Intrinsic prey preference and selection of the giant gartersnake: A threatened predator in a nonnative prey-dominated community

Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
By: , and 

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Abstract

The introduction of exotic species into an environment can introduce great change in the trophic dynamics of native species. This is of even greater concern if the native species is of conservation concern. The giant gartersnake, Thamnophis gigas, an endemic predator of the Central Valley of California and a species of conservation concern at the state and federal levels, has declined as a result of conversion of its once vast wetland habitat to agriculture. Another anthropogenic factor contributing to this snake's changing ecology is the introduction of nonnative prey into the species' habitats. These introductions have resulted in a prey community that is almost completely composed of exotic species and have potential for considerable effects. In order to assess prey preference and selection we performed three sets of behavioral trials on naïve neonates. We examined 1) neonate prey preference in response to olfactory cues of prepared prey extracts, 2) neonate consumption of different live prey items presented simultaneously; and 3) terrestrial feeding behavior and/or latency to successful attack. Results from the olfactory study suggest that native Sierran treefrogs, Pseudacris sierra, are preferred by neonates. Results from consumption trials suggest that neonates are more likely to select frog species than fish species. This is the first study that we are aware of that examines prey selection of this threatened species and serves to inform its conservation and management.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Intrinsic prey preference and selection of the giant gartersnake: A threatened predator in a nonnative prey-dominated community
Series title Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
DOI 10.3996/062019-JFWM-051
Volume 11
Issue 1
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Allen Press
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 10 p.
First page 164
Last page 173
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