Ecology of juvenile Northern watersnakes (Nerodia sipedon) inhabiting low-order streams

Kristen Cecala, Steven Price, Michael Dorcas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The juvenile stage for many reptiles is considered "the lost years" because of low capture probabilities, however understanding factors impacting juvenile survivorship and recruitment is critical for conservation of populations. We studied the ecology of juvenile Northern watersnakes, Nerodia sipedon, by intensively sampling a first-order stream and determined the occupancy of juveniles in 30 low-order streams in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Juveniles were relatively abundant within a single stream (n = 62 ± 9), and their capture probabilities were positively related to increasing stream-water temperatures. We also found that juveniles had high survivorship (ϕ = 0.87 ± 0.017). Occupancy of juvenile N. sipedon in low-order, Piedmont streams may be greater at streams that have confluences with high order streams or lakes, which potentially support adult N. sipedon populations. This study provides important information regarding the natural history of juvenile reptiles and indicates the importance of low order streams as habitat for N. sipedon populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-174
Number of pages6
JournalAmphibia Reptilia
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements. We thank the Davidson College Herpetology Laboratory for assistance with animal collection and processing, and Mecklenburg Country Parks and Recreation particularly K. Coffey and D. Serriff, Cabarrus County Soil and Water Conservation District, and local landowners for access to our study sites. All procedures were approved by the Davidson College IACUC, and all necessary permits were obtained. The Maerz Herpetology Lab provided important comments that improved the manuscript. Manuscript preparation was aided by the Environmental Remediation Sciences Division of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research, U.S. Department of Energy through Financial Assistance Award number DE-FC09-96SR18546 to the University of Georgia Research Foundation. Funding was provided by: Davidson College Department of Biology; a Grant-in-Aid-of-Research from the National Academy of Sciences, administered by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society; a Yarbrough Research Grant administered by the Collegiate Academy, North Carolina Academy of Science; Duke Power; and National Science Foundation grants (DEB-0347326 and DBI-1039153) to MED.


  • Abiotic variables
  • Capture probabilities
  • Occupancy
  • Survivorship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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