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Delineating populations is critical for understanding population dynamics and managing habitats. Our objective was to delineate subpopulations of migratory female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the central Black Hills, South Dakota and Wyoming, USA, on summer and winter ranges. We used fuzzy classification to assign radiocollared deer to subpopulations based on spatial location, characterized subpopulations by trapping sites, and explored relationships among survival of subpopulations and habitat variables. In winter, Kaplan–Meier estimates for subpopulations indicated 2 groups: high (S = 0.991 ± 0.005 [𝑥̄ ± SE]) and low (S = 0.968 ± 0.007) weekly survivorship. Survivorship increased with basal area per hectare of trees, average diameter at breast height of trees, percent cover of slash, and total point-center quarter distance of trees. Cover of grass and forbs were less for the high survivorship than the lower survivorship group. In summer, deer were spaced apart with mixed associations among subpopulations. Habitat manipulations that promote or maintain large trees (i.e., basal area = 14.8 m2/ha and average dbh of trees = 8.3 cm) would seem to improve adult survival of deer in winter.
Approximately 26% of annual mortality for the endangered Florida Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) occurs as deer–vehicle collisions (DVCs) on the 5.6-km section of United States Highway 1 (US 1) on Big Pine Key (BPK), but extensive urban development adjacent to sections of US 1 complicates efforts to reduce DVCs. Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of the US 1 Project (continuous 2.6-km system of 2.4-m fencing, 2 underpasses, and 4 experimental deer guards constructed on US 1 on BPK) in reducing DVCs along US 1. Deer used the underpasses all 3 postproject years (2003–2005); however, we observed higher underpass use in 2004 and 2005 compared to 2003. Exclusion fencing reduced deer intrusions onto the fenced section of US 1 during the 3-year period (2003, n = 7 deer; 2004, n = 4; 2005, n = 12). With a reduction of deer intrusions onto this section of US 1, DVCs decreased in the fenced area by 73–100%; however, US 1 DVCs within the unfenced sections of US 1 also increased (40%) as expected. In controlling for effects of increasing deer density and traffic volume, study results suggest that highway improvements have decreased the net risk of DVCs along US 1, which indicates that use of deer fencing, deer guards, and underpasses is applicable in other urban communities experiencing unacceptable levels of DVCs.
Status assessment of endangered Florida Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) is currently limited by a paucity of information regarding population estimates for outer islands, which collectively comprise approximately 70% of potential habitat within the Key deer range. Practical limitations and financial considerations render traditional survey techniques impractical for application on remote outer islands. Our objective was to evaluate the utility of infrared-triggered cameras to estimate Key deer abundance on outer islands. We used digital infrared-triggered cameras and mark–resight methods to estimate Key deer abundance on 20 outer islands. Abundance estimates for primary subpopulations ranged from 15 to 16 for Howe Key, 5 to 10 for Knockemdown complex, and 13 to 17 for Little Pine Key. Other island complexes such as Ramrod Key, Water Key, and Annette complex maintain only small subpopulations (i.e., ≤5 individuals) and other previously inhabited island complexes (e.g., Johnson complex and Summerland Key) no longer maintain subpopulations. Key deer abundance was well below estimated carrying capacities on all outer islands, with larger natural populations occurring closest to Big Pine Key. Our results suggest that camera-based surveys offer a practical method to monitor abundance and population trends of Key deer on outer islands. Our study is the first to estimate Key deer abundance in these areas using technically structured model-based methods and provides managers with current and baseline information regarding Key deer subpopulations.
In the Adirondack region of northern New York, USA, severe weather and deep snow typically force white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) to congregate in areas of dense coniferous cover and along watercourses at lower elevations. We examined 16 yards in the Adirondacks and explored the observation that deer have changed their movement behavior to incorporate residential communities within their wintering areas. We compared locations of deer herds in 2003 and 2004 to deer wintering areas mapped during the 1960s and 1970s. Deer were predominantly absent in 9 of 16 historical yards but were present in residential communities within the same drainage. Yarding areas to which deer shifted contained more residential, deciduous, and mixed cover than yards where no shift occurred, indicating that deer in residential areas were using conifer and mixed cover at a finer scale than deer in nonresidential areas. Smaller winter ranges and core areas of marked deer in a residential winter yard further imply greater concentration of resources available in these areas. Marked deer demonstrated flexibility in core winter range fidelity, a behavior that allows for more permanent shifts as habitat and food resources change or as new areas with appropriate resources are encountered. Our study suggests that low-density residential areas in lowland conifer forests may provide an energetic advantage for deer during winter due to the assemblage of quality habitat interspersed with open areas and a variety of potential food sources in environments where movement is typically constrained by deep snow. Managers should consider the potential for changes in use of deer wintering areas prior to land conservation efforts and may need to adapt management strategies to reduce conflicts in communities occupied by deer during winter.
