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Noninvasive genetic sampling has become a popular method for obtaining population parameter estimates for black (Ursus americanus) and brown (U. arctos) bears. These estimates allow wildlife managers to develop appropriate management strategies for populations of concern. Black bear populations at Great Dismal Swamp (GDSNWR), Pocosin Lakes (PLNWR), and Alligator River (ARNWR) National Wildlife Refuges in coastal Virginia and North Carolina, USA, were perceived by refuge biologists to be at or above cultural and perhaps biological carrying capacity, but managers had no reliable abundance estimates upon which to base population management. We derived density estimates from 3,150 hair samples collected noninvasively at each of the 3 refuges, using 6–7 microsatellite markers to obtain multilocus genotypes for individual bears. We used Program MARK to calculate population estimates from capture histories at each refuge. We estimated densities using both traditional buffer strip methods and Program DENSITY. Estimated densities were some of the highest reported in the literature and ranged from 0.46 bears/km2 at GDSNWR to 1.30 bears/km2 at PLNWR. Sex ratios were male-biased at all refuges. Our estimates can be directly utilized by biologists to develop effective strategies for managing and maintaining bears at these refuges, and noninvasive methods may also be effective for monitoring bear populations over the long term.
Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) pups (n = 366) were hot-branded at Lowrie Island, Southeast Alaska, USA, in June 2001 and 2002 for vital-rates studies. To assess potential mortality following branding, we estimated weekly survival to 12 weeks postbranding using mark–recapture models. Survival estimates ranged from 0.984/week to 0.988/week, or 0.868 over the 12-week period; varied little with sex, year, and capture area; and were higher for larger than smaller male pups and unexpectedly lower for larger than smaller female pups. Inclusion of resights at 1–3 years of age prevented a −4.5% bias in cumulative survival to 12 weeks postbranding by accounting for pups that survived but permanently emigrated from Lowrie Island during the 12-week survey. Data from double-marked pups (i.e., branded and flipper-tagged) indicated the low brand-misreading probability of 3.1% did not bias survival estimates. Assuming survival differences between the first 2 weeks postbranding and later weeks were due entirely to the branding event, potential postbranding mortality of branded pups attributable to the branding event was 0.5–0.7%, or one pup for every 200 marked. Weekly survival of branded pups was nearly identical to estimates from a control group of undisturbed, unbranded pups born to 10–11-year-old branded adult females in 2005 (0.987–0.988/week) and similar to pup survival estimates from other otariid studies. Available data did not indicate substantial mortality to 12 weeks postbranding resulting from the branding disturbance, suggesting branding of Steller sea lion pups can be used effectively for investigations of population declines without significantly affecting population health or study goals.
Conversion of native winter range into producing gas fields can affect the habitat selection and distribution patterns of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus). Understanding how levels of human activity influence mule deer is necessary to evaluate mitigation measures and reduce indirect habitat loss to mule deer on winter ranges with natural gas development. We examined how 3 types of well pads with varying levels of vehicle traffic influenced mule deer habitat selection in western Wyoming during the winters of 2005–2006 and 2006–2007. Well pad types included producing wells without a liquids gathering system (LGS), producing wells with a LGS, and well pads with active directional drilling. We used 36,699 Global Positioning System locations collected from a sample (n = 31) of adult (>1.5-yr-old) female mule deer to model probability of use as a function of traffic level and other habitat covariates. We treated each deer as the experimental unit and developed a population-level resource selection function for each winter by averaging coefficients among models for individual deer. Model coefficients and predictive maps for both winters suggested that mule deer avoided all types of well pads and selected areas further from well pads with high levels of traffic. Accordingly, impacts to mule deer could probably be reduced through technology and planning that minimizes the number of well pads and amount of human activity associated with them. Our results suggested that indirect habitat loss may be reduced by approximately 38–63% when condensate and produced water are collected in LGS pipelines rather than stored at well pads and removed via tanker trucks. The LGS seemed to reduce long-term (i.e., production phase) indirect habitat loss to wintering mule deer, whereas drilling in crucial winter range created a short-term (i.e., drilling phase) increase in deer disturbance and indirect habitat loss. Recognizing how mule deer respond to different types of well pads and traffic regimes may improve the ability of agencies and industry to estimate cumulative effects and quantify indirect habitat losses associated with different development scenarios.
