Thesis Title

Spatial Ecology and Habitat Use of the Western Fox Snake (Elaphe Vulpina Vulpina) on Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge

Date of Graduation

Spring 2004

Degree

Master of Science in Biology

Department

Biology

Committee Chair

Brian Greene

Keywords

spatial ecology, habitat use, snake ecology, Elaphe vulpina vulpina, snake conservation, home range size

Subject Categories

Biology

Abstract

The western fox snake (Elaphe vulpina vulpina) is endangered in the state of MIssouri, occupying only the northern corner of the state. I investigated the spatial ecology and habitat use of this snake on Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge using radio telemetry. A total of 21 snakes were tracked during a portion of the 2003 active season. Snake locations were recorded with GPS units and plotted into a GIS program. At each snake location and 207 random sites for comparison, 29 microhabitat variables were measured. There were no general gender or seasonal gender differences in activity measures. Linear migrations were observed in several male snakes between hibernacula and summer feeding grounds. Females made long migrations (1259 ± 241 SE m) to suspected oviposition sites. Snake home ranges (37.55 ± 8.93 SE ha, 100% MCP) included all tracking points, and snakes traveled at a mean daily speed of 47.39 ± 4.12 SE (m/day). Snakes were commonly associated with lowland rather than upland habitat subunits, with wet prairies and managed wetlands having the highest proportions, respectively. Use of habitat subunits was individually variable and collectively-nonrandom. Wet prairies were used significantly more than expected whereas bottomland forests were generally avoided. Habitat centroids significantly differed between groups (male, female, and random locations) and in subsequent pairwise comparisons. Male and female snakes typically were found in denser-taller vegetation and taller-coverage dead vegetation than random sites. Only 2 of 21 snakes were tracked to known hibernacula due to loss of transmitter signal, or mortality (depredation and human activity).

Copyright

© Justin J. Shew

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