Multi-level, multi-scale habitat selection by a wide-ranging, federally threatened snake
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Although multi-scale approaches are commonly used to assess wildlife-habitat relationships, few studies have examined selection at multiple spatial scales within different hierarchical levels/orders of selection [sensu Johnson’s (1980) orders of selection]. Failure to account for multi-scale relationships within a single level of selection may lead to misleading inferences and predictions.
We examined habitat selection of the federally threatened eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi) in peninsular Florida at the level of the home range (Level II selection) and individual telemetry location (Level III selection) to identify influential habitat covariates and predict relative probability of selection.
Within each level, we identified the characteristic scale for each habitat covariate to create multi-scale resource selection functions. We used home range selection functions to model Level II selection and paired logistic regression to model Level III selection.
At both levels, EIS selected undeveloped upland land covers and habitat edges while avoiding urban land covers. Selection was generally strongest at the finest scales with the exception of Level II urban edge which was avoided at a broad scale indicating avoidance of urbanized land covers rather than urban edge per se.
Our study illustrates how characteristic scales may vary within a single level of selection and demonstrates the utility of multi-level, scale-optimized habitat selection analyses. We emphasize the importance of maintaining large mosaics of natural habitats for eastern indigo snake conservation.
KeywordsHome range selection function Habitat selection Scale Urbanization Second-order habitat selection Hierarchical habitat selection Radio telemetry Road crossing
Funding was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Orianne Society, NASA, and The Bailey Wildlife Foundation. The Archbold Biological Station and NASA at Kennedy Space Center provided logistical support. Z. Forsburg, L. Paden, and P. Barnhart assisted with data collection and many private landowners provided access to their properties. Many scientists, students, and volunteers helped search for EIS. E. Plunkett, B. Compton, K. Zeller, and J. Finn provided computational and analytical support. This study was conducted under permits from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (TE28025A-1), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (WX97328), University of Florida Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (200903450), and Archbold Biological Station Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (ABS-AUP-002-R). Comments from K. Zeller and two anonymous reviewers greatly improved this manuscript.
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