Wind turbines in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA), California, USA, have caused annual fatalities of thousands of raptors and other birds. Alameda County implemented an Avian Protection Program requiring mitigation measures and eventual repowering to modern wind turbines, all intended to reduce raptor fatality rates 50% from levels estimated for 1998–2003. Two years into the 3-year program, we compared estimates of fatality rates between 1998–2003 and 2005–2007 and between a repowered wind project (Diablo Winds) and the APWRA's old-generation wind turbines. The APWRA-wide fatality rates increased significantly for multiple bird species, including 85% for all raptors and 51% for all birds. Fatality rates caused by the Diablo Winds repowering project were not lower than replaced turbines, but they were 54% and 66% lower for raptors and all birds, respectively, than those of concurrently operating old-generation turbines in 2005–2007. Because new-generation turbines can generate nearly 3 times the energy per megawatt of rated capacity compared to the APWRA's old turbines, repowering the APWRA could reduce mean annual fatality rates by 54% for raptors and 65% for all birds, while more than doubling annual wind-energy generation. Alternatively, the nameplate capacity of a repowered APWRA could be restricted to 209 megawatts to meet current energy generation (about 700 gigawatt-hr), thereby reducing mean annual fatalities by 83% for raptors and 87% for all birds. In lieu of repowering, bird fatalities could be reduced by enforcing operating permits and environmental laws and by the County requiring implementation of the Alameda County Scientific Review Committee's recommendations.
We evaluated efficacy of sound as a deterrent for reducing deer (Odocoileus spp.)–vehicle collisions by observing behavioral responses of free-ranging white-tailed deer (O. virginianus) to pure-tone sounds within their documented range of hearing. Behavior of free-ranging deer within 10 m of roadways was not altered in response to a moving automobile fitted with a sound-producing device and speakers that produced 5 sound treatments documented to be within the hearing range of white-tailed deer. Many commercially available, vehicle-mounted auditory deterrents (i.e., deer whistles) are purported to emit continuous pure-tone sounds similar to those we tested. However, our data suggest that deer whistles are likely not effective in altering deer behavior in a manner that would prevent deer–vehicle collisions.
Until large numbers of bat fatalities began to be reported at certain North American wind energy facilities, wildlife concerns regarding wind energy focused primarily on bird fatalities. Due in part to mitigation to reduce bird fatalities, bat fatalities now outnumber those of birds. To test one mitigation option aimed at reducing bat fatalities at wind energy facilities, we altered the operational parameters of 21 turbines at a site with high bat fatalities in southwestern Alberta, Canada, during the peak fatality period. By altering when turbine rotors begin turning in low winds, either by changing the wind-speed trigger at which the turbine rotors are allowed to begin turning or by altering blade angles to reduce rotor speed, blades were near motionless in low wind speeds, which resulted in a significant reduction in bat fatalities (by 60.0% or 57.5%, respectively). Although these are promising mitigation techniques, further experiments are needed to assess costs and benefits at other locations.
As wind power generation is rapidly expanding worldwide, there is a need to understand whether and how preconstruction surveys can be used to predict impacts and to place turbines to minimize impacts to birds. Wind turbines in the 165-km2 Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA), California, USA, cause thousands of bird fatalities annually, including hundreds of raptors. To test whether avian fatality rates related to rates of utilization and specific behaviors within the APWRA, from March 1998 to April 2000 we performed 1,959 30-minute behavior observation sessions (360° visual scans using binoculars) among 28 nonoverlapping plots varying from 23 ha to 165 ha in area and including 10–67 turbines per plot, totaling 1,165 turbines. Activity levels were highly seasonal and species specific. Only 1% of perch time was on towers of operating turbines, but 22% was on towers of turbines broken, missing, or not operating. Of those species that most often flew through the rotor zone, fatality rates were high for some (e.g., 0.357 deaths/megawatt of rated capacity [MW]/yr for red-tailed hawk [Buteo jamaicensis] and 0.522 deaths/MW/yr for American kestrel [Falco sparverius]) and low for others (e.g., 0.060 deaths/MW/yr for common raven [Corvus corax] and 0.012 deaths/MW/yr for turkey vulture [Cathartes aura]), indicating specific behaviors or visual acuity differentiated these species by susceptibility to collision. Fatality rates did not correlate with utilization rates measured among wind turbine rows or plots for any species except burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) and mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). However, mean monthly fatality rates of red-tailed hawks increased with mean monthly utilization rates (r2 = 0.67) and especially with mean monthly flights through turbine rows (r2 = 0.92). Fatality rates increased linearly with rates of utilization (r2 = 0.99) and flights near rotor zones (r2 = 1.00) for large raptor species and with rates of perching (r2 = 0.13) and close flights (r2 = 0.77) for small non-raptor species. Fatalities could be minimized or reduced by shutting down turbines during ≥1 season or in very strong winds or by leaving sufficiently large areas within a wind farm free of wind turbines to enable safer foraging and travel by birds.
