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Tuesday, January 30 • 11:00am - 11:20am
SYMPOSIA-06: Soft-Release May Not Enhance Translocation Efforts for Massasaugas (Sistrurus catenatus)

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AUTHORS. Jillian Josimovich, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne; Monica Matthews, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne; Michael Ravesi, Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs; Sasha Tetzlaff, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Brett DeGregorio, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ERDC-CERL; Bruce Kingsbury, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne

ABSTRACT. Wildlife translocations are often unsuccessful as relocated animals may exhibit atypical behaviors or higher mortality than controls. A strategy that may mitigate such effects is soft-release, which entails keeping animals in an outdoor enclosure at the release site temporarily in the hopes that they will acclimate to the new environment more readily than animals that are immediately released. Here, we report on the status of an ongoing study investigating the utility of soft-release for translocating massasaugas (Sistrurus catenatus), a small, federally threatened rattlesnake. Venomous snakes are often translocated or killed due to potentially negative interactions with humans, but little research has assessed what methods are best when moving them. To our knowledge, past experiments have only soft-released captive-reared snakes; we are the first to report on how effective this technique is when translocating wild-caught snakes. Since 2013, we have radio-tracked over 50 soft-released (i.e. held in enclosures for approximately two weeks prior to release), hard-released (i.e. released immediately after translocation), and control massasaugas (i.e. released at capture location).  We are comparing measures of survival and behavior to evaluate the “success” of each translocation effort, and preliminary analyses indicate that hard-release may be a better alternative to soft-release. This work is continuing until 2019, and we will develop models exploring how factors like distance translocated, sex, and size may influence translocation success. This constitutes some of the earliest research of the pros and cons of soft-release for translocating wild-caught snakes and should help inform conservation and management efforts to conserve imperiled herpetofauna like the massasauga.

Tuesday January 30, 2018 11:00am - 11:20am CST