Date of Award

Fall 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences



Committee Director

Alan H, Savtzky

Committee Member

Chris A. Binckley

Committee Member

Robert K. Rose

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.B46 G54 2011


Few studies have examined the relationship between forest canopy structure and the ecology of the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus). I used radiotelemetry to compare the movements, activity range sizes and behaviors of timber rattlesnakes before and after a large-scale natural disturbance that opened a previously closed canopy. The disturbance was Hurricane Isabel which made landfall in northeast North Carolina and southeastern Virginia in 2003. Isabel created gaps in the canopy through tree blowdown, resulting in a 16.6% opening in the forest canopy at my study site, in southeastern Virginia. I compared six years of female tracking data from before Isabel to two years of data on females after Isabel. There was no difference in the mean total distance moved, mean distance per day, mean range length, or the greatest mean maximum distance traveled from hibernaculum. However, the mean distance per movement was significantly longer after Isabel. All activity ranges (minimum convex polygon and the 25%, 50%, 75% and 95% kernel isopleths) were significantly smaller after Isabel. Further, following Isabel a greater proportion of behavioral events, including ecdysis and courtship, occurred within the forest as opposed to anthropogenic areas. I also conducted a dietary study covering both tracking periods and found gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) to be the most commonly consumed prey item (45.0%), followed by hispid cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus; 20.0%), and birds (12.5%).


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