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Responses of timber rattlesnakes to fire: Lessons from two prescribed burnsAuthor(s): Steven J. Beaupre; Lara E. Douglas
Source: In: Dey, Daniel C.; Stambaugh, Michael C.; Clark, Stacy L.; Schweitzer, Callie J., eds. Proceedings of the 4th fire in eastern oak forests conference; 2011 May 17-19; Springfield, MO. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-102. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 192-204.
Publication Series: Proceedings - Paper (PR-P)
Station: Northern Research Station
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DescriptionTimber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) are excellent model organisms for understanding the effects of large scale habitat manipulations because of their low-energy lifestyle, rapid response to changes in resource environment, uniform diet (small mammals), and simple behaviors. We present two case studies that illustrate interactions between timber rattlesnakes and fire in a single large population. Case 1 describes the decimation and subsequent 11 year recovery of a timber rattlesnake subpopulation associated with a fire during a particularly vulnerable time of year. In Case 2, four control plots, three cut (thinned) plots, three burned plots, and three plots that were both cut and burned were studied. Our primary goals were to monitor responses of the food chain to the above four treatments and to assess timber rattlesnake responses as potential indicators for the relative success of manipulations. Although plant communities did not initially differ among treatment plots, manipulated sites experienced increases in early-successional annual vegetation after thinning and burning. Biannual live-trapping sessions indicated an increase in abundance of principal prey species after manipulations, although this increase was not uniform among treatments. Timber rattlesnakes that utilized manipulated sites exhibited enhanced growth and body condition relative to snakes that foraged solely in control areas. Snake physiological responses were more rapid and well-defined than measurable small mammal population responses suggesting that these top predators may potentially serve a role as indicator species for restoration ecology. Our case studies illustrate both direct and indirect effects, as well as dramatically divergent outcomes resulting from minor changes in the timing of fire application.
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CitationBeaupre, Steven J.; Douglas, Lara E. 2012. Responses of timber rattlesnakes to fire: Lessons from two prescribed burns. In: Dey, Daniel C.; Stambaugh, Michael C.; Clark, Stacy L.; Schweitzer, Callie J., eds. Proceedings of the 4th fire in eastern oak forests conference; 2011 May 17-19; Springfield, MO. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-102. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 192-204.
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