Spatial ecology of Sistrurus catenatus catenatus and Heterodon platirhinos in a rock-barren landscape

Rouse, Jeremy David
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University of Guelph

The Eastern Massasauga ('Sistrurus catenatus catentatus') and Eastern Hog-nosed Snake ('Heterodon platirhinos') are sympatric in the Georgian Bay area. However, 'S. catenatus' and ' H. platirhinos' differ in natural history characteristics such as foraging and reproductive mode. I hypothesised that the variability in natural history characteristics between 'S. catenatus' and ' H. platirhinos' would cause them to use space differently than each other. To evaluate space use, I radiotracked 34 'S. catenatus ' and 13 'H. platirhinos' from 2000 to 2004 at a single study site in a rock-barren landscape of the southern Canadian Shield. Concordant with predictions, 'H. platirhinos' traveled farther, moved more frequently, and with greater tortuousity than 'S. catenatus'. Evaluation of habitat use suggested that 'H. platirhinos' and ' S. catenatus' used habitats differently at different scales. ' Sistrurus catenatus' used wetland habitats more than 'H. platirhinos ', which used grass and sand habitats more. The demonstrated differences in the space use by 'S. catenatus' and 'H. platirhinos ' suggest that developments such as roads will impact each species differently. Developing mitigation strategies that address these interspecific differences will be necessary for conservation efforts to succeed.

sistrurus catenatus catenatus, Heterodon platirhinos, rock-barren landscape, spatial ecology, Georgian Bay