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Effects of grassland management on snake species diversity and habitat use, home range & movements of western fox snakes

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Title: Effects of grassland management on snake species diversity and habitat use, home range & movements of western fox snakes
Author(s): Griesbaum, John
Advisor(s): Phillips, Chris A.
Department / Program: Natural Res & Env Sci
Discipline: Natural Res & Env Sciences
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: M.S.
Genre: Thesis
Subject(s): fox snake spatial ecology species diversity grassland management
Abstract: Prairies have become a globally endangered resource. In Illinois, the pervasiveness of agriculture has resulted in an almost complete loss of natural prairie. Wildlife associated with prairie and grassland has concomitantly declined or become critically imperiled. In Illinois 12 snake species are associated with grassland habitat and, of these, three are of conservation concern. To prevent continued declines of grassland snakes, conservation efforts must realize how management techniques may affect grassland snake diversity and understand habitat associations of snakes occurring in and around grassland habitat. Little is known about the impact of prairie management techniques on ecology of grassland snakes. I studied community diversity in and around Allerton Park in east central Illinois on study sites managed with different techniques (e.g. burning, grazing, mechanical brush and woody vegetation removal, and herbicide application). Using drift fence arrays and funnel traps, in 2008, I captured 186 individuals representing seven species. Snake species diversity was highly correlated (r=0.74) to the depth of the vegetation litter layer. Maintenance of a deep layer of vegetation may enhance the diversity of snakes in grasslands in the Midwest. The natural history of western fox snakes (Elaphe v. vulpina) is largely unknown. I radio-tracked nine adult western fox snakes (six male, three female) for one year to determine their home range sizes, core ranges, habitat use, and movements in and around Allerton Park, Piatt County, Illinois. This area included forest, grassland, agriculture fields, and roads. The active season for snakes extended from approximately mid-April to late-October. Males and females had similar activity levels throughout the active season. Average home ranges of males were larger than those of females. Average core ranges for males and females were similar in size. Although males had larger home ranges, females moved farther between locations and had greater total distances moved and maximum distances moved. Collectively, western fox snakes avoided agricultural fields and used grassland and forest habitat more than expected based on availability. Roads were included in all snakes’ available habitat but only one road crossing was detected, suggesting that roads may be barriers to movement.
Issue Date: 2012-05-22
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/30904
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 John Griesbaum
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-05-22
Date Deposited: 2012-05
 

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