Interactions between wolves (Canis lupus) and coyotes (C. latrans) can have significant impacts on their distribution and abundance. We compared diets of recently translocated Mexican wolves (C. l. baileyi) with diets of resident coyotes in Arizona and New Mexico, USA. We systematically collected scats during 2000 and 2001. Coyote diet was composed mostly of mammalian species, followed by vegetation and insects. Elk (Cervus elaphus) was the most common item in coyote scats. Mexican wolf diet had a higher proportion of large mammals and fewer small mammals than coyote diet; however, elk was also the most common food item in Mexican wolf scats. Our results suggest that Mexican wolf diet was more similar to coyote diet than previously reported, but coyotes had more seasonal variation. Considering results in other areas, we expect that Mexican wolves will have a negative impact on coyotes through direct mortality and possibly competition. Reintroduction of Mexican wolves may have great impacts on communities by changing relationships among other predators and their prey.
We estimated carrying capacity for sea otters (Enhydra lutris) in the coastal waters of British Columbia, Canada, by characterizing habitat according to the complexity of nearshore intertidal and sub-tidal contours. We modeled the total area of complex habitat on the west coast of Vancouver Island by first calculating the complexity of the Checleset Bay–Kyuquot Sound (CB–KS) region, where sea otters have been at equilibrium since the mid-1990s. We then identified similarly complex areas on the west coast of Vancouver Island (WCVI model), and adapted the model to identify areas of similar complexity along the entire British Columbia coast (BC model). Using survey data from the CB–KS region, we calculated otter densities for the habitat predicted by the 2 models. The density estimates for CB–KS were 3.93 otters/km2 and 2.53 otters/km2 for the WCVI and BC models, respectively, and the resulting 2 estimates of west coast of Vancouver Island complex habitat carrying capacity were not significantly different (WCVI model: 5,123, 95% CI = 3,337–7,104; BC model: 4,883, 95% CI = 3,223–6,832). The BC model identified the region presently occupied by otters on the central British Columbia coast, but the amount of coast-wide habitat it predicted (5,862 km2) was relatively small, and the associated carrying capacity estimate (14,831, 95% CI = 9,790–20,751) was low compared to historical accounts. We suggest that our model captured a type of high-quality or optimum habitat prevalent on the west coast of Vancouver Island, typified by the CB–KS region, and that suitable sea otter habitat elsewhere on the coast must include other habitat characteristics. We therefore calculated a linear, coast-wide carrying capacity of 52,459 sea otters (95% CI = 34,264–73,489)—a more realistic upper limit to sea otters in British Columbia. Our carrying capacity estimates are helping set population recovery targets for sea otters in Canada, and our habitat predictions represent a first step in Critical Habitat identification. This habitat-based approach to estimating carrying capacity is likely suitable for other nonmigratory, density-dependent species.
We investigated the influence of intrinsic and extrinsic variables on overwinter survival of raccoons (Procyon lotor; n = 114) at the northern edge of their distribution. A Cox proportional hazard model identified winter severity as the variable with the greatest influence on raccoon survival (β = 1.08). Autumn body condition estimates (20.5 ± 0.46% total body fat) were relatively stable across years even though we observed large differences in autumn food indices. Variations in autumn body condition did not explain heterogeneity observed in overwinter survival nor the spring condition in which raccoons emerged. Relatively constant autumn body condition suggests reliable availability of anthropogenic food resources may negate variations observed in natural food items on which raccoons rely during hyperphagia. Conversely, spring body condition did vary among years and was highly correlated with winter severity. Accordingly, we also observed a strong inverse relationship with overwinter survival and winter severity. Our findings indicate winter climatic constraints are important factors governing the northern limit of raccoon distribution and changes in winter severity could have important implications in further range expansion of this species.