We calculated expenditures and hours of staff and volunteer time dedicated to monitoring and managing the United States breeding population of Atlantic Coast piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) in 1993 and 2002 and considered implications for recovery of this management-dependent species. In 2002, 73 federal, state, and local governmental agencies and private organizations played key roles in conservation efforts at 281 piping plover breeding sites. Total inflation-adjusted estimated expenditures increased by 51% between 1993 and 2002, from US$2.28 million to $3.44 million, but annual per-pair expenditures declined 4% from $2,459 to $2,350, and hours of paid-staff effort were similar (93 hr/pair in 1993, 95 hr in 2002). Expenditures for on-site monitoring and management were greater than for 6 other categories of expenses in both years and increased from 42% to 59% of total costs between 1993 and 2002. Staff time and expenditures were higher at sites where more labor-intensive efforts to protect plovers from recreation and other human use were necessitated by greater human accessibility. Total expenditures in 2002 were modest compared to those for some other threatened and endangered species and to costs of large beach-stabilization projects. Our results provide a baseline for estimating future costs of piping plover protection, including development and implementation of the long-term management agreements that will be required to remove this species from United States Endangered Species Act protection. Impediments to reducing costs for Atlantic Coast piping plovers are the species' widespread distribution at low densities and the unrelenting threats posed by human activities and predators. Modest economies of scale may be achieved through arrangements for management and monitoring that span multiple landowners and include other at-risk beach species.
We used recent developments in theoretical population ecology to construct basic models of common loon (Gavia immer) demography and population dynamics. We parameterized these models using existing survival estimates and data from long-term monitoring of loon productivity and abundance. Our models include deterministic, 2-stage, density-independent matrix models, yielding population growth-rate estimates (λ) of 0.99 and 1.01 for intensively studied populations in our Wisconsin, USA, and New Hampshire, USA, study areas, respectively. Perturbation analysis of these models indicated that estimated growth rate is extremely sensitive to adult survival, as expected for this long-lived species. Also, we examined 20 years of count data for the 2 areas and evaluated support for a set of count-based models of population growth. We detected no temporal trend in Wisconsin, which would be consistent with fluctuation around an average equilibrium state but could also result from data limitations. For New Hampshire, the model set included varying formulations of density dependence and partitioning of stochasticity that were enabled by the annual sampling resolution. The best model for New Hampshire included density regulation of population growth and, along with the demographic analyses for both areas, provided insight into the possible importance of breeding habitat availability and the abundance of nonbreeding adults. Based on these results, we recommend that conservation organizations include nonbreeder abundance in common loon monitoring efforts and that additional emphasis be placed on identifying and managing human influences on adult loon survival.
Forest fire is often considered a primary threat to California spotted owls (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) because fire has the potential to rapidly alter owl habitat. We examined effects of fire on 7 radiomarked California spotted owls from 4 territories by quantifying use of habitat for nesting, roosting, and foraging according to severity of burn in and near a 610-km2 fire in the southern Sierra Nevada, California, USA, 4 years after fire. Three nests were located in mixed-conifer forests, 2 in areas of moderate-severity burn, and one in an area of low-severity burn, and one nest was located in an unburned area of mixed-conifer–hardwood forest. For roosting during the breeding season, spotted owls selected low-severity burned forest and avoided moderate- and high-severity burned areas; unburned forest was used in proportion with availability. Within 1 km of the center of their foraging areas, spotted owls selected all severities of burned forest and avoided unburned forest. Beyond 1.5 km, there were no discernable differences in use patterns among burn severities. Most owls foraged in high-severity burned forest more than in all other burn categories; high-severity burned forests had greater basal area of snags and higher shrub and herbaceous cover, parameters thought to be associated with increased abundance or accessibility of prey. We recommend that burned forests within 1.5 km of nests or roosts of California spotted owls not be salvage-logged until long-term effects of fire on spotted owls and their prey are understood more fully.
