Spatial ecology of arboreal snakes (Hoplocephalus stephensii, Elapidae) in an eastern Australian forest

M. Fitzgerald, R. Shine*, F. Lemckert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Stephens' Banded Snakes (Hoplocephalus stephensii Krefft 1869) are large (to 1 m), highly arboreal elapid snakes, restricted to mesic forested areas along the eastern coast of Australia. Radiotelemetric monitoring of 16 individuals at Whian Whian State Forest in north-eastern New South Wales over 25 months provided the first data on spatial ecology of this threatened taxon. Two major influences on movements by Stephens' Banded Snakes were identified: the distribution of large hollow-bearing trees, and the avoidance of conspecifics. Radiotracked snakes were sedentary inside tree hollows for extended periods (mean = 8 days) during their active season, interrupted by occasional long (mean = 124 m) nocturnal movements to another shelter tree. Snakes travelled on the ground rather than within the canopy, and thus were potentially exposed to terrestrial predators. Although the home ranges of the radiotracked snakes overlapped substantially (mean = 27%), simultaneous occupancy of 'shared' shelter trees was less common than expected by chance. Hence, we conclude that adult Stephens' Banded Snakes generally avoid the presence of conspecifics. Snakes used from five to 30 shelter trees and home ranges of male snakes were larger than those of females (mean = 20.2 vs 5.4 ha). The large spatial scale of these movements, and limited overlap among individuals, means that a viable population of this taxon requires a large area of contiguous forest. This requirement may explain why the species has not persisted in small forest fragments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-545
Number of pages9
JournalAustral Ecology
Volume27
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Elapidae
  • Forest fragmentation
  • Home range
  • Radiotelemetry
  • Social interaction

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