FORAGING ACTIVITY TIME AND REFUGE SITE SELECTION IN THE NORTHERN COTTONMOUTH, AGKISTRODON PISCIVORUS
Cornell, Brittany Ann
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The Northern Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorous) is a semi-aquatic pit viper that utilizes riparian microhabitats within Harmon Creek for nocturnal foraging as well as for retreat sites if there is a perceived threat. The population of Northern Cottonmouths that are found within Harmon Creek were observed over three nights to determine hourly activity levels of the snakes within the creek. During these nights, a transect of Harmon Creek was walked once per hour from 1900 to 0700 to observe snakes. Snakes from this area were captured, later released and allowed to select a refuge site. Both collection and refuge sites were analyzed for microhabitat structure. Microhabitat structure was compared for four habitat types: random, refuge site, capture site, and the banks opposite of these sites. I found the timing of activity time for foraging by cottonmouths to be consistent over the course of the scotophase and while prey availability is most likely high. Peak activity occurred at 0200 h. My results indicate that snakes prefer the east bank of the creek and microhabitat selection is influenced by leaflitter, underbrush, and overhanging branches.