Modeling Habitat and Assessing Threats for Lizards and Snakes in Sagebrush Ecosystems

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Little is known about how lizards and snakes may respond to changes in habitat from climate, invasive species, fire, roads, and natural resource management.

USGS employee holds a snake

USGS Research Ecologist David Pilliod holds a Great Basin gophersnake in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area in Idaho. Researchers are mapping and modeling the distribution and habitat associations of lizard and snakes in sagebrush ecosystems. 

(Public domain.)

In particular, there is a need to identify how greater sage-grouse habitat management, including alteration of sagebrush shrublands and pinyon-juniper woodlands, may influence these animals. In a new study, researchers will map and model the distribution and habitat associations of lizard and snakes in sagebrush ecosystems. They will examine their response to changes in habitat resulting from greater sage-grouse restoration, shifts in vegetation as a result of fire and invasive annual grasses, and regional changes in temperature and precipitation. Finally, researchers will map priority areas for conservation of lizards and snakes in sagebrush ecosystems, identifying relative importance of public and private lands. This work will provide baseline information about habitat needs and identify priority areas for conservation for lizards and snakes in sagebrush ecosystems. This study is requested and funded by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.