Recommendations for using the subdermal stitch method to attach external transmitters on snakes

Christina N. Zdenek, Chris J. Hay, Damian Michael

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Abstract.—Snakes are a particularly neglected taxon within the field of wildlife management and conservation.Although research provides knowledge for evidence-based decision making, many factors hinder snake research.Challenging logistics regarding tracker attachment is one such factor. Radio telemetry is a widely used method to track snakes, but internal implants require prohibitively expensive surgeries (two per snake), can result in potentially fatal infections, and are unsuitable for small snakes. Several methods for temporarily attaching external trackers to snakes have largely failed. The subdermal stitch method for external transmitter attachment, however,appears to be a viable alternative, with fewer complications and injuries than the glue and glue-and-tape methods.We tested the efficacy of using the subdermal stitch method to attach radio-transmitters externally to Common Death Adders (Acanthophis antarcticus). In this pilot study, we tracked five individuals for 5–33 d (mean 20.8d; median 21 d) on Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia, in November and December 2018. We encountered multiple issues associated with the external attachment technique in death adders, including wounds to the tail(although none required veterinary services) and several entanglement hazards, one of which resulted in the death of one individual. We compare our experiences to previous studies, provide nine key recommendations that will guide future pilot studies to successfully test this technique, and call for more pilot studies to test this technique on snake species that range in ecology, morphology, and behavior.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)374-385
    Number of pages12
    JournalHerpetological Conservation and Biology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021


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