SPATIAL PATTERNS AND FACTORS INFLUENCING THE MORTALITY OF SNAKES ON THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY-7 ALONG PENCH TIGER RESERVE, MADHYA PRADESH, INDIA
Keywords:Protected area, road, ecological impacts, habitat fragmentation, road kill
AbstractRoad induced habitat reduction and animal mortality pose the greatest challenge of conserving wildlife species in protected areas with extensive road networks. This study was conducted in a 9 km stretch of National Highway-7 passing through Pench Tiger Reserve in central India with an objective to assess impacts on wildlife species and their habitats. Considering that snakes are a vital part of food webs of every ecosystem and are more susceptible to vehicular causalities, we present the ecological impacts of the highway on snakes in this Tiger Reserve. We surveyed this highway section for a total of 430 road cruising days spread equally across three seasons and over two years from August 2008 to July 2010. We collected data on different variables influencing use of road side habitat, the road surface and the factors influencing mortality of snakes. We recorded a total of 490 snake road kills (approx.1.13 snakes/10km/day) during the study. We recorded the highest mortality (50%) of snakes during monsoon. Barred wolf snake had the highest mortality (22%) followed by Common cat snake (11%) and Striped keel back (8%). We identified fatality hotspots in different sections of the highway using Kernel Density Method. The linear regression model showed that the road kills were positively related to high elevation and negatively related to proximity of the agriculture fields, animal crossings and water sources.