Presentation Title

Importance of Estimating Individual Ages of the Northern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) and the Great Basin gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola) using Skeletochronology: Implications for Management and Conservation

Format of Presentation

Poster to be presented Friday March 31, 2017

Abstract

Wildlife management and conservation strategies more effectively combat issues, such as road mortality, when the target species life history and ecology are thoroughly understood. Age estimation has been identified as an effective method for increasing the comprehension of life history and ecology. Age information can be obtained through various techniques, such as mark-recapture, size-frequency data, and skeletochronology. For amphibians and reptiles, numerous research papers have considered skeletochronology an effective technique for approximating ages of individuals in temperate climates. A periodic variation in the rate of bone deposition creates interchanging concentric growth rings in bones that can be analyzed to estimate age. In this study, we collected 40 tail samples of two snake species: the northern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) and the Great Basin gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola). Tail samples were retrieved from road-killed individuals within the South Okanagan of British Columbia. In this region, both species reside at their northernmost limits of their geographical ranges. Using skeletochronology of caudal vertebrae, we expect to estimate the ages of these 80 individuals and thoroughly compare our results to the identified life history strategies of the South Okanagan Crotalus oreganus and Pituophis catenifer deserticola populations. This information, in tangent with other demographic information on these species, will provide information relevant to the conservation and management of these animals. Specifically, the goals of this research are to determine if the ages of these animals can be estimated using skeletochronology, allowing us to obtain important information on longevity, age–length relationships, and the approximate age at first reproduction.

Department

Natural Resource Science

Faculty Advisor

Karl Larsen

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Importance of Estimating Individual Ages of the Northern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) and the Great Basin gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola) using Skeletochronology: Implications for Management and Conservation

Wildlife management and conservation strategies more effectively combat issues, such as road mortality, when the target species life history and ecology are thoroughly understood. Age estimation has been identified as an effective method for increasing the comprehension of life history and ecology. Age information can be obtained through various techniques, such as mark-recapture, size-frequency data, and skeletochronology. For amphibians and reptiles, numerous research papers have considered skeletochronology an effective technique for approximating ages of individuals in temperate climates. A periodic variation in the rate of bone deposition creates interchanging concentric growth rings in bones that can be analyzed to estimate age. In this study, we collected 40 tail samples of two snake species: the northern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) and the Great Basin gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer deserticola). Tail samples were retrieved from road-killed individuals within the South Okanagan of British Columbia. In this region, both species reside at their northernmost limits of their geographical ranges. Using skeletochronology of caudal vertebrae, we expect to estimate the ages of these 80 individuals and thoroughly compare our results to the identified life history strategies of the South Okanagan Crotalus oreganus and Pituophis catenifer deserticola populations. This information, in tangent with other demographic information on these species, will provide information relevant to the conservation and management of these animals. Specifically, the goals of this research are to determine if the ages of these animals can be estimated using skeletochronology, allowing us to obtain important information on longevity, age–length relationships, and the approximate age at first reproduction.