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Tuesday, January 26 • 11:00am - 11:20am
Manipulation of Basking Sites For Endangered Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes in New York State

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AUTHORS: Brent Johnson*, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry; James Gibbs, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry; Thomas Bell, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

ABSTRACT: Generating open-canopy basking sites via manipulation of vegetative cover has been proposed as a conservation strategy for snakes and other reptiles. We assessed how endangered eastern massasauga rattlesnakes Sistrurus catenatus responded to two types of manipulations at a wetland site in New York, USA: (1) small-scale cutting of shrub cover within known gestation areas, and (2) large-scale clearing of tree and shrub cover within an adjacent forest. We found strong evidence for increased use of treatment plots by massasaugas within known gestation areas, but we detected no increase in massasauga activity within the adjacent forest clearing. The effectiveness of vegetation cutting appeared to decline after 3 years due to vegetation re-growth. This study suggests that cutting shrubs to ≤0.25-m height can benefit this and other populations of endangered snakes facing limited basking site availability due to vegetative succession.

Tuesday January 26, 2016 11:00am - 11:20am EST