Coiled Ruber A grumpy Red Diamond Rattlesnake



Implanting a radiotelemetry device Implanting a radiotransmitter.



A Red Diamond Rattlesnake eats a rodent.
A Red Diamond Rattlesnake eats a rodent.





















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Rattlesnakes on the Edge
Behavioral Ecology of Red Diamond Rattlesnakes (Crotalus ruber) in Conflict with Human Residential Developments in Loma Linda, California

  Human-rattlesnake conflicts arise when residential developments encroach upon the natural habitat of rattlesnakes. This study seeks to understand the behavior and ecology of rattlesnakes whose movements bring them into contact with human property. In cooperation with Loma Linda homeowners, I will use radio telemetry to quantify the movements and habitat use of Red Diamond Rattlesnakes (Crotalus ruber) at the interface between human development and natural habitat. I will also conduct small rodent trapping and analyze rattlesnake fecal samples to quantify the diet of these animals and compare the availability and composition of prey species near human properties with those in more undisturbed areas. My research will address the following questions:

  My study aims to radio-track twelve rattlesnakes (six adult males and six adult females) for a period of one year. Telemetered animals will be snakes found on or near residential properties. The snakes will have transmitters surgically implanted into their peritoneal cavities.  Surgical procedures will follow those of Reinert and Cundall  (1982) and Hardy and Greene (1999; 2000). Passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags will also be used allowing each snake to be reliably identified. These tags will be inserted into any specimen of C. ruber discovered during the course of the study, allowing mark and recapture data to be gathered on snakes that are not being radio-telemetered.
  A fix on each telemetered snake’s location will be obtained up to six times per week. Each time a snake is located its vital statistics will be recorded as well as information about its microhabitat (level of concealment, humidity, temperature, nearby plant species etc.). Such data will help determine whether these snakes prefer human habitat or not, what their home ranges are, and what factors affect their movements.
Cooperation of property owners will be vital to this project. It will be important that I maintain good communication with these people and gain permission before tracking snakes that have moved onto private property. If a property owner wants a snake removed from his or her property, the snake will be moved about 200 meters south of the capture site and into natural habitat. Subsequent fixes on these snakes will generate data that will help answer questions about the effect of relocation on these snakes.
  Direct feeding observations, analysis of fecal samples, and analysis of the stomach contents of dead snakes found on roads or elsewhere (if any) will be used to ascertain the prey species used by these snakes. Small rodent trapping will also be conducted. Live baited traps will be used and all captured rodents will be released at the site of their capture. In order to see if the composition and density of prey species is different near human properties, trapping will be conducted at two locations. One will be right at the border between more natural habitat and residential properties; the other will be from a location at least two kilometers from any residential property.
  Results from this project will be of interest to those looking to find effective methods of conservation for this species. By understanding the snake’s ecology when it is in close proximity to residential developments, better estimates can be made of the amount of undisturbed land this species needs to maintain its populations and better methods of dealing with “nuisance” snakes may be devised. The results might also be of interest to the health sector. Since the Red Diamond Rattlesnake is a venomous species, understanding why it may venture into residential developments may lead to guidelines that homeowners can implement that would make their property less attractive to these snakes. Such guidelines could reduce the number of snakebites.

Hardy, D. L. and H. W. Greene (1999). "Surgery on Rattlesnakes in the Field for Implantation of Transmitters." Sonoran Herpetologist 12(3): 25-27.

Hardy, D. L. and H. W. Greene (2000). "Inhalation Anesthesia of Rattlesnakes in the Field  for Processing and Transmitter Implantation " Sonoran Herpetologist 13(10): 109-113.

Jennings, M. R. and M. P. Hayes (1994). "Amphibian and Reptile Species of Special Concern in California." California Department of Fish and Game.

Reinert, H. K. and D. Cundall (1982). "An improved surgical implantation method for radio-tracking snakes." Copeia(3): 702-705.



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