1 September 2015 Contrasting Patterns of Migration and Habitat Use in Neighboring Rattlesnake Populations
Lita Gomez, Karl W. Larsen, Patrick. T. Gregory
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Contrasting movements and habitat use may occur among snakes, and these differences may reflect important local responses to habitat variation and/or signify that broad, unimodal approaches to species conservation are too coarse. Fine-scale differences in these behaviors (e.g., between neighboring conspecifics) may be underappreciated because studies either focus exclusively on one (sub)population, and/or the animals are not compared across relevant ecological boundaries. We report on a striking dichotomy of seasonal migration behavior between Rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus) using two neighboring den sites. The snakes at one site undertook long-distance (2.9 ± 0.57 km [mean ± SD], highly directional migratory behavior that was consistent across years and individuals. These movements carried them out of the habitat normally associated with these animals in this region (grassland steppe) and into higher elevation forests, a habitat not previously reported for these animals. Conversely, snakes at another den only 21 km away were nonmigratory (0.97 ± 0.54 km) and remained in grassland habitat throughout the year. Landscape and other environmental factors may have been responsible for the difference in the behavior of these two denning groups, suggesting that our knowledge of what dictates the migratory behavior of animals such as snakes is far from complete. Stereotyping the habitat use and behavior of any snake population is potentially misleading, and more thorough exploration is needed on how these animals alter their local movement patterns in response to changes in landscapes and habitat configurations, including potential climate change effects.

Copyright 2015 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Lita Gomez, Karl W. Larsen, and Patrick. T. Gregory "Contrasting Patterns of Migration and Habitat Use in Neighboring Rattlesnake Populations," Journal of Herpetology 49(3), 371-376, (1 September 2015). https://doi.org/10.1670/13-138
Accepted: 1 August 2014; Published: 1 September 2015
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