Waterfowl habitat conservation strategies in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) and several other wintering areas assume carrying capacity is limited by available food, and increasing food resources is an effective conservation goal. Because existing research on winter food abundance and depletion is insufficient to test this hypothesis, we used harvested rice fields as model foraging habitats to determine if waste rice seed is depleted before spring migration. We sampled rice fields (n = 39 [winter 2000–2001], n = 69 [2001–2002]) to estimate seed mass when waterfowl arrived in late autumn and departed in late winter. We also placed exclosures in subsets of fields in autumn (n = 8 [2000–2001], n = 20 [2001–2002]) and compared seed mass inside and outside exclosures in late winter to estimate rice depletion attributable to waterfowl and other processes. Finally, we used an experiment to determine if the extent of rice depletion differed among fields of varying initial abundance and if the seed mass at which waterfowl ceased foraging or abandoned fields differed from a hypothesized giving-up value of 50 kg/ha. Mean seed mass was greater in late autumn 2000 than 2001 (127.0 vs. 83.9 kg/ha; P = 0.018) but decreased more during winter 2000–2001 than 2001–2002 (91.3 vs. 55.7 kg/ha) and did not differ at the end of winter (35.8 vs. 28.3 kg/ha; P = 0.651). Assuming equal loss to deterioration inside and outside exclosures, we estimated waterfowl consumed 61.3 kg/ha (48.3%) of rice present in late autumn 2000 and 21.1 kg/ha (25.1%) in 2001. When we manipulated late-autumn rice abundance, mean giving-up mass of rice seed was similar among treatments (48.7 kg/ha; P = 0.205) and did not differ from 50 kg/ha (P = 0.726). We integrated results by constructing scenarios in which waterfowl consumed rice at different times in winter, consumption and deterioration were competing risks, and consumption occurred only above 50 kg/ha. Results indicated waterfowl likely consumed available rice soon after fields were flooded and the amount consumed exceeded our empirical estimates but was ≤48% (winters pooled) of rice initially present. We suggest 1) using 50 kg/ha as a threshold below which profitability limits waterfowl feeding in MAV rice fields; 2) reducing the current estimate (130 kg/ha) of rice consumed in harvested fields to 47.2 kg/ha; and 3) increasing available rice by increasing total area of fields managed, altering management practices (e.g., staggered flooding), and exploring the potential for producing second or ratoon rice crops for waterfowl.
About 1.5-million eared grebes (Podiceps nigricollis), representing half of the North American population, stage on Utah's Great Salt Lake, USA (GSL) during autumn migration to forage on brine shrimp (Artemia franciscana). Indirectly competing with birds for brine shrimp are commercial harvesters who annually collect >1 million kg (dry wt) of shrimp cysts (i.e., hardened eggs), an amount that during some years equals up to half of all brine shrimp cysts produced annually on the GSL. No information was available regarding what impact this commercial harvest was having on eared grebes. We determined daily energy requirements of eared grebes so that regulations governing brine shrimp cyst harvest would better reflect foraging needs of grebes. We measured basal metabolic rate (BMR) of eared grebes from June 2000 to October 2000. Mean BMR of 106 adult and subadult eared grebes was 0.023 kJ/g/hour (SD = 0.004), and mean BMR of 37 juveniles was 0.024 kJ/g/hour (SD = 0.003). Resting and preening metabolic rates were 1.2 times higher than BMR, whereas diving-bout metabolic rate was 1.7 times higher than BMR. Daily energy needs of an average-sized grebe (550 g) during November were 391 kJ. Meeting this energy need requires daily consumption of 24,400 adult brine shrimp. In addition, grebes must consume 2,100–5,200 adult shrimp daily to obtain enough energy reserves to continue their migration to California, USA, and Mexico. Hence, grebes need to consume 26,500–29,600 adult brine shrimp daily while staging on GSL. To achieve this high harvest rate, grebes need adult brine shrimp densities at >380 shrimp/m3 during autumn. Commercial harvest of brine shrimp cysts from GSL should be curtailed when cyst densities fall below 20,000 cysts/m3 to ensure enough adult brine shrimp for grebes during the subsequent year.
