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—Small areas of protected land may act as islands of suitable habitat surrounded by human development. Although these areas receive protection, we have observed one way that the surrounding human population can still endanger the welfare of its inhabitants. During our observations of the Northern Diamond-backed Watersnake (Nerodia r. rhombifer) in a semi-protected nature park surrounded by human development, we encountered 13 individuals entangled with flotsam. Of the 220 juvenile through adult snakes that we captured, 12 were encircled by various types of objects (e.g., finger cots; latex sheaths that cover a single digit, dental elastics, and plastic bottle neck rings) within the first half of their body; a 13th individual was observed but was not captured. The injuries resulting from these rings ranged from superficial wounds to death. We conducted behavioral experiments to determine if entanglement was due to attraction or to incidental entrapment during activity, with the latter being more likely. Our observations show that becoming trapped in refuse may be an important source of impairment and mortality in limbless reptiles, as has been previously documented in other species.

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Herpetological Conservation and Biology

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Biology Commons



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