Black Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi): Spatial Ecology and Associations between Habitat Use and Prey Dynamics

Danna L. Baxley, University of Southern Mississippi
Carl P. Qualls, University of Southern Mississippi

Abstract

As remaining longleaf pine forests become increasingly fragmented, wildlife management becomes a daunting task, especially for rare and relatively unstudied taxa such as the Black Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi). Appropriate management for P. in. lodingi depends on our understanding of the ecology of this subspecies; consequently, there were two main objectives of this study: to address questions of spatial ecology for P. in. lodingi on a rangewide scale; and to employ small mammal trapping within home ranges of telemetered snakes to investigate the relationship between prey density and spatial ecology. Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi exhibited large home ranges (MCP, Minimum Convex Polygon home ranges, were 92-396 ha), frequently crossed roads, and average (nonzero) movement distance for these snakes was 338 m per location event. Core home ranges of telemetered P. tit. lodingi were characterized by significantly greater abundances of hispid cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus) and significantly higher total small mammal biomass. By better defining the relationship between spatial ecology and prey dynamics for P. in. lodingi, land managers will be better equipped to manage and conserve remaining populations of this longleaf pine specialist.