Herpetological Conservation and Biology
Malcolm L. McCallum
The use of captive animals for population re-establishment or augmentation can be an important part of conservation efforts, but practitioners need experimentally derived evidence to guide the best strategies and inform whether such practices could be successful. Here, we examined how several manipulations to captive-rearing practices influence the performance of the Common Watersnake, Nerodia sipedon sipedon, during their first year in the wild. Following release, snakes that had experienced a period of enrichment during captivity to better simulate natural environments did not differ from conspecifics reared in more simplistic conditions on any measure of post-release behavior or performance. Moreover, captive snakes in both treatments exhibited habitat use, movement, thermoregulatory, and seasonal activity behaviors largely indistinguishable from resident conspecifics at the release site, and ultimately performed similarly in maintenance of body condition and survivorship. These results are in contrast to earlier releases and suggest that using older and larger individuals that have undergone a period of simulated winter dormancy may improve success during the early phase of establishment. However, captive snakes grew only one third as fast as wild native snakes, suggesting they experienced difficulties foraging in the wild. Further studies testing the effectiveness of translocation programs using captive animals as a management tool are urgently needed, but our findings do point to some success.
Captive breeding, Common Watersnake, Enrichment, Head-starting, Nerodia sipedon, Repatriation, Restoration, Translocation
J H. Roe, Michael R. Frank, and Bruce A. Kingsbury Ph.D. (2015).
Experimental evaluation of captive-rearing practices to improve success of snake reintroductions. Herpetological Conservation and Biology.10 (2), 711-722. Malcolm L. McCallum.