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9 April 2019 Can a common snake provide conservation insights?
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The small-eyed snake (Cryptophis nigrescens) is a common non-threatened species in eastern Australia. It coexists with the threatened broad-headed snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides), a species adversely affected by habitat disturbance and subject to poaching. The small-eyed snake is a habitat generalist and not subject to poaching. It may prey on other snakes, including the broad-headed snake, and, like the broad-headed snake, may shelter under thermally favourable loose rocks during the cooler months of the year. This may lead to interactions between these species due to the limited availability of such rocks, and possibly exacerbate other threats to the broad-headed snake, such as poaching and the loss of thermally favourable rocks. I conducted repeat surveys for snakes at 64 rock outcrops in Royal National Park over a 16-year period. I predicted that site use by the small-eyed snake would not be influenced by a disturbance variable previously documented to influence site use by the broad-headed snake. Observations were consistent with this prediction, confirming the unique vulnerability of the broad-headed snake. I used my long-term data to analyse the co-occurrence of the two species. The broad-headed snake was detected as frequently at sites with and without the small-eyed snake, suggesting that these species occupy outcrops independently of each other. Therefore, interactions with the small-eyed snake will not reduce the effectiveness of habitat restoration for the broad-headed snake in Royal National Park.

© CSIRO 2018
Ross L. Goldingay "Can a common snake provide conservation insights?," Australian Journal of Zoology 66(4), 279-285, (9 April 2019).
Received: 22 October 2018; Accepted: 19 March 2019; Published: 9 April 2019

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