Research on habitat use by bats typically occurs at a single fine spatial scale, despite recent work demonstrating the importance of considering multiple spatial scales when investigating vertebrate habitat selection. We assessed bat use of 118 stream reaches located throughout the Oregon Coast Range, USA, and measured vegetation characteristics at 3 spatial scales surrounding each of these locations. We used an information-theoretic approach to determine vegetation characteristics most closely related to bat activity and a multilevel modeling approach to evaluate variation in bat activity at different spatial scales. Characteristics of vegetation at the finest spatial scale explained more variation in bat activity than did characteristics of vegetation at broader spatial scales, suggesting that fine-scale anthropogenic or natural disturbance events that alter cover of shrubs or trees in riparian areas are likely to influence bat habitat use. The influence of vegetation on activity varied by species of bat and appeared to operate more strongly through constraints imposed by vegetation architecture than through influences on abundance of insect prey. This diversity of responses to vegetation characteristics among bat species suggests that the best strategy for biodiversity conservation over broad spatial scales is maintenance or creation of a diversity of riparian vegetation conditions. We recommend that land managers planning to manipulate riparian vegetation strive to create diversity in shrub coverage, canopy coverage, and open space above the stream channel to promote foraging habitat for all species.
Information regarding habitat types selected by federally endangered Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi) at natal den sites is needed because habitats used for parturition and kitten rearing potentially influence fitness of individuals and viability of the population. We located 51 natal den sites of 30 female panthers and performed a Euclidean distance analysis to determine which habitat types were selected and avoided at dens in south Florida, USA. Panther dens were closer to upland hardwoods, pinelands, and mixed wet forests (P ≤ 0.003) and farther from freshwater marsh–wet prairie (P = 0.009). We recommend that habitat protection efforts prioritize blocks of land that have abundant patches of upland hardwood, pinelands, and mixed wet forests to maintain preferred panther denning habitat.
The moose (Alces alces) is the most intensely managed game species in Sweden. Despite the biological and socioeconomical importance of moose, little is known of its population genetic structure. We analyzed 132 individuals from 4 geographically separate regions in Sweden for genetic variability at 6 microsatellite loci. We found evidence of strong substructuring and restricted levels of gene flow in this potentially mobile mammal. FST values were around 10%, and assignment tests indicated 3 genetically distinct populations over the study area. Spatial autocorrelation analysis provided a genetic patch size of approximately 420 km, implying that moose less than this distance apart are genetically more similar than 2 random individuals. Allele and genotype frequency distributions suggested a recent bottleneck in southern Sweden. Results indicate that moose may be more genetically divergent than currently anticipated, and therefore, the strong hunting pressure that is maintained over all of Sweden may have considerable local effects on genetic diversity. Sustainable moose hunting requires identification of spatial genetic structure to ensure that separate, genetically distinct subpopulations are not overharvested.
We conducted experimental feeding using 3 feeding methods (pile, spread, trough) and 2 quantities (rationed, ad libitum) of shelled corn to compare deer activity and behavior with control sites and evaluate potential direct and indirect transmission of infectious disease in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in central Wisconsin, USA. Deer use was higher at 2 of the feeding sites than at natural feeding areas (P ≤ 0.02). Deer spent a higher proportion of time (P < 0.01) feeding at pile (49%) and spread (61%) treatments than at natural feeding areas (36%). We found higher deer use for rationed than ad libitum feeding quantities and feeding intensity was greatest at rationed piles and lowest at ad libitum spreads. We also observed closer pairwise distances (≤0.3 m) among deer when corn was provided in a trough relative to spread (P = 0.03). Supplemental feeding poses risks for both direct and indirect disease transmission due to higher deer concentration and more intensive use relative to control areas. Concentrated feeding and contact among deer at feeding sites can also increase risk for disease transmission. Our results indicated that restrictions on feeding quantity would not mitigate the potential for disease transmission. None of the feeding strategies we evaluated substantially reduced the potential risk for disease transmission and banning supplemental feeding to reduce transmission is warranted.
Large wildfires are common in many western coniferous forests, and these fires can affect woodpecker reproduction and habitat use. Our objectives were to examine nesting densities, reproductive parameters, and species-specific habitat selection of woodpeckers in a recently burned region of the Black Hills in South Dakota, USA, between 2001 and 2004. Postfire nesting densities were greatest in areas dominated by high prefire canopy cover, and reproductive success averaged >70%. For some species of woodpeckers, factors such as diameter at breast height, burn severity, and distance to unburned patches were important for nest-site selection. Our data indicated that nesting densities of many woodpeckers in the Black Hills were lower than what has been recorded elsewhere following recent, large wildfires in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests. Management activities that simulate mixed-severity fire effects and retain higher numbers of large snags are likely to benefit cavity nesters in this region.
