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Survival is an important parameter for understanding population dynamics of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and other large herbivores. To understand long-term dynamics it is important to separate sampling and biological process variation in survival. Moreover, knowledge of correlations in survival across space and between young and adults can provide more informed predictions of survival in unsampled areas. We estimated survival of fawn, yearling, and adult mule deer from 4 spatially separated regions of Colorado, USA, from 1997 to 2008. We also estimated process variance in survival across time for each age and site using Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods. Finally, we estimated correlations in survival among sites and ages with MCMC methods. Average winter fawn survival was 0.721 (SD = 0.024) for the 4 regions. Average winter adult female survival was 0.935 (SD = 0.007). Annual adult female survival ranged from 0.803 (SD = 0.017) to 0.900 (SD = 0.028) for the 4 regions, excluding hunting mortality. The correlation between fawn and adult female survival was high, 0.563 (SD = 0.253). Correlations in winter fawn survival were higher between populations at the same latitude than they were for populations to the north and south. We used survival estimates from our analysis to inform prior distributions for a Bayesian population dynamics model from one population in Colorado and compared that model to one with noninformative prior distributions. Population models including informative prior distributions based on our results performed better than those noninformative prior distributions on survival, providing more biologically defensible results when data were sparse. Knowledge of process distributions of survival can help wildlife managers better predict future population status and understand the likely range of survival rates.
Mammalian herbivores adopt foraging strategies to optimize nutritional trade-offs against restrictions imposed by body size, nutritional requirements, digestive anatomy, physiology, and the forage resource they exploit. Selective or generalist feeding strategies scale with body size across species. However, within species, where constraints should be most similar, responses to limitation have rarely been examined. We used African elephants (Loxodonta africana) to test for changes in seasonal diet quality of individuals of differing body size and sex through measurement of fecal nitrogen and phosphorus. We measured physiological stress response of these age and sex classes to seasonal change by fecal glucocorticoid metabolite levels (i.e., stress hormones). Large body size increased tolerance to lower-quality forage. Adult males and females exhibited divergent trends; females had higher diet quality than males, irrespective of body size. When limited by forage availability or quality during the dry season, diet quality declined across all body sizes, but weaned calves ingested a higher-quality diet than larger-bodied adults. On release from restriction during the wet season, weaned calf nitrogen concentrations were consistently high and stress hormone levels decreased, whereas adult female phosphorus levels were highest and less variable and stress hormone levels were unchanged. The ability to adjust forage quality is an important strategy used to ensure adequate nutritional intake according to body size limitations. Although body size is a key determining factor of dietary differences between adult elephants, foraging strategies are also driven by specific nutritional requirements, which may override the body size effects driving foraging decisions in some cases. The diversity of intraspecific response highlights ecologically segregated entities within a species and should be a concern for population management planning, particularly for threatened species. Fecal diet quality and stress hormone analysis could provide an early and sensitive indicator for monitoring age and sex class responses to resource restriction in high-density elephant populations.
Depredation by wolves (Canis lupus) could threaten survival of reintroduced wild Przewalski horses (Equus ferus przewalskii) in Hustai National Park (HNP), Mongolia. We conducted scat analysis, spatial analyses of kills, and interviews to study prey species selection and temporal and spatial factors that characterize prey choices of wolves. Diet of wolves in HNP was comprised of >50% of livestock. Diet composition varied during the year, with more livestock taken in winter. Wildlife species were selected over livestock species. From available livestock species domestic horses were predated most, whereas red deer (Cervus elaphus) and marmot (Marmota sibirica) were the preferred wildlife species. Our spatial analyses showed an unexpected significant positive relation between number of domestic horses killed and distance to the park, as well as a significant negative relation with number of gers (tents) in the area. Compared to randomly selected comparison sites (n = 36), we found Przewalski foal kills (n = 36) at sites that were closer to the forest, at higher altitudes, with lower shrub cover, higher forest cover, and higher red deer density. If the negative trend of deer numbers continues and if herdsmen protect their livestock more vigorously, depredation of wild Przewalski horses by wolves will rise. Therefore, a large red deer population could be pivotal in improving the conservation status of Przewalski horses.
