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Monday, January 25 • 3:20pm - 3:40pm
Eastern Massasauga Population Modelling and Assessment in Michigan

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AUTHORS: Yu Man Lee*, Michigan Natural Features Inventory/Michigan State University Extension; Helen Enander, Natural Features Inventory/Michigan State University Extension

ABSTRACT: Michigan is considered to be the last stronghold for the eastern massasauga Sistrurus catenatus, with more historical and extant populations than any other state or province in the species’ range. The eastern massasauga is currently designated a species of special concern in Michigan and a priority Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in Michigan’s Wildlife Action Plan. Although Michigan still has a fairly large number of extant massasauga populations throughout the state, the species has declined and continues to face multiple threats. Given limited resources, the species’ extensive distribution in the state, its continued decline, and proposed federal listing, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) is interested in identifying priority populations to focus management and conservation efforts for the species in Michigan. The purpose of this project was to assist the MDNR by identifying and delineating extant massasauga populations in the state, and assessing the condition and potential viability of these populations. Eastern massasauga populations were delineated based on a population model using known occurrences of this species in Michigan’s Natural Heritage Database (NHD) and a cost-weighted distance analysis. Land cover cells around known massasauga sites were assigned a weighted cost based on habitat suitability for massasaugas, and a maximum allowable distance a massasauga could move based on the species’ ecology and the weighted cost. This analysis was used to model the potential extent of massasauga populations, and delineate discrete populations in the state. We assessed the condition of each delineated population and ranked their potential viability or likelihood of persistence based on five general criteria, which included number and frequency of recent observations, evidence of reproduction/recruitment, habitat quantity, landscape context, and threats facing the population. We utilized available information in Michigan’s NHD, land cover data, aerial imagery, and expert opinion to assess and rank viability of delineated populations.

Monday January 25, 2016 3:20pm - 3:40pm EST