Supplemental feeding is a widely used management practice in areas managed for northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus; hereafter quail). Although food provisioning is intended to benefit quail directly, it may also indirectly affect predators by allowing them to focus on the increased concentration of prey. We studied the effects of food supplementation for northern bobwhite on red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) space use in a longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem in southwestern Georgia. We used radiotelemetry to determine whether hawks were attracted to areas where supplemental feeding occurred. We found hawks almost 3 times closer to feeding sites (224 ± 96 m; 𝑥̄ ± SE) than expected (638 ± 96 m). Our data provide an example of a common game management practice having an unintended influence on a top predator.
Agricultural intensification is a key factor in the decline of many avian populations throughout the world, yet the exact mechanisms that contribute to these declines are relatively unresolved, especially for seed-eating species. We tested the hypothesis that forage quality, particularly protein content, limits productivity in birds consuming diets dominated by agricultural grains and lacking in native forages. We used white-winged doves (Zenaida asiatica) because columbids are highly granivorous and white-winged doves have declined in areas dominated by grain agriculture. We randomly assigned 52 pairs of captive doves to 1 of 2 treatments: we fed one treatment sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and the second sorghum plus native seeds (croton [Croton sp.] and native sunflower [Helianthus sp.]). Birds with access to native seeds fledged 123% more young per pair, with young weighing 32% more at fledging than those fed only sorghum. Doves with access to native seeds selected a diet consisting of 43% sorghum, 32% croton, and 25% sunflower. We conclude that agricultural grains, which typically have high metabolizable energy and low to moderate protein concentrations, are not sufficient for normal productivity of white-winged doves. The lack of native forages with sufficient metabolizable energy and protein content may be a factor in the declining productivity of white-winged doves in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, USA, as well as other species in regions dominated by agriculture.
Investigation of bird migration has often highlighted the importance of external factors in determining timing of migration. However, little distinction has been made between short- and long-distance migrants and between local and flight birds (passage migrants) in describing migration chronology. In addition, measures of food abundance as a proximate factor influencing timing of migration are lacking in studies of migration chronology. To address the relationship between environmental variables and timing of migration, we quantified the relative importance of proximate external factors on migration chronology of local American woodcock (Scolopax minor), a short distance migrant, using event-time analysis methods (survival analysis). We captured 1,094 woodcock local to our study sites in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (USA) during autumn 2002–2004 and documented 786 departure dates for these birds. Photoperiod appeared to provide an initial proximate cue for timing of departure. Moon phase was important in modifying timing of departure, which may serve as a navigational aid in piloting and possibly orientation. Local synoptic weather variables also contributed to timing of departure by changing the rate of departure from our study sites. We found no evidence that food availability influenced timing of woodcock departure. Our results suggest that woodcock use a conservative photoperiod-controlled strategy with proximate modifiers for timing of migration rather than relying on abundance of their primary food, earthworms. Managing harvest pressure on local birds by adjusting season lengths may be an effective management tool with consistent migration patterns from year to year based on photoperiod.
We studied movements and survival of 250 female giant Canada geese (Branta canadensis maxima) marked during incubation with either satellite-monitored platform transmitting terminals or very high frequency radiotransmitters at 27 capture areas in southern Michigan, USA, in 2000–2003. We destroyed nests of 168 radiomarked females by removing eggs after day 14 of incubation, and we left nests of 82 incubating hens undisturbed after capture and marking. Of females whose nests we experimentally destroyed, 80% subsequently migrated from breeding areas to molt remiges in Canada. Among 82 nests left undisturbed, 37 failed due to natural causes and 51% of those females departed. Migration incidence of birds that nested in urban parks was low (23%) compared with migration incidence of birds that nested in other classes of land use (87%). Departure of females from their breeding areas began during the second and third weeks of May, and most females departed during the last week of May and first week of June. Based on apparent molting locations of 227 marked geese, birds either made long-distance migratory movements >900 km, between latitudes 51° and 64° N, or they remained on breeding areas. Molting locations for 132 migratory geese indicated 4 primary destinations in Canada: Western Ungava Peninsula and offshore islands, Cape Henrietta Maria, Northeast James Bay and offshore islands, and Belcher Islands, Hudson Bay, Canada. Following molt of remiges, Canada geese began to return to their former nesting areas from 20 August through 3 September, with 37% arriving on or before 15 September and 75% arriving on or before 1 October. Migration routes of geese returning to spring breeding areas were relatively indirect compared with direct routes taken to molting sites. Although overall survival from May through November was 0.81 (95% CI: 0.74–0.88), survival of migratory geese marked on breeding sites where birds could be hunted was low (0.60; 95% CI: 0.42–0.75) compared with high survival of birds that remained resident where hunting was restricted (0.93; 95% CI: 0.84–0.97). Nest destruction can induce molt migration, increase hunting mortality of geese returning from molting areas, and reduce human–goose conflicts, but managers also should consider potential impacts of increasing numbers of molt migrants on populations of subarctic nesting Canada geese.
