Giant gartersnakes (Thamnophis gigas) comprise a species of rare, semi-aquatic snake precinctive to the Central Valley of California. Because of the loss of more than 90% of their natural habitat, giant gartersnakes are listed as Threatened by the United States and California endangered species acts. Little is known, however, about the distribution of giant gartersnakes in the Sacramento Valley, which is where most extant populations occur. We conducted detection-nondetection surveys for giant gartersnakes throughout the rice-growing regions of the Sacramento Valley, and used occupancy models to examine evidence for the effects of landscape-scale GIS-derived variables, local habitat and vegetation composition, and prey communities on patterns of giant gartersnake occurrence. Although our results are based on a relatively small sample of sites, we found that distance to historic marsh, relative fish count, and an interaction of distance to historic marsh with proportion of habitat composed of submerged vegetation were important variables for explaining occupancy of giant gartersnakes. In particular, giant gartersnakes were more likely to occur closer to historic marsh and where relatively fewer fish were captured in traps. At locations in or near historic marsh, giant gartersnakes were more likely to occur in areas with less submerged vegetation, but this relationship was reversed (and more uncertain) at sites distant from historic marsh. Additional research with a larger sample of sites would further elucidate the distribution of giant gartersnakes in the Sacramento Valley.
|Title||A preliminary investigation of the variables affecting the distribution of giant gartersnakes (Thamnophis gigas) in the Sacramento Valley, California|
|Authors||Brian J. Halstead, Shannon M. Skalos, Michael L. Casazza, Glenn D. Wylie|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Open-File Report|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Western Ecological Research Center|