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Creating and implementing a functional body condition index (BCI) for montane rattlesnakes (Crotalus): an investigation of how habitat dynamics, diet, and wildfire affect snake health

Drukker, Saunders

Forstner, Michael RJ

Department of Biology

Texas State University

San Marcos, Texas USA

Holycross Andrew T

Life Science

Mesa Community College

Mesa, Arizona USA

In several areas of ecological research, body condition indices (BCI) have been used as a method for assessing the health of individual organisms and inferring the health of populations as a whole. Currently, little work has been done towards creating any sort of BCI for snakes of the genus Crotalus. This project uses data from several research seasons in the Peloncillo, Animas, and Sierra San Luis mountain ranges of the US and Mexico, to create a working BCI for several species in this genus. Using this data and data collected regarding habitat conditions, stable isotope values, and more, a functional BCI may be used to determine which factors negatively or positively influence snake health. Such a metric becomes increasingly important given the effects of climate change, and volatile fire regimes. In July of 2019, the Miller Fire burned ~5,761 acres of forest and grassland in the Peloncillo Mountains of New Mexico, giving us a unique opportunity to study what influence it may have had on snake body condition.