Habitat use by smooth snakes on lowland heath managed using 'conservation grazing'

  • Published source details Reading C.J. & Jofré G.M. (2015) Habitat use by smooth snakes on lowland heath managed using 'conservation grazing'. The Herpetological Journal, 25, 225-231.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Cease livestock grazing: Grassland & shrubland

Action Link
Reptile Conservation
  1. Cease livestock grazing: Grassland & shrubland

    A controlled, before-and-after study in 1997–2013 in an area of mixed dry and wet heathland in Dorset, UK (Reading & Jofré 2015, same experimental set-up as Reading & Jofré 2016) found that an area where grazing cattle were excluded with a fence had more smooth snakes Coronella austriaca compared to an area where grazing continued. Over four years after grazing cattle were excluded, more smooth snakes were found in the ungrazed area (28 snakes) compared to the grazed area (16 snakes). During the previous 13 years when the whole area was grazed, the number of snakes caught in each area was similar during 12 of 13 years (3–8 snakes/year). In February 2010, a fence was erected to exclude cattle from a 6 ha area of heathland that had been grazed by cattle Bos taurus during May–September since 1997 (0.1–0.3 cows/ha). The remaining 4 ha continued to be grazed after the fence was erected. In 1997–2013, annual surveys for reptiles were conducted (21 surveys/year, though only 18 in 1997 and three in 2002) by randomly placing groups of 37 artificial refuges (corrugated steel sheets) in a hexagonal pattern (5–7 groups of refuges in the ungrazed area; four groups in the grazed area). All refuges were checked for reptiles, and smooth snakes were individually marked using PIT tags.

    (Summarised by: William Morgan)

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