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Integrating radio-telemetry and accelerometry to provide a more robust evaluation of snake movement behavior: a case study with Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) in central Georgia

Tipton, Anna F.

Thompson, Morgan L.

DeSantis, Dominic L.

Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences

Georgia College & State University

Milledgeville, Georgia USA

Animal movement is heavily influenced and defined by the interaction of internal factors, such as sex and behavioral season, and external factors, such as natural and anthropogenic landscape features that impact the distribution of fitness determining resources throughout the environment. These internal and external factors influence the behavioral decisions and ultimately the movement and space use of the organism. Historically, radio telemetry derived spatial data has been used to estimate the total extent of space used by individual snakes (i.e., home range size) and has represented an important tool for inferring movement-based responses to prominent landscape features, such as roads, but radio telemetry derived spatial data alone largely ignores the equally important temporal dimension of animal movement as individuals can alter the frequency and duration of movements independent of spatial shifts in home range sizes. To allow for a more comprehensive evaluation of the impact of sex, behavioral season, and anthropogenic landscape features (i.e., roadways) on snake movement, we are using an integration of radio telemetry derived spatial data and tri-axial accelerometry derived temporal data with a population of Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) in central Georgia. The total space use of each individual will be determined by calculating seasonal home ranges using minimum convex polygons, kernel density estimators, and dynamic Brownian bridge movement models. The tri-axial accelerometers will simultaneously provide long-term and continuous activity budgets to quantify “real-time” movement patterns. Generalized linear mixed effect models will be used to investigate the influence of sex, behavioral season, and distance to roadways on the spatial and temporal movement patterns of C. horridus. We hope to provide a widely applicable and improved methodological framework for investigating snake movement behavior.

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