Because wild reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) are hunted in southern Norway, reindeer may perceive all recreationists as threats. Potential adverse effects of hunting on reindeer behavior may be exacerbated by other forms of recreation because the number of skiers and hikers in areas inhabited by reindeer has also increased. The Norefjell–Reinsjøfjell wild reindeer area is used extensively for recreation and tourism. Reindeer hunting was introduced in the area in 1992, and harvest rate has been stable at about 38% of winter herd size. We recorded behavioral responses of reindeer to a person approaching directly on foot or skis during 1992 and again in 2002–2006. Compared to 1992, flight-initiation distance increased and fewer groups assessed the observer before taking flight during 2002–2006. In winter, when reindeer are usually comparably more vigilant than in other seasons, flight-initiation distance increased from only 60 m to 115 m and escape distance decreased from 400 m to 210 m. Neither alert distance, calf carcass weights (23.6 ± 0.7 [SE] kg to 22.4 ± 0.2 kg), nor reindeer herd size (661 ± 73 to 579 ± 15) changed during the 15 years of our study. Reindeer appeared to habituate to the observer because they initiated flight at shorter distances as the number of approaches on the same day increased. In Norefjell–Reinsjøfjell, encounters with a person on foot or skis did not result in behavioral responses likely to entail substantial energy costs for reindeer; therefore, hunting at current levels appears compatible with other recreational activities.
Because habitat loss and fragmentation threaten giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), habitat protection and restoration are important conservation measures for this endangered species. However, distribution and value of potential habitat to giant pandas on a regional scale are not fully known. Therefore, we identified and ranked giant panda habitat in Foping Nature Reserve, Guanyinshan Nature Reserve, and adjacent areas in the Qinling Mountains of China. We used Mahalanobis distance and 11 digital habitat layers to develop a multivariate habitat signature associated with 247 surveyed giant panda locations, which we then applied to the study region. We identified approximately 128 km2 of giant panda habitat in Foping Nature Reserve (43.6% of the reserve) and 49 km2 in Guanyinshan Nature Reserve (33.6% of the reserve). We defined core habitat areas by incorporating a minimum patch-size criterion (5.5 km2) based on home-range size. Percentage of core habitat area was higher in Foping Nature Reserve (41.8% of the reserve) than Guanyinshan Nature Reserve (26.3% of the reserve). Within the larger analysis region, Foping Nature Reserve contained 32.7% of all core habitat areas we identified, indicating regional importance of the reserve. We observed a negative relationship between distribution of core areas and presence of roads and small villages. Protection of giant panda habitat at lower elevations and improvement of habitat linkages among core habitat areas are important in a regional approach to giant panda conservation.
We developed predictive habitat models for a bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) population in the Peninsular Ranges of southern California, USA, using 2 Geographic Information System modeling techniques, Ecological Niche Factor Analysis (ENFA) and Genetic Algorithm for Rule-set Production (GARP). We used >16,000 Global Positioning System locations from 34 animals in 5 subpopulations to develop and test ENFA and GARP models, and we then compared these models to each other and to the expert-based model presented in the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's Recovery Plan for this population. Based on a suite of evaluation methods, we found both ENFA and GARP to provide useful predictions of habitat; however, models developed with GARP appeared to have higher predictive power. Habitat delineations resulting from GARP models were similar to the expert-based model, affirming that the expert-based model provided a useful delineation of bighorn sheep habitat in the Peninsular Ranges. In addition, all 3 models identified continuous bighorn sheep habitat from the northern to southern extent of our study area, indicating that the Recovery Plan's recommendation of maintaining habitat connectivity throughout the range is an appropriate goal.