Silvicultural treatments prescribed to enhance wildlife habitat by promoting structural heterogeneity via retention of large live trees, snags, and coarse woody debris has been termed wildlife-forestry. Wildlife-forestry has been advocated for management of bottomland hardwood forests on public conservation lands within the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, USA. On Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Louisiana, we used distance sampling during 6 visits to 138 point locations to estimate avian densities within stands subjected to variable-retention harvests, within a 13-year chronosequence, and untreated control stands. Densities of 9 species, including 6 species of conservation concern, were greater in treated stands than on untreated stands. Five species responded negatively to treatments and had greater densities in untreated control stands. Based on conservation concern scores established by Partners in Flight and annual detections of each of 30 species, treated stands afforded greater community-wide bird conservation than did untreated stands. For most species, maximum treatment response was between 5 years and 8 years posttreatment with duration of treatment effect <13 years. Therefore, habitat conditions on treated stands should be reevaluated at circa 15-year intervals and, if warranted, additional silvicultural treatment prescribed to rejuvenate habitat conditions.
For species with temperature-dependent sex determination, such as marine turtles, global climate change poses numerous threats. At the nesting beach, rising temperatures are predicted to further skew already female-biased sex ratios and increase embryonic mortality; sea-level rise and resultant coastal squeeze may leave few alternative breeding habitats in developed regions. As a result, clutch relocation, a commonly used management tool to reduce egg loss, may become necessary for safeguarding populations. Although studies have examined the impact of relocation on clutch success, few have examined the impact of this practice on the sex or phenotypic characteristics of hatchlings produced. We used a randomized block design experiment to examine effects of relocation on green turtle (Chelonia mydas) clutches. We compared hatching success, thermal conditions, and size (length and mass) of hatchlings from in situ control clutches with those subjected to 2 relocation methods, while controlling for maternal and other environmental effects. Relocated clutches did not vary significantly from control clutches in incubation temperature or inferred sex ratios during the critical middle third of incubation when sex is thought to be determined. Hatchling size was also unaffected by relocation. Both relocation methods, however, resulted in a 20% reduction in hatching success in comparison to in situ clutches. Clutch relocation is, however, likely to affect the population primary sex ratio, when clutches are relocated from sites in proximity to the sea where tidal inundation is a threat. Here, cooler conditions are likely to produce more males than are the warmer female-producing temperatures higher up the beach. For clutches at risk, relocation is a viable process and does not appear to affect hatchling size or predicted sex ratios if relocation sites are selected in areas utilized by other females. We urge caution, however, when moving clutches from potentially male-producing sites, particularly given predicted impacts of climate change on already female-biased sex ratios.
In Massachusetts, USA, both human and beaver (Castor canadensis) population levels are increasing, beaver damage complaints are escalating, and beaver management options are restricted by the 1996 Wildlife Protection Act. We looked at the public's norms toward beavers in Massachusetts. In 2002 we sent a mail-back questionnaire to a random sample of 5,563 residents in 3 geographic regions in Massachusetts and to residents who submitted a beaver complaint to Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) in 1999–2000 (47.3% overall response rate). Respondents supported some form of beaver management. As severity of beaver damage was perceived to increase, respondents were more willing to accept lethal management and control of beavers. These results emphasize the importance of how tolerance and acceptability of wildlife are influenced by the type of activity the animal is engaged in, the type of management action that is proposed, the positive or negative perception of a species in the eye of the public, and the public's preference for future population levels. A full understanding of these 4 points will help tailor management accordingly, because this knowledge can define a threshold of acceptance by the public for anticipated management actions. Restoration of full beaver management authority to the cognizant wildlife management agency would facilitate application of normative information to determine appropriate management response for minimizing conflicts between humans and beavers.
