Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Thomas K. Pauley

Second Advisor

Jayme Waldron

Third Advisor

Frank Gilliam

Fourth Advisor

Jeffrey D. May


The Common Water Snake, Nerodia sipedon sipedon, is one of six subspecies, and the only species of Nerodia to inhabit West Virginia. Because it is abundant and information on the species is lacking within the state, it was used as my study organism. The effectiveness of manual palpation, the most commonly used method in snake diet related studies, was tested against museum dissection by comparing presence and absence of gut contents. Nineteen individuals of 76 manually palpated collected snakes were compared to 6 individuals of 37 dissected snakes using a Pearson chi-square analysis. Results suggested manual palpation is an effective method to obtain diet data, X2 (1, N=135) = 0.7296, p= 0.05. In addition, morphological data were collected from field specimens and used to determine the best predictor of sex, as well as to obtain information on average snout-vent length, total length, and mass of N. s. sipedon in West Virginia. Field notes of cover object use, behavior, and other herpetofauna from the field site were also reported. Data collected from this study will provide information on the effectiveness of manual palpation and information on the natural history of N. s. sipedon in West Virginia.


Snakes - Ecology.

Snakes - Behavior.