The Sharp-tailed Snake (Contia tenuis) is a small (usually <30 cm total length), cryptic species found along the west coast of the United States and north into southwestern British Columbia. Because of its secretive nature, little is known about its behavioral ecology. We tested behavioral responses of 13 adult C. tenuis collected from a site in eastern Washington to potential invertebrate prey odors. We presented snakes with 2 control odors (water, cologne) and 2 possible invertebrate prey odors (earthworm, slug). Overall, there was a significant difference in both the time-to-first-tongue flick (latency) and mean tongue flick rate (number of tongue flicks/60 s trial) for the odors tested. The mean latency period was 6.0 ± 1.87 s for earthworm and 4.1 ± 1.57 s for slug. The mean tongue flick rates for earthworm and slug were 13.8 ± 4.09 flicks/s and 39.7 ± 15.79 flicks/s, respectively. These results support prior claims of a preference for slugs by C. tenuis. This preference for slugs may also explain the presence of C. tenuis in areas of anthropogenic disturbances with an abundance of slugs.
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Vol. 91 • No. 1