Population patterns of copperbelly water snakes (Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta) in a riparian corridor impacted by mining and reclamation

Michael J. Lacki, Joseph W. Hummer, Joyce L. Fitzgerald

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Habitat loss has been identified as a principle reason for decline of many water snakes, and surface mining for coal could potentially put Copperbelly Water Snakes (Nerodia erythrogaster neglecta) at risk due to the severity of land cover change that takes place once mining and reclamation are complete. We studied Copperbelly Water Snakes in riparian habitat impacted by adjacent surface mining in southern Indiana. Snakes were surveyed premining (1992 and 1993), during mining (1994 to 1996) and post-mining (1997 to 2000). Abundance of Copperbelly Water Snakes (cws/km ± SE) was higher after mining (5.43 ± 0.37) compared to abundance levels before (2.04 ± 0.74) or during mining (3.32 ± 0.76). No Copperbelly Water Snake was observed in reclaimed habitat immediately following reclamation, but use of reclaimed habitat by these snakes was evident in subsequent years (n = 89). Size class distribution of Copperbelly Water Snakes observed in reclaimed habitat largely paralleled that of the entire population of these snakes in the flood plain. Evidence of reproduction by Copperbelly Water Snakes, in the form of juveniles (<76 cm in length) and young-of-year (<30 cm in length), was observed throughout the study. These data indicate that the population of Copperbelly Water Snakes was reproductively active, sustained higher levels of abundance following completion of mining and reclamation and made frequent use of reclaimed habitat. The extensive use of constructed ponds and drainage ditches by these snakes suggests that reclamation following mining can be done in a manner that facilitates recovery of habitat for this species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-369
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Midland Naturalist
Volume153
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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