Honors College Thesis


Bird Predation on the Garter Snake Thamnophis elegans near Eagle Lake in California Public Deposited

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  • Previous studies have revealed distinctive ecotypic differences between garter snakes living in the meadow and lakeshore environments around Eagle Lake in California. Snakes from these contrasting environments have significantly different growth rates, litter sizes, adult body size, annual survival, and coloration. To try and explain these differences, bird predation was studied and compared between the two environments. Over a period of two years, snakes were collected and their wounds were photographed and analyzed. A bird survey was also conducted in the area. The analysis of wounds revealed that a larger proportion of snakes were wounded in the meadow sites, but of these wounded snakes, a significantly larger proportion of smaller snakes displayed wounds in the lakeshore site. Furthermore, the bird survey suggested a much stronger bird predation pressure prevailed in the lakeshore environment. These results suggest that smaller birds may be preying on lakeshore snakes, injuring more of the smaller snakes. Additionally, birds may be more adept at killing the garter snakes in the lakeshore region, leaving fewer alive, injured snakes with visible wounds. These differences in bird predation may help promote the ecotypic differences between the lakeshore and meadow garter snakes.
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