Abundance and population structure of eastern worm snakes in forest stands with various levels of overstory tree retentionThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
In-depth analyses of a species’ response to canopy retention treatments can provide insight into reasons for observed changes in abundance. The eastern worm snake (Carphophis amoenus amoenus Say) is common in many eastern deciduous forests, yet little is known about the ecology of the species in managed forests. We examined the relationship between silvicultural techniques, particularly shelterwood cuts with varying levels of basal area retention, and the abundance and population structure of eastern worm snakes in the Cumberland Plateau of northern Alabama. Treatments included five levels of basal area retention at 15 units (4 ha/unit): 0, 25, 50, 75 percent retention, and control (100 percent retention) with three replicates each. Drift fences and coverboards were used to sample worm snake populations in each treatment. Worm snake abundance did not vary among treatments. Sex ratios were skewed towards males on clearcut treatments. The percentage of females in gravid condition did not differ among treatments, and the percentage of the sample comprised of juveniles was consistently high and also did not vary among treatments. Male worm snakes were more massive at a given length in controls than 25 percent retention treatments. Mass to length ratio increased linearly with increasing basal area for males. Our results highlight the subtle changes that these treatments exerted on eastern worm snakes.