Long-term rattlesnake population trends in response to land management regime changes
Monitoring of wildlife populations is essential for identifying declines or changes, especially in response to habitat changes or disturbance. By comparing historical and modern populations, we can quantify long-term trends. In this study we are comparing historical data from the mid-1980’s to modern to identify trends within a population of Western rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus). During the previous study, the landscape was managed as cattle grazing land with negligible human presence. Immediately following the study in 1985, management of the landscape changed so that half of the rattlesnake population remained on grazing lands, and the other half are now within the boundaries of a provincial park dedicated to recreation. This allows for a comparison of how the population has changed over 35 years, and how these different land management styles may have affected these changes. Working with Coldstream Ranch as part of this research, we will create a best management plan that helps educated rangeland employees on rattlesnakes and promotes stewardship and safe working environments for humans and wildlife. We also will develop a seasonal habitat use map to identify areas of high importance to rattlesnakes to inform future grazing plans to protect both livestock and threatened rattlesnakes.