U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Document Type


Date of this Version

October 2001


Published in General and Comparative Endocrinology; Volume 124, Issue 1 , October 2001, Pages 106-114.


The effects of capture in a live trap and subsequent handling stress on plasma concentrations of corticosterone and other sex steroids were examined in wild male and female brown treesnakes (Boiga irregularis), an introduced species on Guam that has been implicated in the extirpation or decline of many of that island's vertebrate species. Males and females that spent 1 night in a trap had plasma levels of corticosterone about four and two times higher, respectively, than those of the respective free-ranging controls. Mean plasma levels of corticosterone of snakes that had spent 3 nights in a trap were intermediate between, but not significantly different from, those of snakes that had spent 1 night in a trap and free-ranging snakes, suggesting that some acclimation to capture occurred during this period. Snakes that were taken from traps and held in collecting bags for 10 min and 2 h prior to blood sampling had levels of corticosterone about two and three times higher, respectively, than those of control snakes that were taken from traps and bled immediately. Concentrations of plasma corticosterone in free-ranging females were about two times higher than those of males but were well within the range of basal levels observed in other reptiles. Few snakes of potential reproductive size were reproductive (males: 1 of 35; females: 2 of 33), and plasma concentrations of testosterone and progesterone in nonreproductive males and females, respectively, were accordingly low. The possible relationship between corticosterone and these sex steroids, therefore, could not be adequately assessed, although there was a positive relationship between plasma progesterone and corticosterone in the nonreproductive females. Nonetheless, as a prerequisite for studies on the seasonal hormonal cycles of this species on Guam, our observations raise the possibility that the stress caused by trapping could affect the levels of other sex steroids and that, therefore, such studies should use free-ranging individuals.