Increasing detection and capture probabilities of rare or elusive herpetofauna of conservation concern is important to inform the scientific basis for their management and recovery. The Giant Gartersnake (Thamnophis gigas) is an example of a secretive, wary, and generally difficult-to-sample species about which little is known regarding its patterns of occurrence and demography. We therefore evaluated modifications to existing traps to increase the detection and capture probabilities of the Giant Gartersnake to improve the precision with which occurrence, abundance, survival, and other demographic parameters are estimated. We found that adding a one-way valve constructed of cable ties to the small funnel opening of traps and adding hardware cloth extensions to the wide end of funnels increased capture rates of the Giant Gartersnake by 5.55 times (95% credible interval = 2.45–10.51) relative to unmodified traps. The effectiveness of these modifications was insensitive to the aquatic habitat type in which they were deployed. The snout-vent length of the smallest and largest captured snakes did not vary among trap modifications. These trap modifications are expected to increase detection and capture probabilities of the Giant Gartersnake, and show promise for increasing the precision with which demographic parameters can be estimated for this species. We anticipate that the trap modifications found effective in this study will be applicable to a variety of aquatic and semi-aquatic reptiles and amphibians and improve conservation efforts for these species.
Additional publication details
Efficacy of trap modifications for increasing capture rates of aquatic snakes in floating aquatic funnel traps