Responses of Grassland Snakes to Tallgrass Prairie Restoration
Author ORCID Identifier
Understanding faunal responses to habitat restoration is important in assessing restoration success. We investigated occupancy and abundance of snakes at Nachusa Grasslands, a large-scale grassland restoration in the midwestern United States. Using artificial cover objects, we sampled within a chronosequence of 12 units converted from row-crop agriculture 2–25 years before the start of our study. Recaptures of marked snakes revealed that movement distances differed among species in accordance with differences in body size, being least in Dekay's Brownsnakes, intermediate in the Plains Gartersnakes and Common Gartersnakes, and greatest in Eastern Foxsnakes. Consistent with this result, occupancy increased with restoration age in Dekay's Brownsnakes but was unrelated to restoration age in the three larger, more mobile species. Similarly, abundance increased with restoration age in Dekay's Brownsnake but was unrelated to restoration age in other species. The Smooth Greensnake, another small-bodied snake with limited mobility, and an Illinois species of greatest conservation need, was not detected at Nachusa Grasslands. Given detection probabilities observed during a parallel study at a nearby large grassland-dominated preserve, we infer that the Smooth Greensnake is truly absent from Nachusa Grasslands. Taken together, our results demonstrate that establishment of faunal components following restoration may be time-dependent with more sedentary species colonizing only slowly (e.g. Dekay's Brownsnakes) or not at all (e.g. Smooth Greensnakes). These results emphasize the need to clearly identify faunal restoration goals and the means to achieve them.
abundance, chronosequence, movement, occupancy, Opheodrys, Pantherophis, Storeria, Thamnophis
King, Richard B. and Vanek, John P., "Responses of Grassland Snakes to Tallgrass Prairie Restoration" (2020). NIU Bibliography. 345.
Department of Biological Sciences