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Factors affecting defensive strike behavior in Brown Treesnakes (Boiga irregularis) provoked by humans

January 1, 2016

Striking is a typical antipredator defense exhibited by many species of snakes. While trapping Brown Treesnakes (Boiga irregularis) on Guam, we observed that snakes most frequently struck at an approaching person at a site where snakes had been trapped, marked, and handled in the past. Using a combination of between-sites and within-site comparisons, we assessed if the propensity to strike was correlated with capture histories (both recent and long-term), snake size, body condition (a proxy to nutritional stress), sex, or tail condition (broken or intact), while controlling for confounding variables. We confirmed that propensity to strike was higher at the site where we had been conducting capture-mark-recapture for several years. However, we were unable to demonstrate a correlation between striking tendencies and individual recent or long-term capture histories. The only morphological covariate that had an effect on strike propensity was sex, with females striking more often than males. After removing the site effect from our model, we found that snakes missing parts of their tails were more likely to strike than snakes with intact tails. We have yet to identify the factor(s) that cause the pronounced difference across sites in snake propensity to strike, and data from additional sites might help elucidate any geographical patterns.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Factors affecting defensive strike behavior in Brown Treesnakes (<i>Boiga irregularis</i>) provoked by humans
Authors McKayka M. Spencer, Bjorn Lardner, M.J. Mazurek, Robert N. Reed
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Herpetological Conservation and Biology
Series Number
Index ID 70162211
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center