Roadways are among the most widespread and disruptive anthropogenic land use features that influence the behavior and movement of wildlife. Negative impacts including vehicle-induced mortality, habitat destruction and fragmentation, and creating barriers to movement have been well documented across taxa, but the fine scale behavioral impact of roadways on smaller, cryptic species has yet to be directly examined. Using a novel integration of emerging spatial analyses and tri-axial accelerometry, we quantified spatial and temporal aspects of movement and space use in order to investigate the coarse and fine scale influence of roadways on the movement patterns of Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) in central Georgia. Relating the radio telemetry derived spatial metrics and the accelerometry derived temporal metrics to the mean Euclidean distance to roadways revealed no significant associations. Proximity to roadways is not causing a detectable shift in annual movement and space use patterns for rattlesnakes in this populations likely due to the availability of contiguous habitat adjacent to the roadways at our study site. Although the low number of observations of snake-road interactions does not allow for statistical analysis at this time, the average time spent moving per day and average number of movement bouts per day were higher when snakes were within 50 meters of a road compared to when snakes were more than 50 meters from a road, but this same pattern was not observed spatially. This potential hidden cost of increased movement when snakes encounter roads could have negative implications for populations in habitats with higher densities of roads. These preliminary observations and results suggest that with continued sampling, we will be able to better evaluate the scale dependent influence of roads across sex and behavioral season.
Tipton, Anna F.; Thompson, Morgan L.; and DeSantis, Dominic L., "Accelerometry Reveals Hidden Variation in the Movement Response of Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) to Roadways" (2022). Graduate Research Posters. 46.