Conservation plans for grassland birds have included recommendations at the landscape level, but species' responses to landscape structure are variable. We studied the relationships between grassland bird abundances and landscape structure in 800-ha landscapes in Wisconsin, USA, using roadside surveys. Of 9 species considered, abundances of only 4 species differed among landscapes with varying amounts of grassland and forest. Landscape variables explained <20% of variation in abundances for 4 of the 5 rarest species in our study. Our results suggest landscape-based management plans for grassland birds might not benefit the rarest species and, thus, plans should incorporate species-specific habitat preferences for these species.
Ticks are important arthropod vectors of diseases of human, livestock, and wildlife hosts. In the United Kingdom, the sheep tick (Ixodes ricinus) is increasingly recognized as a main limiting factor of red grouse (Lagopus lagopus) populations, a game bird of high economic value. We evaluated the effectiveness of a new practical technique that could help managers reduce negative impacts of ticks on young grouse. In a replicated field experiment, we treated breeding females with leg bands impregnated with permethrin, a slow-releasing potent acaracide. We found that treatment reduced tick burdens on young chicks. Because this treatment is easily applied, it offers a new practical management tool to tackle problems caused by ticks in game bird populations.
Population-level responses of amphibians to forest management regimes are partly dictated by individual behavioral responses to habitat alteration. We examined the short-term (i.e., 24-hr) habitat choices and movement patterns of 3 amphibian species—southern leopard frogs (Rana sphenocephala), marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum), and southern toads (Bufo terrestris)—released on edges between forest habitats and recent clear-cuts in the Upper Coastal Plain of South Carolina, USA. We predicted that adult frogs and salamanders would preferentially select forest using environmental cues as indicators of habitat suitability. We also predicted that movement patterns would differ in clear-cuts relative to forests, resulting in lower habitat permeability of clear-cuts for some or all of the species. Using fluorescent powder tracking, we determined that marbled salamanders selected habitat at random, southern toads preferred clear-cuts, and southern leopard frogs initially selected clear-cuts but ultimately preferred forests. Frogs exhibited long-distance, directional movement with few turns. In contrast, toads exhibited wandering behavior and salamanders moved relatively short distances before locating cover. Southern toads and southern leopard frogs moved farther in forests, and all 3 species made more turns in clear-cuts than in forests. Habitat selection by southern toads did not vary according to body size, sex, or the environmental cues we measured. However, marbled salamanders were more likely to enter clear-cuts when soil moisture was high, and southern leopard frogs were more likely to enter clear-cuts when relative humidity and air temperature were higher in the clear-cut than in adjacent forest. Although we found evidence of reduced habitat permeability of clear-cuts for southern leopard frogs and southern toads, none of the species exhibited strong behavioral avoidance of the small (4-ha) clear-cuts in our study. Further studies of long-term habitat use and the potential physiological and other costs to individuals in altered forests are needed to understand the effects of forest management on population persistence. To reduce potentially detrimental effects of clear-cutting on amphibians in the Southeast, wildlife managers should consider the vagility and behavior of species of concern, especially in relation to the size of planned harvests adjacent to breeding sites.
