Spatial variation in predation attempts on artificial snakes in a fire-disturbed tallgrass prairie

TitleSpatial variation in predation attempts on artificial snakes in a fire-disturbed tallgrass prairie
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsWilgers, DJ, Horne, EA
JournalSouthwestern Naturalist
Pagination263 -270
Accession NumberKNZ001084

The tallgrass prairie historically burned every 2 to 3 y, removing the litter layer and leaving post-burn environments inhospitable to many terrestrial species. Selection pressures, such as lack of food and shelter and increased predation, are intensified for some species over limited time periods. To quantify predation pressures on large snakes, artificial snakes were placed in recently burned and long-term unburned areas of a grassland system in northeastern Kansas. Any disturbance to the original placement of the model snake was considered a predation attempt. Statistical models were used to estimate daily survival rates of individual artificial snakes within both habitat types. A group effect (burned vs. unburned) was selected as the single top model, garnishing >93% of the support for the data. Survival estimates from this top model indicated artificial snakes in newly burned areas had significantly lower daily survival than those placed within unburned sites. Indirect evidence from destroyed artificial snakes indicated raptors were a major predator on large snakes. Overall herpetofaunal activity in burned areas was low during the first 20 d post-burn, with increasing activity throughout the rest of the season. However, activity within unburned areas was constant throughout the spring. Burning tallgrass prairie likely increases predation pressure on large snakes in the area for 1 to 2 mo following the burn due to the lack of cover against aerial predators.