Evaluation of habitat management practices at mid-rotation is needed for pine (Pinus spp.) plantations enrolled in cost-share programs. Plantations established in abandoned agricultural fields may have different understory plant communities than those with a long history of forest cover. Mid-rotation pine plantations often have a hardwood midstory that limits development of early succession habitat components important to white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus; deer) and northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus; bobwhite). We treated with imazapyr herbicide and prescribed burning (HB) 11 thinned, 13–22-year-old pine plantations in the Upper East Gulf Coastal Plain of Mississippi, USA, enrolled in cost-share programs, and we sampled plant community response during the summers of 2003 and 2004, years 1 and 2 posttreatment. The HB treatment created a more open structure with greater coverage of debris and herbaceous plants than in controls. Increased forb coverage in HB plots yielded a more seasonally diverse foraging base for deer. Horizontal screening cover developed slowly in HB plots and was more abundant in control plots. Autumn and winter food-plant coverage for bobwhite was provided by either treatment, but accessibility was improved in HB plots relative to controls. Bobwhite nesting cover was improved by HB relative to controls but was still of marginal quality. Brood-rearing habitat was precluded in both treatments due to lack of bare ground. Our results indicate that imazapyr followed by prescribed fire is a beneficial tool for creating early succession habitat for deer and bobwhite in mid-rotation pine plantations with a history of agricultural use. Continued management with periodic prescribed fire and overstory thinning should be instituted to maintain and perhaps improve these conditions.
Global Positioning System (GPS) telemetry is a prevalent tool now used in the study of large mammals. Global Positioning Systems either store the data on board the collar or contain a remote-transfer system that allows for data recovery at more frequent intervals. Spread spectrum (S–S) technology is a new mode of data transfer designed to overcome interference problems associated with narrow-band very high frequency and ultra high frequency data-transfer systems. We evaluated performance of S–S GPS radiocollars deployed on grizzly (Ursus arctos) and black bears (U. americanus). We also evaluated variables that influenced GPS fix success rates, with particular focus on animal activity, time of year, and temperature. The S–S GPS collars performed to our expectations and met study objectives; we did not experience any major problems with the data-transfer system. We observed varying rates of fix success that were directly related to recorded activity counts. Using logistic regression, we verified that activity counts were a reasonable measure of resting or feeding–traveling in both bear species. Our results showed that 73% and 79% of missed fixes, respectively, occurred when we predicted black and grizzly bears to be resting. Temperatures measured in the canister of the collar were not correlated with air temperature, suggesting posture and activity influenced canister temperature. Both measures of temperature were predictive of fix success. We did not find that fix success was related to body morphology (i.e., neck circumference, mass, and chest girth), fix interval, position of the GPS antenna relative to the sky, or sex of the bear. We conclude that fix success for both species is strongly related to activity patterns and time of year. Activity counters appear to be a reasonable measure of this behavior, and we recommend researchers consider including an activity-count system when deploying GPS collars. We also recommend researchers explore building separate models of habitat selection based upon categories of activity to account for bias in fix success associated with bear behavior.
Variance in population estimates is affected by the number of samples that are chosen to genotype when multiple samples are available during a sampling period. Using genetic data obtained from noninvasive hair-snags used to sample black bears (Ursus americanus) in the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, USA, we developed a bootstrapping simulation to determine how precision of population estimates varied based on the number of samples genotyped. Improvements in precision of population estimates were not monotonic over all samples sizes available for genotyping. Estimates of cost, both financially and in terms of bias associated with increasing genotyping error and benefits in terms of greater estimate precision, will vary by species and field conditions and should be determined empirically.
Traditionally, seasons for animals have been designated based on single external variables such as climate or plant phenology, rather than an animal's response to the dynamic environments within which it lives. By interpreting a rate of movement function of cumulative movement through time we established a method that distinguishes transitions between behaviors limited by winter habitat conditions from those present during summer. Identification of these time periods provides temporal definition to subsequent home-range analyses and use–availability comparisons. We used location data from 32 Global Positioning System–collared female moose (Alces alces) to demonstrate the method. We used model selection (Akaike's Information Criterion) to differentiate between candidate rate of movement response curves. Of 32 moose, 29 clearly conformed to an annual movement pattern described by a logistic curve, with increased rates of movement in summer compared to winter. Conversely, 3 aberrant individuals did not alter their movement rate through the year and were best fit with a linear response curve. The seasonal rate of movement model we developed suggests an average summer period of 122 days (median = 119 days, range = 96–173 days) for moose in northwestern Ontario, Canada. The rate of movement model we applied to individuals indicated 1 May as the median date for the winter–summer transition (range = 2 Apr–24 May), and the median transition from summer to winter was 25 August (range = 1 Aug–23 Oct). Wide variation in timing and duration of summer and winter seasons among individuals demonstrates potential failure of the single external variable approach to capture the suite of factors potentially influencing animal behaviors. By plotting cumulative distance moved throughout the year, we elucidated individual variation in response to known and unknown variables that affect animal movement. Accounting for variability among individuals in designation of biologically significant temporal boundaries is critical to delineation of seasonally important habitats for conservation and sustainability of healthy wildlife populations.
