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Ecology of juvenile Northern watersnakes (Nerodia sipedon) inhabiting low-order streams

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The juvenile stage for many reptiles is considered “the lost years” because of low capture probabilities, however understanding factors impacting juvenile survivorship and recruitment is critical for conservation of populations. We studied the ecology of juvenile Northern watersnakes, Nerodia sipedon, by intensively sampling a first-order stream and determined the occupancy of juveniles in 30 low-order streams in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Juveniles were relatively abundant within a single stream (n = 62 ± 9), and their capture probabilities were positively related to increasing stream-water temperatures. We also found that juveniles had high survivorship (ϕ = 0.87 ± 0.017). Occupancy of juvenile N. sipedon in low-order, Piedmont streams may be greater at streams that have confluences with high order streams or lakes, which potentially support adult N. sipedon populations. This study provides important information regarding the natural history of juvenile reptiles and indicates the importance of low order streams as habitat for N. sipedon populations.

Affiliations: 1: Davidson College, Department of Biology, Davidson, NC 28035-7118, USA, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA;, Email:; 2: Davidson College, Department of Biology, Davidson, NC 28035-7118, USA, Wake Forest University, Department of Biology, Winston-Salem, NC 27109, USA; 3: Davidson College, Department of Biology, Davidson, NC 28035-7118, USA


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