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Title: Movement patterns and habitat selection by native and repatriated Louisiana pine snakes (Pituophis ruthveni): implications for conservation

Author: Himes, John G.; Hardy, Laurence M.; Rudolph, D. Craig; Burgdorf, Shirley J.;

Date: 2006

Source: Herpetological Natural History. 9(2): 103-116

Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication

Description: The Louisiana pine snake, Pituophis ruthveni, is an uncommon and poorly known snake that currently lacks federal protection. To learn more about the natural history of P. ruthveni, ten adults and one juvenile were studied by radiotelemetry during 1995-97 in north-central Louisiana. In addition, one adult and seven juvenile captive-bred individuals of P. ruthveni were released on the study site and studied by radiotelemetry during 1996-97. All snakes were usually present in mammal burrows year-round and were most frequently observed above-ground during late morning and mid-afternoon and during spring and fall. Native snakes moved longer distances and occupied larger home ranges than did repatriated snakes. Native snakes preferred the interiors of pine forests and pine plantations and repatriated snakes preferred the edges of pine plantations. Native and repatriated snakes frequented areas with an abundance of pocket gopher (Geomys breviceps) mounds, few trees, and an open canopy. Pituophis mthveni depends on pocket gophers directly (as a source of food) and indirectly (by using pocket gopher burrows for shelter). Therefore, habitat selection by snakes appears to be largely determined by the distribution of pocket gophers. Based on short term survival rates, the results of this study indicate that repatriation may be used to restock natural populations of P. ruthveni. However, the long-term survival of P. ruthveni will ultimately depend on the maintenance of an understory of herbaceous vegetation that supports pocket gophers (as a food source) and, in turn, pine snakes.

Keywords: Pituophis ruthveni, movement patterns, habitat selection, conservation, telemetry, repatriation

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Himes, John G.; Hardy, Laurence M.; Rudolph, D. Craig; Burgdorf, Shirley J. 2006. Movement patterns and habitat selection by native and repatriated Louisiana pine snakes (Pituophis ruthveni): implications for conservation. Herpetological Natural History. 9(2): 103-116.

 


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