Abundance and Sexual Size Dimorphism of the Giant Gartersnake (Thamnophis gigas) in the Sacramento Valley of California
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The Giant Gartersnake (Thamnophis gigas) is restricted to wetlands of the Central Valley of California. Because of wetland loss in this region, the Giant Gartersnake is both federally and state listed as threatened. We conducted mark-recapture studies of four populations of the Giant Gartersnake in the Sacramento Valley (northern Central Valley), California, to obtain baseline data on abundance and density to assist in recovery planning for this species. We sampled habitats that ranged from natural, unmanaged marsh to constructed managed marshes and habitats associated with rice agriculture. Giant Gartersnake density in a natural wetland (1.90 individuals/ha) was an order of magnitude greater than in a managed wetland subject to active season drying (0.17 individuals/ha). Sex ratios at all sites were not different from 1 1, and females were longer and heavier than males. Females had greater body condition than males, and individuals at the least disturbed sites had significantly greater body condition than individuals at the managed wetland. The few remaining natural wetlands in the Central Valley are important, productive habitat for the Giant Gartersnake, and should be conserved and protected. Wetlands constructed and restored for the Giant Gartersnake should be modeled after the permanent, shallow wetlands representative of historic Giant Gartersnake habitat.
Journal of Herpetology
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