In Quebec, Canada, harvest of bobcats (Lynx rufus) started to decline in 1985 and by 1991, harvest seasons were closed due to concerns of a perceived population decline. Since the closing of harvest season in 1991, the average temperature has increased, snow quantity has decreased, and important changes in agriculture and forest management have occurred. In light of changing conditions, the situation of Quebec bobcats needed reassessment. Thus, we analyzed harvest data to clarify the current status of bobcat populations in Quebec. From 1980 to 1991, bobcat harvest in Quebec was strongly correlated with bobcat harvest in Maine (USA), Nova Scotia (Canada), Ontario (Canada), and Vermont (USA). Extrapolations of harvest in Quebec relative to harvest in Maine, Ontario, Vermont, and Nova Scotia suggested an increase in number of bobcats after 1991. Mass of male and female bobcats before 1991 was less than mass of animals captured after 1991. Percentage of juveniles in the reported harvest before 1991 was higher than after 1991. However, percentage of males and litter sizes in the harvest did not differ before and after 1991. The geographic distribution of bobcats captured has gradually expanded after the closure of the harvest season. Our findings suggest that bobcat populations in Quebec have recovered from the 1985–1991 decline, and that the harvest season for this species could resume. This study also illustrates how managers can rely on data from neighboring jurisdiction to manage species when local harvest data is unavailable.
Minimizing risk of predation from multiple predators can be difficult, particularly when the risk effects of one predator species may influence vulnerability to a second predator species. We decomposed spatial risk of predation in a 2-predator, 2-prey system into relative risk of encounter and, given an encounter, conditional relative risk of being killed. Then, we generated spatially explicit functions of total risk of predation for each prey species (elk [Cervus elaphus] and mule deer [Odocoileus hemionus]) by combining risks of encounter and kill. For both mule deer and elk, topographic and vegetation type effects, along with resource selection by their primary predator (cougars [Puma concolor] and wolves [Canis lupus], respectively), strongly influenced risk of encounter. Following an encounter, topographic and vegetation type effects altered the risk of predation for both ungulates. For mule deer, risk of direct predation was largely a function of cougar resource selection. However, for elk, risk of direct predation was not only a function of wolf occurrence, but also of habitat attributes that increased elk vulnerability to predation following an encounter. Our analysis of stage-based (i.e., encounter and kill) predation indicates that the risk effect of elk shifting to structurally complex habitat may ameliorate risk of direct predation by wolves but exacerbate risk of direct predation by cougars. Information on spatiotemporal patterns of predation will be become increasingly important as state agencies in the western United States face pressure to integrate predator and prey management.
San Joaquin kit foxes (Vulpes macrotis mutica) occur in central California, USA, and are endangered due to habitat loss and degradation. As the human population of California grows, more roads are being constructed in remaining kit fox habitat. We examined effects of 2-lane roads on demographic and ecological patterns of kit foxes on the Lokern Natural Area (LNA) from August 2001 to June 2004. Of 60 radiocollared kit foxes, only one was struck by a vehicle. Foxes were assigned to 1 of 3 risk categories (high, medium, or low) based on proportion of time spent in road-effect zones, which were defined by the probability of a fox encountering a road during nocturnal movements. Fox survival probabilities, reproductive success, litter size, nocturnal movements, and den placement all were similar among risk categories. Nocturnal locations of foxes were closer to roads than were den locations, and den fidelity was lowest for medium-risk foxes and highest for low-risk foxes but intermediate for high-risk foxes. Food availability and use were not affected by proximity to roads. We were unable to detect any significant detrimental effects from 2-lane roads on kit fox demography and ecology. Our results suggest that standard mitigation strategies, such as crossing structures and exclusionary fencing, would not benefit kit foxes on the LNA.