Reduced to small isolated groups by anthropogenic habitat losses or habitat modifications, populations of many endangered species are sensitive to additive sources of mortality, such as predation. Predator control is often one of the first measures considered when predators threaten survival of a population. Unfortunately, predator ecology is often overlooked because relevant data are difficult to obtain. For example, the endangered Gaspésie caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) has benefited from 2 periods of predator control that targeted black bears (Ursus americanus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) in an attempt to reduce predation on caribou calves. Despite a high trapping effort, the number of predators removed has remained stable over time. To assess impact of predator movements on efficacy of a control program, we studied space use of 24 black bears and 16 coyotes over 3 years in and around the Gaspésie Conservation Park, Quebec, Canada, using Global Positioning System radiocollars. Annual home ranges of black bears averaged 260 km2 and 10 individuals frequented area used by caribou. Annual home ranges of resident coyotes averaged 121 km2, whereas dispersing coyotes covered >2,600 km2. Coyotes were generally located at lower altitudes than caribou. However, because coyotes undertook long-distance excursions, they overlapped areas used by caribou. Simulations based on observed patterns showed that 314 bears and 102 coyotes potentially shared part of their home range with areas used by female caribou during the calving period. Despite low densities of both predator species, extensive movement and use of nonexclusive territories seem to allow predators to rapidly occupy removal areas, demonstrating the need for recurrent predator removals. Our results underscore the necessity of considering complementary and alternative solutions to predator control to assure long-term protection of endangered species.
Grazing lawns are recognized as important components of many savanna ecosystems, but there is no clarity on their origin or their stability in space and time. Some researchers believe soil nutrients control grazing lawn distributions. Others believe feedbacks created by herding mammals grazing in patches can promote the spread of grazing lawns without soil nutrient differences. This in turn is affected by rainfall and fire. We presented a simulation model that tests the conditions required for the initiation and spread of grazing lawns. Lawns were shown to develop in a homogeneous soil substrate, but only during periods of low rainfall, high grazer densities, and infrequent fires. Including heterogeneity in the model did not increase grazing lawn area but did reduce the effectiveness of frequent fires in preventing their establishment. We compared these results with conditions in a typical savanna park in Southern Africa. Running the model under current fire, grazing, and rainfall conditions reproduced the current grazing lawn proportions in the park. Using lower fire frequencies and higher grazer densities—such as were experienced in the park in the last 100 years—could more than double the proportion of grazing lawns in the park.
Wildlife professionals require conceptually sound methods to integrate biological and social insights for management of wildlife. The concept of acceptance capacity has been suggested to stimulate integration, although methods to link measures of acceptance capacity with measures of wildlife populations are not fully developed. To clarify relationships between acceptance capacity, wildlife populations, and human values, we explored effects of stakeholder characteristics and impact perception (the recognized, important effects arising from interactions with wildlife) on acceptance capacity. We used a mail-back questionnaire (n = 2,190 responses) to rural residents of southern Michigan 1) to examine whether 3 commonly identified stakeholder groups (hunters, farmers, and nonhunting, nonfarming rural residents) that share a common landscape also perceive similar suites of impacts and hold comparable acceptance capacities for white-tailed deer, and 2) to develop an explanatory model of acceptance capacity for deer. Comparisons among stakeholder groups revealed differences in perception of impacts resulting from interactions with deer; however, participation in hunting and farming were poor predictors of acceptance capacity for deer. Model selection criteria indicate that total effect of impacts perceived explains a majority of variation in acceptance capacity. We conclude that impact perception is a meaningful concept for integration of human values into management of wildlife populations because impacts relate to effects of current wildlife populations and can lead to management actions that address needs and interests of multiple stakeholder groups in changing landscapes.
Faced with limited budgets, wildlife managers need to determine the set of management activities that achieve management objectives at least cost, which requires using both ecological and economic principles to make management decisions. We used data from a biological simulation model of breeding waterfowl to embed biological response within an economic optimization model. Nonlinearity of the response function was attributable to density dependence and interactions between jointly applied management activities. We then used the bioeconomic model to solve a waterfowl manager's least-cost problem. Model results demonstrated that 1) biological response and economic cost jointly determine the least-cost management plan, 2) nonlinearity of the biological response function should be modeled explicitly to identify cost-effective management plans, and 3) least-cost management plans depend on the chosen population objective. We demonstrate how concepts from production economics can aid decision making in a wide range of applied wildlife management settings; however, though applied to waterfowl management, we did not intend to provide a robust prescription for waterfowl managers.
