Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Thomas K. Pauley

Second Advisor

Dan Evans

Third Advisor

Suzanne Strait

Fourth Advisor

Bill Sutton


Forest fragmentation is one of the main causes for the loss of native biodiversity. One consequence is increased proportion of edge habitat that introduces new “edge” species, and makes habitat for interior forest-living species less-suitable. This study was conducted at three sites in Tucker County, West Virginia and included one downhill ski slope, one cross country ski slope, and one gravel road. The main objectives of this study were to determine relative abundance of snake communities, how far species move from edge habitat into the forest and to determine whether snakes are a predatory threat to salamanders, specifically the federally protected Cheat Mountain Salamander (Plethodon nettingi). Area constrained surveys were conducted at each site from June through mid-October 2009. Three transects were placed at each study site and a vegetation analysis was conducted to quantify changes in plant communities. Snakes found were measured for snout-to-vent length and total length. Gender was determined and each specimen marked for recapture data. Results show the majority of snakes were found along the forest edge under cover objects where direct sunlight heats the ground and rocks. The highest concentration of all salamander species were found along transects deeper into the forest. Snake species observed included 44 Northern Ring-necked Snakes (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii), 15 Red-bellied Snakes (Storeria o. occipitomaculata), 35 Eastern Gartersnakes (Thamnophis s. sirtalis) and 5 Smooth Greensnakes (Opheodrys vernalis), all of which include a diet of salamanders to some extent. Results from this study will not only provide data on the implications of forest fragmentation, but will also provide the US Fish and Wildlife Service vital information on revising the Cheat Mountain Salamanders recovery plan.


Natural history - West Virginia - Tucker County.

Cheat Mountain Salamander.

Forest management.

Nature conservation.