Trapping for furbearers remains an important outdoor activity in Alberta, Canada, despite low fur prices and extensive industrial development. We investigated the influence of landscape change on furbearer harvests using 30 years of marten (Martes americana) harvest records, interviews with trappers, and Geographic Information System maps of industrial activity and vegetation types. We used an information-theoretic approach to explore variation in trapper success. Cover type and landscape metrics apparently influenced trapper success, because traplines where martens were consistently caught had less vehicle and all-terrain vehicle access, fewer oil and gas wells, and greater proportion of mature conifer forests than traplines where martens were infrequently caught. We identified an important cutoff value or statistical threshold that identified 45% closed-conifer cover, suggesting that a minimum amount of forest cover is crucial for trappers to catch martens. We conclude that the nature and extent of industrial disturbance is contributing to the decision by trappers to trap as well as influencing their success. We recommend that wildlife managers collect trapping effort information (i.e., species-specific no. of trap-nights) on fur reports in association with landscape changes to monitor furbearer harvests more effectively.
Reduced annual recruitment because of poor habitat quality has been implicated as one of the causative factors in the range-wide decline of sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) populations since the 1950s. Because chick and brood survival are directly linked to annual recruitment and may be the primary factors that limit sage-grouse population growth, we estimated 28-day survival rates of radiomarked chicks and broods from 2000 to 2003. We examined relationships between survival and several habitat variables measured at brood sites, including food availability (insects and forbs); horizontal cover of sagebrush, grasses, and forbs; and vertical cover of sagebrush and grass. We monitored 506 radiomarked chicks from 94 broods; chick survival was 0.392 (SE = 0.024). We found evidence that both food and cover variables were positively associated with chick survival, including Lepidoptera availability, slender phlox (Phlox gracilis) frequency, total forb cover, and grass cover. The effect of total grass cover on chick survival was dependent on the proportion of short grass. The hazard of an individual chick's death decreased 8.6% (95% CI = −1.0 to 18.3) for each percentage point increase in total grass cover when the proportion of short grass was >70%. Survival of 83 radiomarked broods was 0.673 (SE = 0.055). Lepidoptera availability and slender phlox frequency were the only habitat variables related to brood survival. Risk of total brood loss decreased by 11.8% (95% CI = 1.2–22.5) for each additional Lepidoptera individual and 2.7% (95% CI = −0.4 to 5.8) for each percentage point increase in the frequency of slender phlox found at brood sites. Model selection results revealed that temporal differences in brood survival were associated with variation in the availability of Lepidoptera and slender phlox. Years with high brood survival corresponded with years of high Lepidoptera availability and high slender phlox frequency. These foods likely provided high-quality nutrition for chicks during early growth and development and enhanced survival. Habitat management that promotes Lepidoptera and slender phlox abundance during May and June (i.e., early brood rearing) should have a positive effect on chick and brood survival in the short term and potentially increase annual recruitment.
Information on the ecology of waterfowl breeding in the boreal forest is lacking, despite the boreal region's importance to continental waterfowl populations and to duck species that are currently declining, such as lesser scaup (Aythya affinis). We estimated breeding probability and breeding season survival of female lesser scaup on the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, USA, in 2005 and 2006. We captured and marked 93 lesser scaup with radiotransmitters during prelaying and nesting periods. Although all marked lesser scaup females were paired throughout prelaying and incubation periods, we estimated breeding probability over both years as 0.12 (SE = 0.05, n = 67) using telemetry. Proportion of lesser scaup females undergoing rapid follicle growth at capture in 2006 was 0.46 (SE = 0.11, n = 37), based on concentration of yolk precursors in blood plasma. By combining methods based on telemetry, yolk precursors, and postovulatory follicles, we estimated maximum breeding probability as 0.68 (SE = 0.08, n = 37) in 2006. Notably, breeding probability was positively related to female body mass. Survival of female lesser scaup during the nesting and brood-rearing periods was 0.92 (SE = 0.05) in 2005 and 0.86 (SE = 0.08) in 2006. Our results suggest that breeding probability is lower than expected for lesser scaup. In addition, the implicit assumption of continental duck-monitoring programs that all paired females attempt to breed should be reevaluated. Recruitment estimates based on annual breeding-pair surveys may overestimate productivity of scaup pairs in the boreal forest.
