Resource selection by the eastern massasauga rattlesnake on managed land in southwestern Michigan


  • Associate Editor: John Maerz


The eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus) has experienced population declines throughout its range and is now a candidate for federal protection. However, little is known about massasauga habitat selection in Michigan, particularly in actively managed landscapes. Our objectives were to: 1) quantify whether massasaugas in southwestern Michigan select certain vegetation types disproportionately to their availability and 2) quantify whether the vegetation structure associated with snake locations differed between managed (e.g., burning, woody species removal) and unmanaged stands. We implanted radio transmitters in 51 snakes from 2004 to 2005 and 2008 to 2009. We quantified second-order resource selection using compositional analysis, and modeled the effect of habitat management efforts on vegetation using 4 structural variables. All snakes selected cover types disproportionately to their availability (P = 0.001); a ranking matrix ordered the vegetation types, from most to least used, as: early-mid successional deciduous wetland > early-mid successional deciduous upland > developed > late successional mixed lowland forest > late successional deciduous upland forest. We found that snakes in managed areas were associated with greater amounts of dead herbaceous cover (P = 0.005) and less woody stem density (P < 0.001) and tree dominance (P < 0.001) than were snakes in unmanaged areas; however, live herbaceous cover was comparable. Our results can be used by regional managers to provide early and mid successional habitat with structure similar to that selected by snakes in Michigan. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.