A Post-hurricane Quantitative Assessment of the Red-bellied Racer (Alsophis rufiventris) on Saba and Comparison with St. Eustatius
We estimated occupancy, abundance (lambda), detection probability, density/ha and abundance of a regionally endemic snake in the Colubrid family on the Dutch Caribbean island of Saba in 2021, four years after hurricanes Irma and Maria impacted the island. Line transect surveys were conducted at 74 sites covering 6.7 ha. The proportion of sites occupied was estimated at 0.74 (min 0.48, max 0.90), with occupancy varying between vegetation types and across elevational gradients. Similarly, lambda was estimated at 1.61 (min 0.7, max 3.7) but varied between vegetation types and elevational gradients. Detection probability was estimated at 0.15 (min 0.10, max 0.21). Using Distance sampling, we estimated 10.9 (min 7.3, max 16.2) racers/ha, with a total population estimate of 4,917 (min 2,577, max 6,362) across the entire study region (438.6 ha.) Based on anecdotal observations from Saban residents and prior literature describing the pre-hurricane population as “abundant” (at least 2.0 racers/hour), we posit that the population experienced a hurricane-induced decline but may have since recovered, though not to previous levels (1.28 racers/hour). Nevertheless, our results suggest that racer densities on Saba are currently higher than those on St. Eustatius. Despite this, given the species’ extremely limited extant range and the presence of invasive species on both islands, prevention of local extirpation should be a high conservation priority.