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Monday, January 28 • 2:20pm - 2:40pm
(SYMPOSIA-02) An Experimental Assessment of Habitat Restoration Efforts for Eastern Massasaugas in Pennsylvania

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AUTHORS: Howard K. Reinert, The College of New Jersey; Lauretta M. Bushar, Arcadia University; B. Scott Fiegel, Ecological Associates, LLC; Brandon M. Ruhe, Mid-Atlantic Center for Herpetology and Conservation; Christopher A. Urban, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission

ABSTRACT: Sistrurus catenatus in Pennsylvania has experienced a massive reduction in its distribution over the past 100 years, and it is now limited to four isolated populations. One of the greatest threats to these remaining populations is the succession of open, wetland and meadow habitat (previously maintained by cattle grazing and hay production) to forest. This study took an experimental approach to determine the efficacy of forest removal to re-establish suitable habitat. The study site selected had served as the site of the first telemetric field study of massasaugas in Pennsylvania from 1976-78. At that time the area supported a large population of snakes, and 28 ha of occupied habitat. By 2012, maturation of conifer plantation plantings and encroaching deciduous hardwood forest had reduced the area of open habitat to 2.5 ha. During the winter of 2012, 10 ha of forest was convert to open habitat by a combination of commercial logging, mulching of woody debris, and seeding with native grasses and forbs. Radio tracking of snakes began one year prior to habitat restoration (Spring 2012) and continued for three years after initial restoration activities (to Fall 2015). A total of 24 male, non-gravid female, and gravid female massasaugas were monitored. Prior to restoration activity (2012) and immediately following forest removal (2013) snakes did not utilize the newly altered habitat. In 2014, 9 out of the 15 monitored snakes used the restoration area, and 36.5% of all observations were in the restored habitat. In 2015, all 6 monitored snakes used the restoration area, and 52.5% of all observation were in the restored habitat. Successful foraging, mating, gestation, and overwintering were observed in restored habitat indicating that the restoration successfully re-created suitable habitat. The observations further indicate that massasaugas had the ability to rapidly locate and utilize newly created habitat.

Monday January 28, 2019 2:20pm - 2:40pm
HOPE BALLROOM B

Attendees (18)