School of Anthropology & Conservation

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Robert Ward

Status and conservation of grass snakes (Natrix natrix) and slow-worms (Anguis fragilis) in Jersey, C.I.

Supervisor(s): Professor Richard Griffiths (Main), Dr Jim Groombridge (Main), Ms Nina Cornish (States of Jersey, Department of the Environment) and Dr John Wilkinson (ARC)

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A grass snake (Natrix natrix)

Photograph by Professor Richard Griffiths

Slow worms (Anguis fragilis)

Photograph by Robert Ward

Though relatively common in mainland Britain and Europe, records of grass snakes in Jersey are limited with a patchy distribution. Its status is thus unclear, though it is obvious that numbers are low and that the distribution is restricted. With such little information available
on its ecology and population size in Jersey, there is much to be uncovered. Of relevance is the species’ recorded preference for amphibians as prey. The well-documented declines of amphibians on Jersey may have had an adverse effect upon the predatory grass snake.

The slow-worm in Jersey is considered fairly widespread and common in suitable habitat, however there is a lack of quantitative data on its distribution and abundance throughout the island. Furthermore, the first Jersey national amphibian and reptile recording scheme (NARRS) results (2007-2010) highlighted a very low rate of occupancy and distribution. Standard survey methods utilising refugia will provide more information on this species distribution and abundance. Moreover, by including slow-worms in this study, information on the health and connectivity of habitats that may be shared by grass snakes can be elaborated using slow-worm data.

My main research objectives are:

  • To determine the distribution and population size of grass snakes and slow-worms in Jersey
  • Investigate and model their movements, home range size, and habitat use
  • Examine predator / prey relationships
  • Conduct genetic analysis of the grass snake populations to determine population fitness and phylogeography.

Outcomes:

The major goal of this research is to determine the status of these species, and provide insight into the need for conservation measures in order to recover the species.

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My PhD is funded by Jersey States Department of the Environment.

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Last Updated: 08/09/2014