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Tuesday, January 29 • 6:00pm - 9:00pm
(P02) Estimating Occupancy and Detection Probabilities of the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)

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AUTHORS. Arin Thacker, Jennifer Moore – Grand Valley State University

ABSTRACT. Complete knowledge of a species’ distribution and geographic extent are both critical variables in making informed and effective conservation and management decisions. A common source of error in delineating a species’ geographic extent is through false absences (not detecting the species when it is there), which commonly occur in species with low detection probabilities. Occupancy modeling is a technique that predicts the proportion of area a species of interest occupies, while accounting for species and survey-specific detectability, using repeated surveys and presence-absence data. We used this technique to estimate the occupancy and detection probabilities of the federally threatened Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus). Due to low detection, the status of many eastern massasauga populations is uncertain. We surveyed 31 sites, each with a previous record of a massasauga occurrence, across Michigan’s lower peninsula from May-September 2018. At each site we measured several aspects of the vegetation community to estimate occupancy probabilities. We also measured survey-specific environmental variables to estimate detection probabilities. The results of this study will aid in the management of massasaugas, by providing information to improve survey and detection, clarifying the status of unknown populations, and identifying habitat features that are associated with massasauga occupancy. 

Tuesday January 29, 2019 6:00pm - 9:00pm

Attendees (10)