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Keywords:

  • eastern massasauga;
  • Great Lakes;
  • radiotelemetry;
  • rattlesnake;
  • Sistrurus catenatus catenatus;
  • survival rate

Abstract

Decisions affecting wildlife management and conservation policy of imperiled species are often aided by population models. Reliable population models require accurate estimates of vital rates and an understanding of how vital rates vary geographically. The eastern massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus) is a rattlesnake species found in the Great Lakes region of North America. Populations of the eastern massasauga are fragmented and only a few areas harbor multiple, sizable populations. Eastern massasauga research has typically focused on single populations or local metapopulations but results suggest that demographic parameters vary geographically. We used 21 radiotelemetry datasets comprising 499 telemetered snakes from 16 distinct locations throughout the range of the eastern massasauga to characterize geographic patterns of adult survival using the known-fate model in Program MARK. Annual adult survival ranged from 0.35 to 0.95 (mean = 0.67) and increased along a southwest to northeast geographic axis. Further analysis of 6 datasets indicated no consistent difference in survival between males and females. Our results provide a better understanding of the relationship between survivorship and geography for the eastern massasauga and suggest that such variation should be incorporated into population models as well as local and regional management plans. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.