Invasive brown treesnake movements at road edges indicate road-crossing avoidance

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Abstract

Roads have significant impacts on the dispersal of wildlife. Although this poses a threat to the abundance and diversity of desirable flora and fauna, it also affords some opportunity for enhancing control of invasive species. Roads are the most common terrain features that may affect the rate of landscape-scale movements of invasive Brown Treesnakes (Boiga irregularis) throughout Guam. We radio tracked 45 free-ranging Brown Treesnakes in close proximity to two roads in Guam and recorded instances where daily relocations of snakes spanned roads. Then we reconstructed observed movement histories with randomized turning angles, which served as a useful null hypothesis for assessing the effect of roads or road edge habitat on Brown Treesnake movement patterns. Random walk simulations demonstrated that Brown Treesnakes crossed these roads at a rate far lower than would be expected if snake movement was random with respect to roads and road edge habitat. We discuss two alternative hypotheses for these results: 1) habitat gaps posed by roads physically or behaviorally restrict snake movement; or 2) road edges provide preferred foraging habitat from which snakes are reluctant to depart. Because roads often form the boundaries of jurisdictional and management units, the effects of roads on the movement of invasive Brown Treesnakes will influence the prospects for success of future landscape-level suppression efforts.

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Siers, S. R., Savidge, J. A., & Reed, R. N. (2014). Invasive brown treesnake movements at road edges indicate road-crossing avoidance. Journal of Herpetology, 48(4), 500–505. https://doi.org/10.1670/13-037

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