We addressed concerns regarding performance of various Global Positioning System (GPS) collar configurations for describing habitat use by Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus) in rugged, forested terrain. We tested 8 GPS collars (Lotek Wireless, Newmarket, ON, Canada) in 4 different model and equipment configurations at 2 reference points (an open hilltop and a forested ravine) to determine habitat-specific differences in performance among collar configurations. We then placed individual collars at 60 additional points that were stratified randomly among 4 canopy-cover classes and 3 classes of available sky. All collars exhibited a locational bias of 4 m horizontally west and of 10 m vertically below a reference standard established by position-averaging with a handheld receiver (Garmin 12MAP) calibrated at National Geodetic Survey benchmarks. The GPS collar models that were programmed for longer satellite-acquisition times provided greater location precision than models that had been programmed for short acquisition times to preserve battery power. Canopy cover and available sky had a greater effect on collar location precision and observation rates than slope, slope position, aspect, conifer basal area, tree height, canopy depth, or elevation. Researchers should test collars at known reference points to confirm that location precision and rates of observation are adequate for their particular study objectives. Manufacturers of GPS collars should inform clients of their programming criteria for acquisition time so that customers can make informed decisions regarding trade-offs between precision of locations, data quantity, and battery life.
Global Positioning System (GPS) collars are increasingly being used to study fine-scale patterns of animal behavior. Previous studies on GPS collars have tried to determine the causes of location error without attempting to investigate whether the accuracy of fixes provides a correspondingly accurate measure of the animal's natural behavior. When comparing 2 types of GPS collar, we found a significant effect of collar weight and fit on the rate of travel of plains zebra (Equus burchelli antiquorum) females in the Makgadikgadi, Botswana. Although both types of collar were well within accepted norms of collar weight, the slightly heavier collars (0.6% of total body mass [TBM]) reduced rate of travel by >50% when foraging compared with the collar that was 0.4% of TBM. Collar effect was activity specific, particularly interfering with grazing behavior; the effect was less noticeable when zebras crossed larger interpatch distances. We highlight that small differences in collar weight or fit can affect specific behaviors, limiting the extrapolation of fine-scaled GPS data. This has important implications for wildlife biologists, who hitherto have assumed that collars within accepted weight limits have little or no effect on animal movement parameters.
Classical home range analysis is tailored to meet requirements of data with few points per individual with relatively large intervals between observations. The swift rise in Global Positioning System (GPS)–based studies requires the development of new analytical approaches because GPS data allow for more detailed analysis in time and space. The amount of data derived from GPS studies enhances the potential to more accurately separate movement strategies. We present a general, simple, conceptual approach to using large movement datasets to automatically screen and delimit spatial and temporal home ranges of individuals and movement strategies using time series segmentation. We used GPS data for moose (Alces alces) from a boreal Swedish population as an example. We tested predictions that our screening method could separate seasonal migration from dispersal and nomadic strategies by the movement profile, which includes several dimensions. Our analysis showed that broad strategies were detected using our simple analytical approach, which speeds up use of GPS data for management and research because the method can be used to calculate more objective spatial and temporal activity ranges in relation to movement strategies. Our examples illustrate the importance of using the time stamp on location data in describing home ranges and movements.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service uses counts of unduplicated female grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) with cubs-of-the-year to establish limits of sustainable mortality in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, USA. Sightings are clustered into observations of unique bears based on an empirically derived rule set. The method has never been tested or verified. To evaluate the rule set, we used data from radiocollared females obtained during 1975–2004 to simulate populations under varying densities, distributions, and sighting frequencies. We tested individual rules and rule-set performance, using custom software to apply the rule-set and cluster sightings. Results indicated most rules were violated to some degree, and rule-based clustering consistently underestimated the minimum number of females and total population size derived from a nonparametric estimator (Chao2). We conclude that the current rule set returns conservative estimates, but with minor improvements, counts of unduplicated females-with-cubs can serve as a reasonable index of population size useful for establishing annual mortality limits. For the Yellowstone population, the index is more practical and cost-effective than capture-mark-recapture using either DNA hair snagging or aerial surveys with radiomarked bears. The method has useful application in other ecosystems, but we recommend rules used to distinguish unique females be adapted to local conditions and tested.
