Avoidance of fire by Louisiana pine snakes, Pituophis melanoleucus ruthveni
Wildfire and prescribed fire are important influences on pine ecosystems in the southeastern United States (Komarek 1968, 1974; Platt et al. 1988). Although considerable research on the impact of fire on vertebrates due to changes in vegetation structure has been reported, the direct impact of fire on vertebrates is not well known (Means and Campbell 1981). The Louisiana pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus ruthveni) occupies a limited range in eastern Texas and western Louisiana (Conant 1956; Reichling 1995). Within this range it is generally found on sandy soils in longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) savannas (Young and Vandeventer 1988). Historically these longleaf pine savannas were maintained by frequent, low intensity ground fires (Komarek 1968; Platt et al. 1988, 1989). In recent decades wildfire frequencies have declined severely due to suppression efforts, and maintenance of these fire climax communities is currently dependent on prescribed fire.