Monday, May 30, 2011

External Transmitter Attachment

Most rattlesnake researchers implant radio-transmitters into their study animals. Such transmitters emit radio frequency signals that can be picked up by a receiver (sort of like how your car radio picks up station frequencies). This allows us to track individual snakes, which are normally hard to relocate due to their elusive nature (i.e. they like to hide in burrows and under rocks). However, since we are conducting a behavioral study, we tried out a new external attachment technique because surgically implanting transmitters can alter the behavior of the animals for up to two weeks. Check out the process below.

Rulon tubes a snake and we anesthetize it by placing a paper towel soaked in isoflurane at the end of the tube 

Anesthetized snake ready for a transmitter attachment

We sewed the transmitter through the skin of the snake, but not through the muscle (subcutaneous)

A released snake with external transmitter attached--we also duct-taped them in place

So far, most snakes have managed to rip off their external transmitters--We have been forced to do surgeries on the rest of our sample population


  1. Sorry to hear that...Any cool snake-squirrel interactions yet? If you guys have any extra transmitters you should implant them in any big gopher snakes you find to compare the subsequent responses of the snakes (gopher snakes get EXTREMELY defensive during the interactions from what I've seen).

  2. We haven't seen anything yet. The squirrels here aren't as active as the ones at your site. Also, the weather has been terrible--mostly cold and rainy so this has not been good for data collection. We duct-taped some transmitters onto gopher snakes, so we will see if we can get any data off of them. It would be very interesting.