Cozy in the City: The (Limited) Spatial Ecology of Urban Copperheads, Agkistrodon contortrix

Carrasco-Harris, Malle F.

Cole, Judith A.

Department of Biological Sciences

The University of Memphis,

Memphis, TN USA

Reichling, Steve

The Memphis Zoo and Aquarium

Memphis, TN USA

Increasing human populations in urban areas bring novel challenges to organisms, which often leads to changes in behavior. Furthermore, fragmentation associated with anthropogenic environments leads to changes in movement patterns and spatial use in a wide variety of taxa. Organisms with limited mobility, such as snakes, may be constrained to native habitats within cities. Our ongoing radio-telemetry study examines the spatial ecology of the Southern Copperhead (A. c. contortrix) within Overton Park, a heavily used area bordered by roads in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. Captured adult Southern Copperheads were implanted with radio-transmitters and tracked periodically to collect location, behavior, and environmental information. Geographic data were analyzed using different spatial models, including Minimum Convex Polygons, Kernel Density Estimators, and Local Convex Hulls to provide home range estimates. Movement parameters were also determined. Preliminary analysis shows home ranges and core areas were smaller than previously reported for this species. Consequently, average daily movement was also less than rural copperheads. Contrary to previous studies, no differences in spatial patterns between the sexes were noted. Home range size was not correlated with mass, length, or body condition indices. The addition of a rural site in the vicinity will help elucidate the differences between urban and rural Southern Copperheads.


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