The use of space by individual animals strongly influences the spatial extent, abundance, and growth rates of their populations. We analyzed the spatial ecology and habitat selection of Masticophis flagellum (the coachwhip) at three different scales to determine which habitats are most important to this species. Home ranges and mean daily displacements of M. flagellum in Florida were large compared to individuals in other populations of this species. Home ranges contained a greater proportion of Florida scrub habitat than did the study site as a whole, and individuals selected Florida scrub habitat within their home ranges. For both selection of the home range within the study site and selection of habitats within the home range, mesic cutthroat and hydric swamp habitats were avoided. Standardized selection ratios of Florida scrub patches were positively correlated with lizard abundance. Several non-mutually exclusive mechanisms, including foraging success (prey abundance, prey vulnerability, and foraging efficiency), abundance of refugia, and thermoregulatory opportunity may underlie the selection of Florida scrub by M. flagellum. Historic rarity and anthropogenic loss and fragmentation of Florida scrub habitat, coupled with the long-distance movements, large home ranges, and selection of Florida scrub by M. flagellum, indicate that large contiguous tracts of land containing Florida scrub will be essential for the persistence of M. flagellum in central Florida.
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Vol. 65 • No. 3