Rare Rattlesnake Needs Forest Fires to Survive
Diamondback needs fire to shape its environment
One of the reasons the snake's numbers are dwindling is that its habitat - open canopy forests or savannah - is also in decline. Dr. Jennifer Fill studied the complex relationship between the Eastern diamondback and its habitat as a student in the Department of Biological Sciences at The University of South Carolina.
The open canopy, which supports the snake's main prey items, including rabbits and raccoons, is becoming more heavily forested, due to the lack of forest fires. Fires promote the growth of the fire-resistant longleaf pine tree, which, in turn, helps maintain the open canopy ecosystem. Prescribed burns in certain areas may help maintain the savannah and support the diamondback population.