Study Subjects

Red-sided garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis

The red-sided garter snake is famous for aggregating in huge numbers in Manitoba during the breeding season. Each spring, thousands of these snakes emerge from underground. The males tend to come out first, and then court the females as they surface.

Because these snakes breed in such huge numbers, they make an excellent model for the study of reproduction. It is relatively easy to get very large sample sizes, and they are very resistant to disruption. They also adapt very well to captivity, making laboratory research feasible. For these reasons, the red-sided garter snake is arguably the best studied reptile in the world.

For more information on the red-sided garter snake in our lab, see Deb's page, Dr. Mason's Research Interests.

Brown Tree Snake, Boiga irregularis

Photo of Heather and a brown tree snake, 
© Ryan P. O'Donnell The brown tree snake was introduced to the tropical island of Guam during World War II. It has since devastated the local animal species, especially birds, extirpating some species and driving others to extinction. They are difficult to control because they are nocturnal and arboreal, so they are not often seen by people. We are trying to learn how to control their population. One idea that we are currently working on is to use their reproductive pheromones to devise traps for them. For more information on this, see Dr. Mason's Research Interests or Heather Waye's page.

Sea snakes

(Description of our work with sea snakes coming soon)

Oregon snakes

Oregon red-spotted garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis concinnus

This snake belongs to the same species as the red-sided garter snake, but differs in the details of its coloration, and in its range. While subspecies identity and range are still being debated by many herpetologists, some recognize the Oregon red-spotted garter snake as a distinct subspecies endemic to the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

In our studies of local snake communities, this is the snake we see most often. Like the red-sided garter snake, it does fairly well in captivity (but it may be illegal to collect them from the wild without appropriate permits, and we do not encourage keeping any wild animal as a pet) and is useful for laboratory studies.

Photo © Doug Opheim

Northwestern garter snake, Thamnophis ordinoides

This garter snake is endemic to the Pacific Northwest. It is thought to specialize on worms and slugs, but is also known to take small salamanders. Its coloration is very variable, so it is best identified based on its range, head size, and scale counts. In the future, we hope to learn more about competition between this snake and the Oregon red-spotted garter snake.

Photo © Doug Opheim

Photo © Ryan P. O'Donnell

Gopher snake, Pituophis catenifer

This is the largest snake that we see in this part of Oregon, sometimes getting to over four feet in length. Some people may mistake it for a rattlesnake becuase of the pattern on its back and its habit of shaking its tail and hissing when it is agitated. This snake does well on our study site, and is often seen crawling out of a mouse nest with a full belly.

Photo © Ryan P. O'Donnell

Measuring a gopher snake with a full belly, 
Photo © Doug Opheim

Ringneck snake, Diadophis punctatus

The ringneck snake is the most secretive and smallest of the snakes that we commonly see. It is easily identified by its grayish back and bright orange-red belly, with a ring of orange around its neck. Evidence from our lab and others indicates that this species is venomous to its prey. Click here to see an abstract describing our research, which was presented as a poster at the meeting of the Society For Northwestern Vertebrate Biology on April 4-5, 2002.

Photo © Ryan O'Donnell

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This page last updated October 21, 2005