Impact of bush rock removal on an endangered snake

Wildlife Research 25:285-295 reported...

The Impact of bush rock removal on an endangered snake species, Hoplocephalus bungaroides (Serpentes: Elapidae)

Bush-rocks are commonly removed from the bushland for use in suburban gardens. This removal constitutes habitat degradation for animals that rely on the rocks either for shelter sites or places to capture their prey.

The snake under investigation is restricted to sandstone habitats within 150km radius of Sydney and is now considered 'threatened'. For over 100 years, it has been speculated that bush-rock removal reduces the abundance of broad-headed snakes such as this one.

Large sandstone rocks lying on other rocks are important habitat requirements for snakes and for their prey. Removed rocks are of the size of those used as daytime shelters by broad-headed snakes and velvet geckos, their prey.

The number of geckos depends on the number of rocks and the number of snakes depends on the number of geckos. Snakes select thin rocks in sunny positions to provide them with thermally distinctive microhabitats for lying in wait to ambush prey. The snakes are highly selective with respect to rock characteristics as are the geckos. This habitat specialisation makes the reptiles vulnerable to rock removal.