The ability to measure body composition is critical for studying the physiological ecology of animals. This is particularly true for small mammals that have a high metabolic rate. We evaluated a nondestructive method of body composition analysis that would allow accurate assessment of body fat, body water, and lean mass. We used total body electrical conductivity (TOBEC) to estimate body composition in the little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus). In a sample of 46 individuals, TOBEC was both accurate and precise in estimating total body water and lean mass but was less effective at estimating total body fat. Mass-independent or whole-body compartments (i.e., total body water, total body fat, lean dry mass, and lean body mass) were more accurately estimated than mass-dependent or mass-specific body composition compartments (i.e., water content, fat index, and % lean dry mass). The TOBEC measurements we made using an SA-3000 analyzer were influenced by extremes in body temperature, as well as by aluminum and incoloy wing bands. Our study also presents a new method of restraint especially suited for small mammals and birds that increases precision of TOBEC measurements. This study shows that TOBEC is a potentially valuable tool for studying changes in body composition of small mammals and may provide insight into the physiological impacts of various life history stages such as postnatal growth, reproduction, and hibernation.
The nature reserve Serra da Malcata, Portugal, was recently considered a site for Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) reintroduction. Because of potential disease risk posed by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in the area, a reliable estimate of fox abundance was critical for a dependable reintroduction program. We adapted camera-trapping techniques for estimating red fox abundance in the reserve. From July 2005 to August 2007, we conducted 7 camera-trapping sessions, allowing for individual identification of foxes by physical characteristics. We estimated abundance using the heterogeneity (Mh) model of the software program CAPTURE. Estimated density ranged from 0.91 ± 0.12 foxes/km2 to 0.74 ± 0.02 foxes/km2. By estimating red fox density, it is possible to define the number of foxes that must be sampled to assess the presence of potential fox-transmitted diseases that may affect lynx reintroduction.
Wildlife crossing-structures (e.g., underpasses and overpasses) are used to mitigate deleterious effects of highways on wildlife populations. Evaluating performance of mitigation measures depends on monitoring structures for wildlife use. We analyzed efficacy of 2 noninvasive methods commonly used to monitor crossing-structure use by large mammals: tracking and motion-activated cameras. We monitored 15 crossing-structures every other day between 29 June and 24 October 2007 along the Trans-Canada Highway in Alberta, Canada. Our objectives were to determine how species-specific detection rates are biased by the detection method used, to determine factors contributing to crossing-event detection, and to evaluate the most cost-effective approach to monitoring. We detected 3,405 crossing events by tracks and 4,430 crossings events by camera for mammals coyote-sized and larger. Coyotes (Canis latrans) and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) were significantly more likely to be detected by track-pads, whereas elk (Cervus elaphus) and deer (Odocoileus sp.) were more likely to be detected by cameras. Crossing-event detection was affected by species, track-pad length, and number of animals using the crossing structure. At the levels of animal activity observed in our study our economic analysis indicates that cameras are more cost-effective than track-pads for study durations >1 year. Understanding the benefits and limitations of camera and track-pad methods for monitoring large mammal movement at wildlife crossing-structures will help improve the efficiency of studies designed to evaluate the effectiveness of highway mitigation measures.
