Conservation and protection of threatened pine snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus) in the New Jersey pine barrens, USA

Joanna Burger, Robert T. Zappalorti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Managers, regulators, and the public are interested in the conservation of threatened, endangered, or iconic species. While snakes are not usually thought of as iconic, Pine Snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus) are an indicator species of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. In this paper we examine the threats Pine Snakes face, and measures undertaken to reduce these risks. Major threats include habitat loss, fragmentation, increasing numbers of predators, declining prey base, forest fires, poaching, off-road vehicles, and an increase of road traffic. Over the 40 + y of our study, the largest disruptions to hibernacula and nests were by poachers and predators, while the highest mortality of snakes on the surface was a result of predation and road-kills. Poaching of adults is an important threat, but difficult to assess due to the secrecy of people illegally collecting snakes. Conservation measures include: (1) enforcing laws, regulations, and patrolling, (2) enhancing habitat for foraging, nesting and hibernation and use of cages or wire to protect nests in areas with high levels of predators, (3) accepting protocols for snake assessment prior to allowing development, (4) using clean clothing and equipment when entering snake areas (especially when fungal disease has been identified), and (5) educating conservations officers, regulators, and the public about the behavior, ecology, and role of Pine Snakes in the Pinelands ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-314
Number of pages11
JournalHerpetological Conservation and Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


  • Conservation measures
  • Environmental management
  • Public participation
  • Reptiles
  • Sensitive species
  • Threats


Dive into the research topics of 'Conservation and protection of threatened pine snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus) in the New Jersey pine barrens, USA'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this