Leave or Die: Dispersal of Red-Bellied Mudsnakes (Farancia abacura) from their Home Ranges in an Isolated Wetland

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Dispersal, Home range, Precipitation, Predation, Snake movement, Wetland


We radiotracked eight, free-living, Red-Bellied Mudsnakes (Farancia abacura) from April to October 2019 in a bottomland hardwood forest wetland in Central Arkansas. Four snakes emerged in April from their overwintering sites in an earthen dam of a 1.2 ha pond and confined all of their movements to the pond basin. All four snakes were lost to predators during the course of the year. Four other snakes emerged from overwintering and dispersed up to 1580 m from the pond. One dispersing snake was lost to a predator when it returned to the pond. Dispersing snakes followed ephemeral streams upstream and downstream, ditches, and flooded bottomlands. The dispersal movements occurred in an extraordinarily wet period that began in August 2018 and continued through August 2019. These results contrasted sharply with the radiotracking results of eight, free-living, F. abacura at the same locality in 2018, each of which maintained a home range in the pond and experienced no predation. Included in the eight 2018 snakes were three of the dispersing snakes radiotracked in 2019. Possible year-to-year variation in movement patterns driven by environmental variability and predator pressure should be considered in designing management plans for at-risk wetland species.

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