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2013 Abstracts

Urbanization and its Effects on Prey Preference in Wandering Garter Snakes (Thamnophis elegans vagrant)

Dillon Monroe, Southern Utah University


When an area is developed no part of that habitat is left unaffected. Urbanization creates many problems for animals by creating physical barriers, fragmenting habitat, introducing completely new habitat, and introducing species. Exotic species are often better competitors for resources and often competitively exclude native species, resulting in population declines and ecosystem disruption. Despite the negative effects of urbanization some species are able to adapt and survive in urban ecosystems. One such species is the wandering garter snake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans). This species is described as a generalist in habitat selection and is often seen in urban communities basking on sidewalks and pavement, living in gardens, and feeding on rodents, insects, and other species. One unique characteristic of this genus is that prey preference has been observed as being a genetic trait and possesses variation, and as such can be modified via natural selection. For my research project I looked at whether prey preference of T. elegans vagrans differs between snakes from three different locations with varying levels of human development. From these three locations in Utah, Tropic reservoir, Monroe (Sevier River), and Utah Lake, we obtained a total of 14 snakes and found that in this group of snakes there is no correlation of prey preference in snakes to level of development of the habitat.