Title

Spatial ecology and habitat use of the western foxsnake (Pantherophis vulpinus) on Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge (Missouri)

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2012

Abstract

Knowledge of movements, habitat use, and resource requirements is critical to designing management strategies for species with a conservation status. For snakes, basic research needed to derive this information is often lacking or insufficient. We used radio telemetry to investigate the spatial ecology and habitat use of 21 adult Western Foxsnakes (Pantherophis vulpinus) during a single activity season at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Missouri, near the species' southern range limit. At the landscape level, monitored snakes located their home ranges in lowland areas in association with wet prairies and managed wetlands but avoided agricultural plots and were not observed to occupy upland areas. Snakes were not selective of macrohabitat within their home ranges but selected microhabitats with denser herbaceous vegetation than typically available at random sites, suggesting that snakes were responding mainly to microhabitat features at the home-range level. Unlike many other temperate snake species, P. vulpinus did not exhibit any sexual differences in selection of microhabitats because all snakes appeared to prefer dense vegetative structure. Home-range sizes were relatively large in comparison to many other terrestrial temperate colubrids and seemed to be explained by resource distribution patterns, such as the proximity of hibernacula and oviposition sites to foraging habitat. Movement patterns varied seasonally among sexes with males demonstrating peak movement distances in May and females in July, respectively. Management decisions to minimize habitat manipulations during the snake activity season and protect embankments used for hibernacula and oviposition will likely benefit Foxsnake conservation.

Recommended Citation

Shew, Justin J., Brian D. Greene, and Francis E. Durbian. Spatial ecology and habitat use of the western foxsnake (Pantherophis vulpinus) on Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge (Missouri)." Journal of Herpetology 46, no. 4 (2012): 539-548."

DOI for the article

http://dx.doi.org/10.1670/10-111

Department

Biology

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