Spatial ecology of the northern pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus) in the Pinelands of New Jersey and implications for management
Spatial data describing rare and threatened species spatial habitat use is imperative for successful conservation planning. The northern pine snake, Pituophis melanoleucus, is a widely distributed species throughout the eastern United States. Previous spatial ecology studies have been conducted on this species in Tennessee (Gerald et al. 2006) and related sub-species (Pituophis melanoleucues lodingi, Baxley and Qualls 2009, and Pituophis melanoleucus mugtis Miller et al. 2012). We examined the spatial ecology of P. melanoleucusin New Jersey at the Warren Grove Gunnery Range, Burlington County. The New Jersey population is in decline as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation. These impacts reduce patch size in the periphery of the Pinelands National Reserve, yet large contiguous habitat patches still exist within the core of the Reserve. In order to help inform conservation planning for this species, we radio-tracked 28 different individuals (19 male and 9 female) from 2010 to 2011. Snakes were captured during spring egress and monitored every 48 hours until fall ingress.
We calculated minimum convex polygon (MCP), 50% and 95% kernel density estimator (KDE), home range length and maximum distance from hibernacula. The mean MCP was 110.9 ha +/- 11.9 ha, core activity range (50% of kernel density) of 38.9 ha +/- 6.1 ha, activity range (95% of kernel density) of 168.9 ha +/- 21.6 ha and home range length of 1513 m +/- 118.7 m. The mean MCP home range differed from previous studies of other populations and subspecies of Pituophis melanoleucus of 59.2 ha +/- 50.8 ha (Miller et al. 2012), 79.0 +/- 56.1 ha (Gerald et al. 2006) and 207.8 +/- 112.9 ha (Baxley and Qualls 2009). These data suggest that the current 500 m buffer from hibernacula is inadequate. These data will be used to determine how major roadways affect the distribution of P. melanoleucus throughout the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.