Texas ratsnake predation on southern flying squirrels in red-cockaded woodpecker cavities

Abstract

Elaphe spp. (ratsnakes) are frequent predators on cavity-nesting birds and other vertebrates, including Glaucomys volans (Southern Flying Squirrels). They are known predators of Picoides borealis (Red-cockaded Woodpeckers), especially during the nestling phase. Picoides borealis cavities are frequently occupied by Southern Flying Squirrels, often several squirrels per cavity. Behavioral aspects of ratsnake predation on flying squirrels in woodpecker cavities is an important component required for a full understanding of the potentially complex interaction between Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Southern Flying Squirrels, and ratsnakes. We induced previously captured Elaphe obsoleta (Texas Ratsnake) to climb boles of pine trees and gain access to Red-cockaded Woodpecker cavities known to contain Southern Flying Squirrels, and observed the resulting predatory interactions. Eight of nine ratsnakes successfully captured 14 of 22 Southern Flying Squirrels present in the cavities.

  • Citation: Rudolph, D. Craig; Schaefer, Richard R.; Pierce, Josh B.; Saenz, Dan; Conner, Richard N. 2009. Texas ratsnake predation on southern flying squirrels in red-cockaded woodpecker cavities. Southeastern Naturalist 8(Special Issue 2):41-46.
  • Keywords: cavity, Elaphe obsoleta, Picoides borealis, predation, red-cockaded woodpecker, southern flying squirrel
  • Posted Date: September 8, 2009
  • Modified Date: August 1, 2012
  • Print Publications Are No Longer Available

    In an ongoing effort to be fiscally responsible, the Southern Research Station (SRS) will no longer produce and distribute hard copies of our publications. Many SRS publications are available at cost via the Government Printing Office (GPO). Electronic versions of publications may be downloaded, printed, and distributed.

    Publication Notes

    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
    • Our online publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat. During the capture process some typographical errors may occur. Please contact the SRS webmaster if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • To view this article, download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.