THE EFFECTS OF WINTER SHELTER CHARACTERISTICS ON OVERWINTERING DURATION, BODY MASS LOSS, AND OPHIDIOMYCES OPHIDIICOLA INFECTION LOAD IN A SOUTHEASTERN POPULATION OF TIMBER RATTLESNAKES (CROTALUS HORRIDUS)**
Non-avain reptiles in temperate regions often undergo an extensive period of general inactivity during the winter season, known as brumation. At southern temperate latitudes, milder winter seasons make overwintering shelters less of a limiting resource. The numerous challenges associated with monitoring a large number of solitary individuals along with the assumption that winter is a weaker selective force in southern temperate regions as lead to a lack of information on the overwintering ecology of snake species and populations from therse areas. This data deficiency carries conservation implications, as winter in more southern latitudes still represents a vulnerable period for snakes. More than a decade of research on snake populations across eastern North America has now recognized the widespread prevalence of Ophidiomycosis ("Snake Fungal Disease"), caused by the fungal pathogen Ophidiomyces ophidiicola (Oo). Recent work has shown that Oo infection signs are greatest during the spring, shortly after the emergence from overwintering shelters. The overarching goal of this research is to explore the effects of overwintering site selection on body condition and Oo infection load in a Georgia Piedmont population of Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus). Specifically, we will leverage the presence of communal and solitary overwintering sites occupied by rattlesnakes included in ongoing radio telemetry monitoring to quantify relationships between overwinter shelter site characters (i.e., rock pile, stream bank, stump hole) and individual vs. communal shelters on Oo infection load, body mass loss, and brumation duration. These results will inform on the proximate and ultimate factors influencing overwintering site selection, and can improve understanding of factors that might predict Oo infection liklihood and severity in C. horridus and other snakes.
Bartlett*, Danielle C. and DeSantis, Dominic L.
"THE EFFECTS OF WINTER SHELTER CHARACTERISTICS ON OVERWINTERING DURATION, BODY MASS LOSS, AND OPHIDIOMYCES OPHIDIICOLA INFECTION LOAD IN A SOUTHEASTERN POPULATION OF TIMBER RATTLESNAKES (CROTALUS HORRIDUS)**,"
Georgia Journal of Science, Vol. 81, No. 1, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.gaacademy.org/gjs/vol81/iss1/5