016

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