Moving massasaugas: Insight into rattlesnake relocation using sistrurus c. catenatus

Daniel S. Harvey, Andrew M. Lentini, Karen Cedar, Patrick J. Weatherhead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Relocating snakes is used to reduce potential snake-human conflict and to re-establish or augment populations. Relocation may be unsuccessful if snakes attempt to home back to their capture locations or otherwise alter their behavior in ways that reduce fitness. To better understand the conditions under which the technique is likely to be successful, we conducted two types of relocation (repatriation and short-distance translocation) using Eastern Massasaugas (Sistrurus c. catenatus) in Ontario. For the repatriation experiment, 27 snakes were captive-born, raised for four years, and released into a nature reserve previously known to host massasaugas. Other than being relatively sedentary, snakes behaved normally upon release in that they engaged in reproductive behavior. Survival (70%) was relatively high until hibernation (19 weeks). However, none of the snakes that did hibernate (n = 19) survived into the following active season. In a preliminary assessment of the effects of short-distance translocation, snakes that we moved 200 m from capture locations (n = 4) did not return, nor did they exhibit abnormal movement or basking behavior relative to non-translocated controls (n = 7). The different outcomes of our two relocations could indicate that the success of relocation depends on the extent of displacement and the source of relocated individuals, although corroborating evidence is needed before these results can be used to support management strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-75
Number of pages9
JournalHerpetological Conservation and Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2014


  • Eastern Massasauga
  • Head-starting
  • Ontario
  • Reintroduction
  • Repatriation
  • Short-distance translocation
  • Wildlife management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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