Response of Massasaugas (Sistrurus catenatus) to habitat alteration from timber harvest and fire near their northern range limit

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name

76th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference

Conference Location

Grand Rapids, Michigan


Landscape modifications are often implemented to improve habitat quality for a variety of imperiled species. However, relatively little is known regarding how rare snakes, including eastern massasaugas Sistrurus catenatus, respond to such manipulations. Between 2002 and 2014 we used radio telemetry to monitor short-term (1-2 years) and >5 years response to experimental clear-cutting in northern Michigan for this species. More recently, a fire in 2010 occurred within habitat historically used by massasaugas during activity periods and for overwintering. Both habitat alterations removed vegetative structure, potentially altering the quality of basking habitat. Use of clear cut habitat by telemetered snakes was lower than would be expected by chance during the first two years. However, use increased over time and included multiple successful parturition events. Additionally, massasaugas continued to use recently burned habitat for overwintering and parturition. Our findings suggest that massasaugas are resilient to landscape changes and may benefit from habitat alterations.


Amphibian-Reptile, Forest, Habitat, Management, Threatened and Endangered Species



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