Greylag geese (Anser anser) can cause serious damage to agricultural fields near wetlands that are attractive for resting and nesting but not for feeding. Alternative plantings or spraying fields may prevent goose damage. We randomly designed 64 plots in spring 2004 and prepared plantings of white clover (Trifolium repens), white clover with perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne; mixture), fertilized perennial ryegrass (grass), or unfertilized perennial ryegrass. We measured goose-dropping densities in plots as a measure of feeding preference in autumn 2004 (7 weeks), spring 2005 (6 weeks), and autumn 2005 (7 weeks) following removal of a protective fence and vegetation sampling for content analysis in 2004. We also sprayed activated charcoal (20 kg/ha) in a suspension on 32 plots (8/planting) to deter geese in autumn 2004 only. In a second experiment we examined pairs of greylag geese in cages for preferences between grass treated with or without activated charcoal. Charcoal did not deter geese in either experiment. However, dropping density averaged highest for clover (1.01/m2), followed by the mixture (0.65/m2), then fertilized (0.23/m2) and unfertilized grass (0.16/m2). Preferences were consistent in all 3 experimental periods. Fertilized grass reached 31.8 cm in height on average in spring, whereas clover measured 15.4 cm. Crude protein and water-soluble carbohydrate content (g/kg dry matter) was 294 and 49, respectively, in white clover and 183 and 139, respectively, in fertilized grass. We found a positive partial correlation independent of vegetation type between dropping densities and crude protein and a negative correlation with water-soluble carbohydrate content. Thus, to prevent grazing damage to agricultural fields, we recommend planting white clover, strongly preferred by feeding geese, in areas (fallow agricultural or nonagricultural) adjacent to their habitat and not in agricultural fields under production.
Nest site selection is a critical component of reproduction and has presumably evolved in relation to predation, local resources, and microclimate. We investigated nest-site choice by king eiders (Somateria spectabilis) on the coastal plain of northern Alaska, USA, 2003–2005. We hypothesized that nest-site selection is driven by predator avoidance and that a variety of strategies including concealment, seclusion, and conspecific or inter-specific nest defense might lead to improved nesting success. We systematically searched wetland basins for king eider nests and measured habitat and social variables at nests (n = 212) and random locations (n = 493). King eiders made use of both secluded and concealed breeding strategies; logistic regression models revealed that females selected nests close to water, on islands, and in areas with high willow (Salix spp.) cover but did not select sites near conspecific or glaucous gull (Larus hyperboreus) nests. The most effective nest-placement strategy may vary depending on density and types of nest predators; seclusion is likely a mammalian-predator avoidance tactic whereas concealment may provide protection from avian predators. We recommend that managers in northern Alaska attempt to maintain wetland basins with islands and complex shorelines to provide potential nest sites in the vicinity of water.
Weekly counts of western Atlantic red knots (Calidris canutus rufa) at their Delaware Bay migration stopover site have suggested a major decline since the 1980s. We estimated red knot spring passage population size in the New Jersey Coast–Delaware Bay region (DENJ; 2004 and 2006) and Virginia (VA; 2006 and 2007), USA, by correcting weekly aerial counts for mean daily residence probability between counts in a Monte-Carlo simulation. We used daily telemetry relocations in mark–resight models to estimate mean daily residence probability. Average daily residence probability was approximately 1.0 in mid-May, 0.96–0.97 in the week of 22 May, and 0.64–0.77 after May 28 in DENJ in 2004 and 2006 and in VA in 2006. Average daily residency was approximately 0.88 in VA in 2007 from 22 May to 5 June. No birds moved from VA to DENJ in 2006 and only 2 birds (5.5%) moved in 2007. Stopover population sizes (±SE) in DENJ were 17,108 ± 1,322 in 2004 and 19,555 ± 831 in 2006, and in VA were 7,224 ± 389 in 2006 and 8,332 ± 718 in 2007, significantly greater than peak aerial counts. Years with similar peak counts had different residence probabilities; hence, adjustments for turnover should be used in the future to assess annual population changes. Our results suggest that VA can support a significant portion of this red knot subspecies during migration in at least some years. Managing red knots for recovery should entail improving our understanding of the use of other Atlantic Coast sites and protecting key coastal habitat from disturbance and development.
