Abstract

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Naber, J.R., M.J. Majeski, and A.R. DeMars. 2004. Baseline surveys for the massasauga rattlesnake in Minnesota. Final report submitted to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 28 pp.

Abstract:

In the state of Minnesota the current status of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus) is listed as "endangered". Evidence supporting this species' existence in Minnesota is not well documented. A previous study conducted by John Levell documented the historical massasauga records in Minnesota. Field surveys conducted in Houston, Winona and Wabasha counties as part of Levell's study in 1993 did not produce any massasauga evidence. Known populations of massasauga rattlesnakes exist on the east side of the Mississippi River in Wisconsin but historical records can not confirm a population in Minnesota. Our study was conducted to establish a baseline effort for which future survey efforts may be conducted to help determine the official status of the massasauga in Minnesota. Our extensive survey efforts conducted in 2002 and 2003 field seasons focused on areas containing suitable massasauga habitat and historic record locations identified by Levell. A GIS was used to assemble historical record data, aerial photography and land cover to help prioritize survey sites. Surveys were conducted over a two-year period in Houston, Winona and Wabasha counties. Survey methods focused on searching meadows and forest edges along the Mississippi River and its major tributaries. Special attention was given to brush piles and basking sites that through our experience in Wisconsin have been found to be frequently used by massasaugas. Although suitable habitat exists in Minnesota and viable populations are known in adjacent Wisconsin, the survey efforts conducted as part of this baseline project did not produce any evidence of massasaugas in Minnesota. It is recommended that priority sites be resurveyed in upcoming years to help determine this species' official status in Minnesota.

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