Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Thomas K. Pauley

Second Advisor

Dan K. Evans

Third Advisor

Frank Gilliam


Two species of gartersnakes, Thamnophis, are found in West Virginia. Thamnophis sauritus , a semi-arboreal and semi-aquatic species, is listed as very rare and imperiled (S2) by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) while the other Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis, a terrestrial species, is secure (S5). During the summer of 2007, I traveled to 53 counties in West Virginia searching for habitat and these two species.Several Thamnophis sirtalis were found in a variety of habitats throughout the state, but only three Thamnophis sauritus were found. Reproductive aspects were compared between the two species by holding gravid females in captivity until they had given birth, as well as dissection ofmuseum specimens. Thamnophis sauritus has a significantly smaller clutch size than Thamnophis sirtalis. Dietary analysis was conducted by nonlethal stomach flushing, experimental feeding trails, and dissection of museum specimens. Both species consume most amphibians and to lesser degree fish. Because morphology can have a significant impact on the ecological habits of a species, various morphological measurements were taken and compared among four snake species that are found in different habitats. Thamnophis sauritus shows very little morphometric variation, sharing traits of both arboreal and aquatic species and is the most limited in habitat and diet of the four species compared. Thamnophis sirtalis shows much variation in diet, habitat and has the most morphometric variation. Comparison of habitat and morphology of these two species provides insight on the cause for the difference in ranking of these two species.


Garter snakes - West Virginia.