One of the largest known populations of the federally endangered southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) occurs at Roosevelt Lake, Arizona, USA. Modifications to Roosevelt Dam, completed in 1996, raised the height of the dam and resulted in a high probability of willow flycatcher habitat inundation within the reservoir's conservation pool. We collected habitat measurements and monitored 922 willow flycatcher nests from 1996 to 2006 to investigate effects of inundation on willow flycatcher habitat and subsequent changes in nest success, productivity, and distribution. Inundation of willow flycatcher habitat at Roosevelt Lake occurred in 2005, changing the location and amount of suitable breeding habitat and significantly altering habitat structure (e.g., thinner vegetation, more canopy gaps) of formally occupied nest sites. The willow flycatcher population at Roosevelt Lake decreased 47% from 209 territories in 2004 to 111 territories in 2006 in response to habitat changes. Willow flycatchers made fewer nesting attempts and nest success rates were significantly lower during inundation (2005 and 2006: 45%) than preinundation (1996–2004: 57%). Combined, these factors negatively affected the population's productivity during inundation. Although inundation caused extensive vegetation die-off, we did observe regeneration of vegetation in some areas at Roosevelt Lake in 2006. The Roosevelt Lake population remains one of the largest willow flycatcher populations in the state and territory numbers remain high enough that the population may not suffer long-term effects if sufficient suitable habitat continues to exist during the cycle of inundation and regeneration. Reservoir managers may be able to develop dam management guidelines that reduce damage to habitat, encourage habitat growth, and mimic the dynamic nature of unaltered riparian habitat. These guidelines can be implemented, as appropriate, at reservoirs throughout the willow flycatcher's range.
Species reintroductions are used commonly as a tool for conservation, but rigorous, quantitative assessments of their outcome rarely occur. Such assessments are critical for determining success of the reintroduction and for identifying management actions needed to ensure persistence of reintroduced populations. We collected 9 years of demographic data on populations of brown-headed nuthatches (Sitta pusilla) and Eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) reintroduced via translocation into Long Pine Key, Everglades National Park, Florida, USA. Realized population growth of brown-headed nuthatches was positive in the first 3 years after cessation of translocations (λ2002 = 1.15, SE = 0.13; λ2003 = 1.28, SE = 0.12; λ2005 = 1.32, SE = 0.20) but became negative thereafter (λ2006 = 0.67, SE = 0.10; λ2007 = 0.77, SE = 0.13). Realized growth rate for the Eastern bluebird population did not vary among years and indicated either a stable or a slowly declining population (λ = 0.92, SE = 0.04). Reintroductions were a qualified success; they resulted in the re-establishment of populations of both species, but neither population grew to the extent expected and both remained at risk of extinction.
Quantifying sources of variation in demographic rates can provide insight into processes underlying population dynamics and subsequently direct wildlife conservation. In the context of avian life history, understanding patterns of variation in survival rates of breeding females is particularly relevant because this cohort often has a disproportionately large effect on population dynamics. We estimated survival probability for 144 adult female harlequin ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) that we marked with radiotransmitters and tracked at 4 breeding areas in western North America. Model selection results indicated both regional and temporal variation in survival rates, with most mortality attributed to predation. Cumulative survival probability (±SE) during the 100-day study period was lower at 2 sites in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada (AB1 and AB2: 0.75 ± 0.11) than in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Canada (BC: 0.88 ± 0.08) or the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, USA (OR: 0.89 ± 0.08). Survival also was lower during incubation than nest-initiation or brood-rearing stages at all 4 study areas. In comparison to other annual cycle stages and locations, harlequin duck mortality rates were highest on the breeding grounds, suggesting that management actions designed to reduce mortality during breeding would achieve meaningful population-level benefits.
