Movement and activity patterns are fundamental to the basic ecology of any organism and can be influenced by a variety of environmental factors. For snakes, which are notable for being secretive and difficult to study, environmental influences on movement are often obscure. Here, we investigate environmental drivers of terrestrial activity for 23 snake species from a temperate community in the Atlantic Coastal Plain region of South Carolina, USA. Activity was strongly seasonal, with primarily fossorial species showing unimodal activity peaks in summer, whereas several aquatic species showed increased terrestrial movements to and from a wetland in both spring and fall. After controlling for seasonal activity, temperature and precipitation had consistent effects on snake movement, with activity of snakes increasing with temperature and decreasing with precipitation. The influence of moon illumination was more ambiguous but may have a weak, negative effect on snake activity. These environmental factors likely drive snake movements because of physiological constraints and trade-offs between foraging success and predation risk. Our results contribute to general knowledge of snake natural history and ecology and may help improve sampling of these elusive organisms that are increasingly in need of conservation attention.
Skip Nav Destination
Articles| October 04 2017
Too Cold, Too Wet, Too Bright, or Just Right? Environmental Predictors of Snake Movement and Activity
Evan A. Eskew;
Evan A. Eskew
1Graduate Group in Ecology, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616.
2EcoHealth Alliance, 460 West 34th Street–17th Floor, New York, New York 10001; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Send reprint requests to this address.
Search for other works by this author on:
Copeia (2017) 105 (3): 584–591.
Evan A. Eskew, Brian D. Todd; Too Cold, Too Wet, Too Bright, or Just Right? Environmental Predictors of Snake Movement and Activity. Copeia 1 September 2017; 105 (3): 584–591. doi: https://doi.org/10.1643/CH-16-513
Download citation file:
Citing articles via
Temperature and Development Drive Variation in Oral Morphology among Tailed Frog (Ascaphus spp.) Populations
A. S. Cicchino, C. M. Martinez, W. C. Funk, B. R. Forester
A New Genus and Two New Species of Tetras (Characiformes: Characidae), with a Redescription and Generic Reassignment of Axelrodia lindeae Géry
André L. H. Esguícero, Marina B. Mendonça
Demographics, Reproductive Characteristics, and Genetic Connectivity of Blue Suckers (Cycleptus elongatus) in a Large Tributary
Dakota S. Radford, Anthony P. Porreca, Cassi J. Moody-Carpenter, Kathryn A. Muller, Devon B. Keeney, Robert E. Colombo
Genomic Data Do Not Support the Species Status of the San Luis Valley Short-Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma diminutum)
Julianna Hoza, Hayden R. Davis, Adam D. Leaché