Proximity to Hibernacula and Road Type Influence Potential Road Mortality of Snakes in Southwestern Saskatchewan

Ashley N. Fortney, Ray G. Poulin, Jessica A. Martino, Dennilyn L. Parker, Christopher M. Somers

Abstract


The behaviour of snakes makes them vulnerable to road mortality, which may have conservation implications for some species. We examined factors affecting road mortality of snakes around Grasslands National Park of Canada (GNP), Saskatchewan, an area inhabited by a unique snake community within Canada, including the threatened Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer (Coluber constrictor flaviventris). Systematic surveys (n = 45) of roads in the Grasslands National Park area in 2009 yielded 36 dead and 18 live snakes. Multivariate modelling revealed that proximity to hibernacula was positively correlated with presence of snakes on roads. Paved roads had disproportionately higher numbers of snake mortalities, suggesting that traffic patterns are a bigger risk factor than road use per se. Some radio-tracked Eastern Yellow-bellied Racers (2 of 17; 12%) and Bullsnakes (Pituophis catenifer sayi) (4 of 5; 80%) captured at emergence from hibernacula had road areas in their home ranges. These individuals equipped with radio-transmitters used roads and immediately adjacent areas significantly more than expected, based on their availability, suggesting possible selection for roads. Strategies to reduce road mortality of snakes should focus on key stretches of roads, such as those near winter hibernacula or riparian zones. The placement of paved roads in sensitive areas like those in and around Grasslands National Park should be carefully considered to minimize snake mortality.

Keywords


Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer; Coluber constrictor flaviventris; Bullsnake; Pituophis catenifer sayi; Grasslands National Park of Canada; snake; road; mortality; habitat; Saskatchewan

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22621/cfn.v126i3.1360



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