The marsh rice rat (Oryzomys palustris) inhabits wetlands that are often fragmented and isolated by upland cover types. Persistence of marsh rice rat populations and metapopulations likely depends on their ability to enter and traverse the upland matrix, yet basic information, such as home-range size and landcover use patterns, is lacking. Our goal was to quantify home-range size and habitat selection by marsh rice rats in southern Illinois. Between March and November 2011, we radiocollared 21 male rice rats (8 subadults and 13 adults) that were each located 7 to 24 times each via triangulation and homing. We estimated home-range size, compared landcover composition within kernel home ranges to what was available in the surrounding landscape, and quantified daily movement distances. Mean (±SE) home ranges were 3.53 ± 0.66 ha based on 95% kernel isopleths and 1.85 ± 0.49 ha based on minimum convex polygons. Home ranges were largest for individuals followed in early summer, but home-range sizes were similar for adults and subadults. Rice rats' use of emergent wetland vegetation was greater than availability, indicating they preferred emergent wetlands habitat at the home-range level. However, upland cover types made up >40% of each home range, on average. Daily movements averaged 46.6 ± 3.4 m (maximum: 396 m), and rice rats were located up to 464 m from the nearest wetland. Based on by far the largest sample size (in individuals and locations per individual) available for space use of the marsh rice rat, our findings support the characterization of male rice rats as highly vagile and suggest that rice rats move through upland cover more frequently than previously described.
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Vol. 96 • No. 4