The Flint Hills region of Kansas and Oklahoma encompasses the largest, contiguous tallgrass prairie in North America and is an important conservation area for many tallgrass-prairie species. We conducted a radiotelemetry study with the use of temperature-sensitive transmitters to characterize the spatial ecology of two species of snakes within a portion of this contiguous grassland. We monitored Eastern Yellow-Bellied Racers (Coluber constrictor flaviventris) from 2006 to 2008 and Great Plains Rat Snakes (Pantherophis emoryi) from 2007 to 2008 at the Konza Prairie Biological Station in the northern Flint Hills. Although racers (mean = 67.3 ± 10.6 m, n = 12) and rat snakes (mean = 41.3 ± 4.7 m, n = 12) differed in the distance moved per day, they did not differ significantly in home-range size. The minimum convex polygon (MCP) home range averaged 11.45 ha (SE = 3.06, n = 12) for racers and 15.06 ha (SE = 2.48, n = 12) for rat snakes. By analyzing the autocorrelation of locations (Mantel correlograms), we found that racers exhibited irregular movements, whereas rat snakes exhibited long periods of inactivity between directed movements. The body temperatures of racers were significantly greater in woody (30.7 ± 0.4°C) than in grassy habitats (29.8 ± 0.3°C). The body temperatures of rat snakes were significantly greater aboveground (26.9 ± 0.3°C) than underground (26.1 ± 0.2°C). Our study benefits the conservation of native snakes by elucidating space requirements and providing a baseline for comparisons between contiguous and fragmented landscapes.
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Vol. 67 • No. 4