Movements and habitat use of an endangered snake, Hoplocephalus bungaroides (Elapidae): implications for conservation

Benjamin M. Croak, Mathew S. Crowther, Jonathan K. Webb, Richard Shine

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A detailed understanding of how extensively animals move through the landscape, and the habitat features upon which they rely, can identify conservation priorities and thus inform management planning. For many endangered species, information on habitat use either is sparse, or is based upon studies from a small part of the species' range. The broad-headed snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides) is restricted to a specialized habitat (sandstone outcrops and nearby forests) within a small geographic range in south-eastern Australia. Previous research on this endangered taxon was done at a single site in the extreme south of the species' geographic range. We captured and radio-tracked 9 adult broad-headed snakes at sites in the northern part of the species' distribution, to evaluate the generality of results from prior studies, and to identify critical habitat components for this northern population. Snakes spent most of winter beneath sun-warmed rocks then shifted to tree hollows in summer. Thermal regimes within retreat-sites support the hypothesis that this shift is thermally driven. Intervals between successive displacements were longer than in the southern snakes but dispersal distances per move and home ranges were similar. Our snakes showed non-random preferences both in terms of macrohabitat (e.g., avoidance of some vegetation types) and microhabitat (e.g., frequent use of hollow-bearing trees). Despite many consistencies, the ecology of this species differs enough between southern and northern extremes of its range that managers need to incorporate information on local features to most effectively conserve this threatened reptile.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere61711
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes

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