Spatial ecology and habitat selection of eastern hognose snakes

Scott W. Buchanan, Brad C. Timm, Robert P. Cook, Richard Couse, Lisa C. Hazard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

The eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos) is a species of conservation concern, especially in the northeastern portion of its range. They remain relatively common at Cape Cod National Seashore, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, USA, where we studied their spatial ecology and habitat selection. We radio-tracked 17 adult snakes (10 F, 7 M) from May 2009 to November 2011, yielding 765 relocations. We conducted a use-availability analysis to investigate patterns of microhabitat selection using a subset of snake locations. We conducted a compositional analysis of habitat selection at multiple spatial scales within home ranges using a high-resolution (1-m pixel size) vegetation cover map of the study area. Snakes moved frequently and had large home ranges x = 35.4 ha) relative to other snake species of similar body size but exhibited variation in home range size among individuals (1–209 ha). Movements peaked at different times of year for each sex, and were most different between sexes in fall. In gravid females, movement was significantly greater in the 2-week post-oviposition period versus the 2-week pre-oviposition period. Estimates of home range and average daily movements x = 30.1 m/day) were lower than estimates from other studies of eastern hognose snakes, possibly because of a greater density of resources at our study area. Probability of snake habitat use increased with grass and leaf litter and decreased with open soil. Compositional analysis revealed a strong avoidance of open dune areas. A comparison of edge density between use and random locations within home ranges revealed an apparent preference for edge habitat. We recommend that resource managers should limit recreational disturbance to and maintain the patchy mosaic of early successional vegetation with abundant edge to ensure the persistence of appropriate habitat for the species. We identified the timing of peak seasonal movements and recommend that this information be used to help prevent road mortality for this important population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-520
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Volume81
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2017

Keywords

  • Massachusetts
  • conservation
  • habitat selection
  • herpetology
  • heterodon platirhinos
  • hognose snake
  • remote sensing
  • spatial ecology

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