Low cost method for surveying Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

Adult female Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus). The rattle was painted with nail polish to 
aid with individual identification. Photo credit Danielle Bradke.

Monitoring populations of rare and endangered species is a priority for management and conservation. However, rare and endangered species have low detection probabilities. Low detection rates may be the result of small populations at low densities, misidentification, cryptic behavior, inefficiency of survey method and difficult survey conditions such as dense vegetation or weather. In a recent paper, Bartman et al. (2016)explored the effectiveness of using artificial cover objects (AOCs) and funnel traps to supplement visual survey methods for the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) at a site in southwestern Michigan. They found the funnel traps (2.64 snakes/h) were about six times more efficient than visual surveys (0.41 snakes/h) for capturing both sexes combined, and approximately 28 times more efficient for capturing males. Wooden coverboards (1.11 snakes/h) were approximately 3.5 times more efficient than visual surveys (0.32 snakes/h) for capturing females. The authors recommend the use of these trapping techniques, in addition to visual surveys, as efficient methods for capturing and monitoring Eastern Massasaugas.

Bartman JF, Kudla N, Bradke DR, Otieno S, Moore JA. 2016. Work Smarter, Not Harder: Comparison of Visual and Trap Survey Methods for the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus). Herpetological Conservation and Biology 11:451-8.

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