Philopatry and nesting phenology of pine snakes Pituophis melanoleucus in the New Jersey Pine Barrens
We studied nesting behavior of pine snakes Pituophis melanoleucus from 1977 to 1989. Female pine snakes in the New Jersey Pine Barrens excavate tunnels and a nest chamber for egg deposition. Over 70% of all nests had old, hatched shells remaining in the nests from previous years. The presence of hatched shells and the incidence of recaptured females in the same nest indicates nest site tenacity for some females. From 1977 to 1988 we branded 98 females and 45 were recaptured in the same general nesting area. All 45 recaptured females were recaptured one to four times at the same nest site; two of these snakes were captured in three years at the same site and in one year at a different site. We conclude that females show a high degree of nest site philopatry. We suggest that high nest site philopatry is selected for because it promotes location of sites that are safe from predators (buried, hatched shells) and contain suitable temperature conditions.