State wildlife agencies commonly offer private landowners cost-share and technical assistance to improve habitat, but the cost-effectiveness and long-term outcomes of these efforts are rarely evaluated. In 1998, we began a 3-part, statewide evaluation of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' (IDNR; USA) Private Land Wildlife Habitat Management Program (hereafter the program) as it functioned from 1986 to 1996. We sent a mail-back questionnaire to IDNR biologists to collect information on their perceptions of the program. We sent a separate mail-back questionnaire to private landholders who participated in the program to ascertain their demographic profile, motivations for participation, and attitudes regarding the program. We also conducted on-site evaluations of private properties that were managed under the guidance of the program. We conducted our study to 1) assess if the program effectively assisted participants in establishing and maintaining wildlife habitat, and 2) determine factors associated with optimal management of wildlife habitat on private lands to refine the program and improve effectiveness. We found significant differences between participants in their land use priorities and motivations for managing wildlife and in the resources available to participants to establish and maintain habitat. Our results indicate that although financial incentives may increase participation in private lands initiatives, improving technical and material assistance to landholders is essential for maintaining quality wildlife habitat over the long-term.
Membership in scientific societies is an avenue wildlife professionals may use to maintain and enhance their professional capabilities. We studied factors influencing United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and United States Geological Survey (USGS) biologists' membership in scientific societies in general and The Wildlife Society (TWS) in particular. We conducted an internet census survey of 3,755 USFWS professionals and 932 USGS Biological Resource Division professionals. The survey collected data on membership and participation in scientific societies as well as other variables that we theorized could influence membership. We used logistic regressions to identify factors correlated with the membership of wildlife biologists in TWS. A greater proportion of USGS biologists (90.2%) than USFWS biologists (51.8%) were members of scientific societies, and the likelihood of wildlife biologists belonging to TWS was higher in USGS. Factors most consistently correlated with membership in TWS included minimal external constraints (e.g., family responsibilities and costs), supervisor support for membership, and membership of friends, peers, and supervisors in scientific societies. Our results suggest that membership in scientific societies is heavily influenced by the organizational culture of employing agencies. Agencies seeking to increase their employees' membership, and thus benefits from participation, in scientific societies will be most successful if they create a culture in which involvement in scientific societies is expected and in which peers and supervisors also participate.
Radiotelemetry is used extensively in zoographic studies of wildlife species, including northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus). These studies assume that radiomarking does not affect survival of marked individuals. However, most researchers implicitly acknowledge that capture, handling, and radiomarking may have short-term deleterious effects on individuals and, therefore, include in analyses only animals that survive an adjustment period of arbitrary length (often 7 days) following capture and marking. Length of adjustment period is rarely empirically based and may potentially bias survival estimates. We outline an analytical approach to determine an appropriate adjustment period and illustrate this approach by examining effects of time-since-marking on survival of 410 northern bobwhite captured during winter from 1997 to 2001, in Mississippi, USA. We modeled daily survival rates using time-since-marking as a covariate in the nest-survival model of Program MARK. Although survival varied among and within years, we found no evidence to suggest that standard adjustment periods of 7–14 days were appropriate for our sample. If adjustment periods are used in radiotelemetry studies, those that are empirically based may be more appropriate than arbitrarily set periods.
We estimated loss of butt-end leg bands on male wild turkeys (Meleagris gallapavo) captured in New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania (USA) during December–March, 2006–2008. We used aluminum rivet leg bands as permanent marks to estimate loss of regular aluminum, enameled aluminum, anodized aluminum, and stainless steel butt-end leg bands placed below the spur. We used band loss information from 887 turkeys recovered between 31 days and 570 days after release (x¯ = 202 days). Band loss was greater for turkeys banded as adults (>1 yr old) than juveniles and was greater for aluminum than stainless steel bands. We estimated band retention was 79–96%, depending on age at banding and type of band, for turkeys recovered 3 months after release. Band retention was <50% for all age classes and band types 15 months after banding. We concluded that use of butt-end leg bands on male wild turkeys is inappropriate for use in mark–recapture studies.