Wildlife management and research have depended upon trapping as an essential tool for decades. Although deer (Odocoileus spp.) capture by Clover traps remains a basic technique that has changed little over time, researchers use it as an integral part of field operations to support increasingly sophisticated and costly project objectives. Despite reports of deer preference for certain baits, no study has determined if bait preference can effectively increase capture success of free-ranging deer. By supplementing corn bait with salt, peanut butter, or molasses, we tested effects of these bait treatments on capture success of free-ranging white-tailed deer (O. virginianus), as well as levels of nontarget animal disturbance in Clover traps, during February−March 2005. With 1,446 adjusted trap-nights and a 6.5% capture success rate, the probability of capture increased over time and varied among 4 study sites (df = 3, P < 0.005); however, we did not detect a significant effect of bait supplementation on capture success (df = 3, P > 0.8). Nontarget animal activity in the trap varied by site (df = 3, P < 0.001), bait treatment (df = 3, P = 0.04), and Julian date (df = 3, P < 0.001). Our results are the first to suggest that bait preference may not translate into actual improved capture success of free-ranging deer. Future research should focus on testing additional baits or bait supplements to determine if an increase in trapping success and a minimization of trap disturbance by nontarget species occurs.
Managers use latrine surveys to monitor swamp rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus) populations but may miss rabbits in sites lacking suitable latrine logs. We tested artificial latrine logs in logless thickets in southern Illinois, USA, generally detecting swamp rabbits in fewer visits than by live-trapping. Artificial logs can aid swamp rabbit monitoring, especially in logless habitats.
Cover poles, also called Robel poles, are used to measure a variety of structural vegetation attributes commonly used in wildlife and livestock management. Although cover pole dimensions, measurement criteria, and interpretation of cover pole data vary depending on measurement objectives, the technical use of cover poles is fairly consistent. Practical use of cover poles requires that they are sturdy, lightweight, and easily transported. We describe a cover pole apparatus that can be easily constructed, transported, and assembled for use in remote locations. This self-supporting cover pole enables one person to take measurements, and can be modified for use in multiple habitats and soil types.
Adequate stores of body fat are essential for survival and reproduction of polar bears (Ursus maritimus). However, polar bear body fat levels can be difficult to quantify in the field. For >30 years, biologists have subjectively estimated relative fatness of immobilized polar bears by assigning individuals a rating from 1 to 5, with 1 being leanest and 5 most obese. Although previous studies suggested this fatness index (FI) rating accurately reflects large-scale differences in body condition, its relationship to more quantitative measures of condition has not been explored. We compared the FI rating of individual polar bears in western Hudson Bay and the Beaufort Sea to 2 quantitative measures of body condition: the Quetelet Index (ratio of mass to length2) and the relative lipid content of adipose tissue. We found a significant relationship between FI rating and both Quetelet Index values and adipose lipid content. Our data demonstrate that the FI rating accurately reflects overall body condition, regardless of polar bear age, sex, or nutritional phase. We suggest that continued field use of the FI rating could provide valuable information on ecological effects of large-scale environmental change on polar bear populations.
Student Chapters of The Wildlife Society serve the parent organization as a source of new members while promoting professional development among aspiring wildlife biologists. However, little is known about the operation of the Student Chapters across North America. I conducted an online survey between March and May 2006 to learn about variation among chapters and to define successful chapters with a quantifiable, objective parameter (e.g., the active members or budgets). I sent chapter advisors and student officers the online survey via e-mail. Of 92 Student Chapters known to the parent Society in 2005, 66 active and one inactive chapters responded. Activities, sizes, and budgets varied greatly among chapters. Additionally, perceived values of membership by survey participants matched the parent Society's goals. No clear definition of a successful chapter (e.g., those with the most money or members) emerged, but chapters faced some evident problems including apathy from students and advisors as well as a lack of support from the parent Society. Based upon the survey, I recommend Student Chapters have strong projects and activities as well as consider collaborating with other professional organizations. I recommend the parent Society continue to expand student programs and incorporate students into the Society.
Bender and Weisenberger (2005) reported that desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) on San Andres National Wildlife Refuge (SANWR), New Mexico, USA, were primarily limited by rainfall. However, they failed to mention, or were unaware, that persistent long-term predator control was used to enhance population growth at SANWR. Additionally, lamb:female ratios were collected throughout the year, rather than dates typically associated with assessing recruitment, and therefore influence of precipitation on lamb recruitment was unknown. Finally, model predictions forwarded by Bender and Weisenberger (2005), that carrying capacity of SANWR is zero when annual rainfall is <28.2 cm, were not supported by data, nor were their model results properly interpreted. The coefficient of determination value of 88.9% for the relationship between population size and current year's precipitation was primarily a function of serial correlation between successive years in population data, with current year's precipitation accounting for only 3.8% of this value. This suggests that precipitation was a weak predictor of population increase. These errors in concert make biological inferences reported in Bender and Weisenberger (2005) of limited value.