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Ranging behaviour and home range size of smooth snakes inhabiting lowland heath in southern England

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Individually marked smooth snakes inhabiting a 10 ha area of lowland heath in southern England were studied between 1993–2011 and their movements estimated from capture data. During this period a total of 109 male and 82 female snakes were identified providing 177 inter-location distances from which to investigate overall, and seasonal, movements of adult and sub-adult males and females. The mean distances moved, between successive captures, by adult males was approximately 50% greater than that moved by adult females or sub-adult males and females. Monthly mean distances moved by adult females and sub-adult males and females were all very similar and, with the exception of May and July, were lower than those moved by adult males. During May, when mating occurs, the distance moved by adult males was almost identical to that of adult females suggesting a link with breeding.

The capture locations of 18 female and 18 male smooth snakes, whose range was assumed to be totally within the study area, also enabled home range areas to be estimated for these four categories of snake. The mean home range size of adult males (1.85 ha) was double that of adult females (0.87 ha), about four times larger than that of sub-adult males (0.46 ha) and approximately six times larger than that of sub-adult females (0.31 ha). The home range size of males increased sharply once sexual maturity was reached whilst that of females showed a more gradual increase as body length increased. The maximum home range sizes of adult male and female smooth snakes were 3.88 ha and 2.37 ha respectively. The movements and home range sizes of smooth snakes are compared with similar data found in other snake species
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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