Management for an imperiled reptile on a barrier island: Eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus)

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2020-04-24

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In recent decades, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) has experienced severe population declines, driven by the loss of open-canopied ecosystems across the southeast. Many studies detail the species’ habitat requirements and press the need to manage for those attributes, but few projects have applied that information to local habitat restorations critical to the conservation of the species. On Jekyll Island, GA, development concentrated in the center of the island has prevented snakes from traversing end to end, leading to 2 genetically distinct populations. Using 8 years of telemetry data on 26 C. adamanteus, we analyzed habitat attributes and spatial requirements most utilized by the snakes to design a maritime grassland restoration plan. With the impending retirement of one of Jekyll’s golf courses, we also conducted corridor analyses under 4 scenarios—present state and 3 different golf course restorations—to select a restoration site that best aids in reestablishing gene flow between populations, while also identifying ways to minimize connectivity benefits vs. cost of management tradeoffs. We found that C. adamanteus use of space varies among habitats across the island, where snakes in open-canopied habitats (dune, marsh) have smaller home ranges than forest snakes. Snakes preferred open-canopies (0-25% cover) with dense ground cover (75-100% cover). We also determined that the restoration of a combination of courses best improves end to end snake connectivity potential, but the analysis can be adjusted to accommodate varying project goals.

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Joyner, Kelly, and Hannah Royal (2020). Management for an imperiled reptile on a barrier island: Eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus). Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20480.


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