We evaluated different trap styles and related mortality of trapped ducks (Anas spp.) for 3 field seasons as part of the United States–Canada Cooperative Waterfowl Banding Program. During 2002, we evaluated 4 trap designs and caught 10,966 ducks. Trap style affected capture rates (P = 0.018, F5 = 9.02), with Benning II and oval traps catching more ducks than cloverleaf and star traps. In 2003, we tested 3 trap styles and caught 10,849 ducks. Trap style affected duck capture rates (P < 0.01, F5 = 15.16), with oval traps with 6-m lead panels catching more ducks than Benning II traps and cloverleaf traps. During 2004, we tested 3 trap styles and caught 11,737 ducks. Trap style affected capture rates (P < 0.01, F5 = 11.23), with oval traps with 6-m leads catching more ducks than either the oval trap without leads or Benning II traps. Trap style affected mortality rates of ducks, but overall mortality of trapped ducks was low with a rate of 1.16% in 2002, 0.32% in 2003, and 0.17% in 2004; mortality was not a major problem in our study. Waterfowl managers may be able to catch more ducks using oval traps with leads without increasing mortality of captured ducks.
Waterfowl biologists estimate seed production in moist-soil wetlands to calculate duck-energy days (DEDs) and evaluate management techniques. Previously developed models that predict plant seed yield using morphological measurements are tedious and time consuming. We developed simple linear regression models that indirectly and directly related seed-head area to seed production for 7 common moist-soil plants using portable and desktop scanners and a dot grid, and compared time spent processing samples and predictive ability among models. To construct models, we randomly collected approximately 60 plants/species at the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, USA, during September 2005 and 2006, threshed and dried seed from seed heads, and related dry mass to seed-head area. All models explained substantial variation in seed mass (R2 ≥ 0.87) and had high predictive ability (R2predicted ≥ 0.84). Processing time of seed heads averaged 22 and 3 times longer for the dot grid and portable scanner, respectively, than for the desktop scanner. We recommend use of desktop scanners for accurate and rapid estimation of moist-soil plant seed production. Seed predictions per plant from our models can be used to estimate total seed production and DEDs in moist-soil wetlands.
Noninvasive scat sampling methods can generate large samples sizes, collected over vast landscapes, ideal for addressing wildlife conservation and management questions. However, the cost of genotyping scat samples limits the accessibility of these techniques. We describe detection-dog methods for matching large numbers of scat samples to the individual, reducing or eliminating the need for sample genotyping. Three dogs correctly matched 25 out of 28 samples from 6 captive maned wolves (Chrysocyon brachyurus) of known identity. Sample scent-matching can increase overall accessibility and breadth of applications of noninvasive scat-collection methods to important landscape scale problems in wildlife sciences.
We assessed effects of tissue collection methods (i.e., patagial microbiopsy and down feathers) and chick age at sampling on morphometrics and 21-day survival of 600 captive neonatal northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus). We observed minimal effects on morphometrics and no difference in survival among patagial microbiopsy (x ¯ = 0.96 ± 0.03), down feathers (x ¯ = 0.92 ± 0.04), and control (x ¯ = 0.86 ± 0.05) methods. DNA analysis from patagial microbiopsy, down feather, and egg tooth samples showed greater concentrations of DNA from patagial microbiopsy (x ¯ = 10.28 ± 1.74 µg/ml) than either down feather (x ¯ = 4.10 ± 1.74 µg/ml) or egg teeth (x ¯ = 2.35 ± 1.74 µg/ml).
Measuring terrestrial movements of small animals poses a substantial technological challenge. We developed very long (up to 130 m) passive integrated transponder (PIT) detectors with which we tracked salamanders (Caudata) migrating from breeding ponds to their upland habitat >200 m away. In all 60 trials, salamanders were detected when released near the antennae. In a second test, we tracked 7 of 14 tagged marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum) migrating >65 m, well beyond the area protected by existing wetland buffer regulations in Massachusetts, USA. The mean rate of movement for these salamanders (x ¯ = 0.9 m/min; SE = 0.1 m/min) was substantially higher than rates of movement reported for related salamanders with radio-implants. These PIT antennae offer researchers a means to study small animal movements with less disruption of the animals' natural movement patterns than is caused by other available techniques.
We quantified protection given by a variety of gloves against bat bites by using steel indenters to simulate teeth and measuring forces needed to puncture the gloves. Level of protection given by gloves was compared to expected bite forces and tooth sharpness of bats. Cotton, plastic-coated synthetic fabric, and proprietary materials advertised as puncture- and cut-resistant were easy to penetrate compared to leather gloves. Split leather gives the highest level of protection, but with reduced dexterity. These are best for handling larger bats (>40 g) or if higher safety is preferred. Deerskin gives reasonable protection without much loss in dexterity for handling bats <40 g.