Grazing of livestock in streams and associated riparian habitats (hereafter referred to as riparian zones) may affect small mammal communities by influencing vegetation, water quality, and other site characteristics. To better understand these effects, we compared vegetation structure, and abundance and richness of small mammals in grazed riparian zones and similar areas where livestock had recently (1–2 years) been excluded in southwest Pennsylvania, 1998 and 1999. Mammalian species richness and abundance (all species combined, meadow voles [Microtus pennsylvanicus Ord], and meadow jumping mice [Zapus hudsonius Zimmermann]) were greater on sites where livestock had been excluded than grazed areas. These findings are likely the result of greater litter cover and increased vertical vegetation obstruction observed on these sites. Because small mammal communities respond quickly to relaxation of grazing in riparian zones, subsidy programs exist to partially pay for fencing, and landowners may potentially benefit from fencing these areas through improved water quality, erosion control, and livestock health, fencing may be an effective wildlife and grazing management tool.
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Vol. 57 • No. 4