Conventional distance sampling, the most-used method of estimating animal density and abundance, requires ranges to detected individuals, which are not easily measured for vocalizations. However, in some circumstances the sequential pattern of detection of vocalizations along a transect line gives information about the range of detection. Thus, from a one-dimensional acoustic point-transect survey (i.e., records of vocalizations detected or not detected at regularly spaced listening stations) it is possible to obtain a useful estimate of density or abundance. I developed equations for estimation of density for one-dimensional surveys. Using simulations I found that for the method to have little bias when both range of detection and rate of vocalization need to be estimated, stations needed to be spaced at 30–80% of the range of detection and the rate of vocalization should be >0.7. If either the range of detection or rate of vocalization is known, conditions are relaxed, and when both parameters are known the method works well almost universally. In favorable conditions for one-dimensional methods, estimated abundances have overall errors not much larger than those from conventional line-transect distance sampling. The methods appeared useful when applied to real acoustic data from whale surveys. The techniques may also be useful in surveys with nonacoustic detection of animals.
Fecal corticosterone metabolites are commonly used in avian ecology as a measure of response to stress. Recent research on mammals suggested that the manner in which samples are stored could be critical to alleviating any storage handling bias. Cross-reacting metabolites can increase glucocorticoid metabolites even after samples are frozen and, thus, result in an overestimation of hormone levels as the time increases between when samples were collected and when levels are measured. We examined effects of sample storage time on fecal corticosterone metabolites for 2 avian species across 165 days. We observed no change in fecal corticosterone metabolites across the sampling periods in either fulvous whistling-ducks (Dendrocygna bicolor) or white ibis (Eudocimus albus). Results suggest that avian fecal corticosterone metabolite levels do not change when samples are frozen for long periods of time and that there were no differences in the response between the 2 species we compared. This study demonstrated that avian fecal corticosterone samples are accurate even after freezing and, thus, studies that seek to address conservation questions may rely on these data. Studies of additional bird species are needed to generalize our findings to other avian taxa.
Fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM) assays are a popular means of monitoring adrenocortical activity (i.e., physiological stress response) in wildlife. Species-specific differences in glucocorticoid metabolism and excretion require assay validation, including both laboratory and biological components, before assay use in new species. We validated a commercially available radioimmunoassay (MP 125I corticosterone RIA kit [MP Biomedicals, Solon, OH]) for measuring FGMs of several South African herbivores, including giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), impala (Aepyceros melampus), nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni), kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), and zebra (Equus burchelli). These herbivores are important in South African parks and reserves for ecotourism and as a prey base for predators and serve an integral role in ecosystem processes. Standard biochemical validations (e.g., recovery of exogenous corticosterone, intra- and interassay variation, and parallelism) demonstrated that the assay accurately and precisely measured FGMs of all 6 herbivore species. Our biological validations demonstrated that the assay was sensitive enough to detect changes in FGM production associated with season. Samples collected during the dry season (Jun–Aug) contained higher FGM concentrations than those from the wet season (Dec–Feb) in all species. We established optimal sample dilutions and reference FGM levels for these 6 herbivores, which can now be used to monitor the effects of management and ecotourism activities on the stress responses of these herbivores.
Out of precaution, opportunism, and a general tendency towards thoroughness, researchers studying wildlife often collect multiple, sometimes highly correlated measurements or samples. Although such redundancy has its benefits in terms of quality control, increased resolution, and unforeseen future utility, it also comes at a cost if animal welfare (e.g., duration of handling) or time and resource limitation are a concern. Using principle components analysis and bootstrapping, we analyzed sets of morphometric measurements collected on 171 brown bears in Sweden during a long-term monitoring study (1984–2006). We show that of 11 measurements, 7 were so similar in terms of their predictive power for an overall size index that each individual measurement provided little additional information. We argue that when multiple research objectives or data collection goals compete for a limited amount of time or resources, it is advisable to critically evaluate the amount of additional information contributed by extra measurements. We recommend that wildlife researchers look critically at the data they collect not just in terms of quality but also in terms of need.