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Abstract: Pressure Sensitive Archival Tags

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Pressure Sensitive Archival Tags: A Novel Method to Monitor Foraging Behavior in Semi-Aquatic Snakes

Richard King1, Kristin Stanford1,2, Tim Reichard3, Lindsey Korfel3, Lauren Flick3

1Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Illinois University
2Ohio State University, F. T. Stone Laboratory
3Dr. Tim’s Wildlife and Exotics Care, LLC.

To test whether pressure sensitive archival tags could be used to collect detailed information on the foraging behavior of semi-aquatic snakes, we implanted Lotek tags programmed to record pressure every 2 min within the coelomic cavity of two adult female Lake Erie watersnakes (Nerodia sipedon insularum). Snakes were also implanted with radio transmitters to facilitate recapture and tag recovery. These snakes forage for bottom dwelling fish in the near shore waters of Lake Erie but spend non-foraging periods on land. Thus, changes in pressure occur during transitions from non-foraging (terrestrial) to foraging (aquatic) behavior. After several days of apparent inactivity, the two snakes exhibited 15 and 20 inferred foraging bouts over a two week period during late-June and early-July. Inferred foraging bouts ranged from 4 to 168 min with a median of 42 min. Intervals between inferred foraging bouts ranged from 60 to 1920 min (32 hr) with a median of 908 min (about 15 hr). Inferred foraging bouts accounted for 5.0% and 8.5% of the two snakes’ time budgets. Individuals differed in the timing of inferred foraging bouts. One individual foraged predominately during daylight hours (18 of 20 foraging bouts) whereas the other was equally likely to forage during daylight or at night (7 and 8 foraging bouts, respectively). Frequent foraging, as inferred from pressure sensitive archival tags, is consistent with the feeding behavior of captive Lake Erie watersnakes and with observations of prey recovered from free-ranging snakes. However, archival tags have the potential to provide far more detailed information on the timing, duration, seasonality, and sex differences of foraging.

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