A Comparison of three external transmitter attachment methods for snakes

Julia L. Riley*, James H. Baxter-Gilbert, Jacqueline D. Litzgus

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    Radiotelemetry is a widely used and informative tool in studies of animal ecology, behavior, and conservation. Over the past 50 years, many different methods have been used to outfit animals with radiotransmitters. Radiotelemetry studies on snakes typically require anesthesia and surgery to internally implant transmitters; however, internal implantation methods can increase snake mortality and infection rates, and may alter natural behaviors, thereby reducing data validity. We qualitatively compared 3 methods of external transmitter attachment (i.e., glue-only, tape-and-glue, and a subdermal stitch), and compared their utility for collection of spatial data from April to November 2012 and 2013 at Magnetawan First Nation near Britt, Ontario, Canada. Transmitters attached with glue-only and tape-and-glue methods fell off shortly after deployment because of environmental factors and snake shedding. Both methods also resulted in skin irritation and slightly impeded snake movements. Conversely, the subdermal stitch method was long lasting in both the field and lab, and did not cause significant skin irritation. Also, the subdermal stitch method did not affect movement or the rattlesnake's ability to rattle. Additional quantitative research is required to determine if the subdermal stitch method triggers immune responses, infections, or negatively affects snake fitness. Our results suggest that the subdermal stitch method may be a viable external attachment method for use in radiotelemetry of snakes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)132-139
    Number of pages8
    JournalWildlife Society Bulletin
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


    • conservation
    • Pantherophis guttatus
    • radiotagging
    • radiotelemetry
    • Sistrurus catenatus
    • wildlife management


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