Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Wyoming
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Wyoming Project

Evaluation of the impacts of road networks associated with energy developments on herpetefauna (SW WY)

January 2009 - June 2012


Participating Agencies

  • Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Amphibians and reptiles are experiencing drastic world-wide declines, primarily as a result of habitat loss and degradation, and climate change (Blaustein and Wake 1990; Wake 2007). Herpetofauna are particularly susceptible to changes in biotic and abiotic conditions due to their limited dispersal capabilities and permeable skins (Wake 2007). Amphibian and reptile species are therefore important indicator species for the health of ecological systems (Dobson et al. 1997). Simultaneously, data are lacking for many herpetofaunal species on population status and specific habitat requirements (Bury 1988). In Wyoming, for example, all 26 reptile and 12 amphibian species known to reside within the state are listed as species of greatest conservation need (hereafter SGCN), due primarily to a lack of distributional, habitat requirement, abundance, and disturbance susceptibility information (WGFD 2005). Of particular concern in Wyoming has been the observed mortality of herpetofauna along roads associated with energy development (also see Langen et al. 2007), and the potential negative impacts to herpetofaunal populations. Reptiles and amphibians moving to and from winter hibernacula and breeding sites are susceptible to mortality where habitats have become fragmented and bisected with roads as occurs within areas with energy development infrastructure. An important objective is therefore to understand the habitat and road characteristics that render herpetofauna most susceptible to road mortality, and the resulting impacts to herpetofaunal populations. Several characteristics of roads that may influence the lethality of herpetofaunal road crossings include road surface type, road width, speed of vehicles, and amount of traffic. We predict that wider roads with more and faster-traveling traffic should increase herpetofaunal mortality. Moreover, particular habitat features adjacent to roads may facilitate the prevalence of herpetofaunal road crossings. For example, roads adjacent to rocky outcroppings used as over-wintering sites or temporary refugia may be associated with higher snake and lizard abundance and activity.

Theses and Dissertations Publication Date
Hubbard, Kaylan A., The Relative Influence of Adjacent Road Characteristics and Habitat on Lizard Populations in Arid Shrublands, M.S., Department of Zoology and Physiology, December 2011 December 2011