Presentation Title

Stressed Snakes: Investigating a Possible Link between Physiological Stress and body condition in Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus oreganus)

Format of Presentation

Poster to be presented the Friday of the conference

Presenter Information

Cole R. HooperFollow

Abstract

Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus oreganus) are vital members of ecological communities in the arid regions of southern British Columbia. These areas are ecologically unique compared to the rest of BC, but they are experiencing rapid development. Therefore, it is critical for us to understand how the conversion of natural habitat to a landscape dominated by vineyards, orchards and resorts will impact wildlife. So far, Rattlesnakes have been been able to persist in anthropogenically disturbed areas, but previous research has indicated that there may be hidden effects on the health of individuals. Rattlesnakes within the same population near Osoyoos, BC have been found to have widely varying body condition; those living in areas with abundant human disturbance exhibit relatively poor body condition when compared to those living in undisturbed, natural habitats. This research aims to explore one of the potential mechanisms behind this effect; physiological stress. Blood samples were collected from Rattlesnakes within the Osoyoos population and analyzed to find the baseline corticosterone (stress hormone) content in order to see if there is a relationship between stress and body condition. This investigation into the underlying processes which reduce body condition will offer further understanding of the complex, indirect effects that anthropogenic disturbance has, not only on Rattlesnakes, but on other species of wildlife as well.

Department

Biological Sciences

Faculty Advisor

Karl Larsen and Mark Rakowbowchuk

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Stressed Snakes: Investigating a Possible Link between Physiological Stress and body condition in Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus oreganus)

Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus oreganus) are vital members of ecological communities in the arid regions of southern British Columbia. These areas are ecologically unique compared to the rest of BC, but they are experiencing rapid development. Therefore, it is critical for us to understand how the conversion of natural habitat to a landscape dominated by vineyards, orchards and resorts will impact wildlife. So far, Rattlesnakes have been been able to persist in anthropogenically disturbed areas, but previous research has indicated that there may be hidden effects on the health of individuals. Rattlesnakes within the same population near Osoyoos, BC have been found to have widely varying body condition; those living in areas with abundant human disturbance exhibit relatively poor body condition when compared to those living in undisturbed, natural habitats. This research aims to explore one of the potential mechanisms behind this effect; physiological stress. Blood samples were collected from Rattlesnakes within the Osoyoos population and analyzed to find the baseline corticosterone (stress hormone) content in order to see if there is a relationship between stress and body condition. This investigation into the underlying processes which reduce body condition will offer further understanding of the complex, indirect effects that anthropogenic disturbance has, not only on Rattlesnakes, but on other species of wildlife as well.