Behavioral response of the coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum) to habitat fragment size and isolation in an urban landscape

Journal of Herpetology
By: , and 



Habitat fragmentation is a significant threat to biodiversity worldwide. Habitat loss and the isolation of habitat fragments disrupt biological communities, accelerate the extinction of populations, and often lead to the alteration of behavioral patterns typical of individuals in large, contiguous natural areas. We used radio-telemetry to study the space-use behavior of the Coachwhip, a larger-bodied, wide-ranging snake species threatened by habitat fragmentation, in fragmented and contiguous areas of coastal southern California. We tracked 24 individuals at three sites over two years. Movement patterns of Coachwhips changed in habitat fragments. As area available to the snakes was reduced, individuals faced increased crowding, had smaller home-range sizes, tolerated greater home-range overlap, and showed more concentrated movement activity and convoluted movement pathways. The behavioral response shown by Coachwhips suggests, on a regional level, area-effects alone cannot explain observed extinctions on habitat fragments but, instead, suggests changes in habitat configuration are more likely to explain the decline of this species. Ultimately, if "edge-exposure" is a common cause of decline, then isolated fragments, appropriately buffered to reduce emigration and edge effects, may support viable populations of fragmentation-sensitive species.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Behavioral response of the coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum) to habitat fragment size and isolation in an urban landscape
Series title Journal of Herpetology
Volume 43
Issue 4
Year Published 2009
Language English
Publisher Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
Publisher location St. Louis, MO
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 11 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Journal of Herpetology
First page 646
Last page 656
Country United States
State California
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