Our network

Berry professor studies snake behavior | Environment

Title (Max 100 Characters)

Berry professor studies snake behavior
Berry professor studies snake behavior

ROME, Ga. -- Most people run away when they see a snake, but Berry College professor George Gallagher runs right toward them.

Gallagher, an animal science professor, is collecting 40 non-venomous snakes for two research experiments this summer at Berry.

The first project will determine whether snakes are attracted to hidden cameras because of the light or heat. The second will evaluate if a non-toxic repellent works on snakes.

So far, Gallagher and his two student researchers, Kaylee Polizzi and Stephanie Prisland, have collected corn, rat and king snakes in a variety of colors and sizes.

"When you can do a study that involves animals, you jump right on it," said Prisland, an animal science major at Berry.

For the camera experiment, a snake is put in a large triangle-shaped pen with small hidden cameras, which record its every movement over a 24 hour period.

The experiment is related to previous research of shrub-nesting bird predators at the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center in Newton, Ga. Hidden camera video showed animals like raccoons coming into nests, grabbing eggs or hatched chicks and leaving quickly. But the snakes that visited the nests would lick the camera and play with it -- almost as if they were attracted to it -- before eating the eggs.

"The effort is not only to better understand predation patterns, but to better understand sensory mechanisms such as detection of heat and light by different species of snakes," Gallagher said. "We clearly need to know who the predators are in order to be effective and selective in protecting the desired species. Additionally, by better understanding how the anatomy and physiology of the snake influences behavior, we could create better methods to attract or repel snakes from a particular area."

After their participation, the snakes will be released back into the wilds of the Berry campus.