A paradigm for information needed to protect at-risk species: northern pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus) in the pine barrens as a case study

Joanna Burger, Robert T. Zappalorti, Michael Gochfeld, Christian Jeitner, Emile DeVito, Jason Howell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


New methods of examining the risk to endangered, threatened and rare species are required to identify vulnerability. A paradigm for examining risk is presented that describes anthropogenic threats, species activities, and vulnerabilities, and uses Northern pine snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus) in the New Jersey Pine Barrens as a case study. The paradigm includes (1) conceptual model of natural, anthropogenic, and interactive stressors, (2) template of the functional attributes of threats from human activities, and (3) template of effects from different human activities. Pine snake behavior throughout the year was used to examine the temporal overlap in high snake vulnerability periods and desired human activities in a shared habitat. New data on autumn behavior of pine snakes are also provided. Passive integrated transponders (PIT tag) tracking technology indicated that the fall basking activity period is both longer in duration, and at a higher intensity than previously presumed. During the autumn, individual snakes moved in and out of dens an average of 6 times over a two-month period. Younger snakes at a small hibernaculum were more active than those at hibernacula with larger and older snakes. The high activity period of pine snakes overlaps with the timing of preferred off-road-vehicle (ORV) use, controlled burns, and other human activities, increasing snake vulnerability, potentially causing behavioral disruptions, injury, and death. The conceptual model illustrating relationships between attributes of human activity and effects may be utilized to determine risks to other listed species, and those of special concern in different habitats. This paradigm also provides managers with template tools to assess risks to species that may also be used to provide information to the public.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)422-435
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part A: Current Issues
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 19 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Competing claims
  • fall hibernation activity
  • fire: off-road-vehicles
  • forestry
  • management
  • pine snake
  • snake
  • species protection


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