Factors affecting the detection of an imperiled and cryptic species

John A. Crawford, Michael J. Dreslik, Sarah J. Baker, Christopher A. Phillips, William E. Peterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Population surveying and monitoring are important for identifying conservation needs and tracking trends in populations, communities, and ecosystems over time and laying the groundwork for conservation management and policy decisions. If species or populations go undetected because of inadequate effort or sampling design, protection and management cannot be properly provided. Due to the widespread loss of populations, the Eastern Massasauga (a rattlesnake) was recently listed as a federally threatened species in the United States; it is also listed as threatened in Canada. Given its current conservation status, there is considerable interest at state and federal levels in determining how to best survey for Eastern Massasaugas to aid in management decisions. Using a 16-year dataset, we examined the relationships among environmental, temporal, area, management, and search effort factors on the detection probability of Eastern Massasaugas. We found that four abiotic parameters (solar irradiance, shaded air temperature, three-day maximum air temperature, and humidity) and three search parameters (effort per researcher, search area, and search time of day) influenced detection of Eastern Massasaugas. As the current biodiversity crisis continues, the cost-effective use of resources and scientific expertise will continue to increase in importance. We hope our results stimulate similar analyses in other taxa, which will be critical for designing and implementing regional survey and monitoring programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number177
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Eastern massasauga
  • Endangered
  • Grassland
  • Management
  • Monitoring
  • Rattlesnake
  • Sistrurus catenatus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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