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We observed loud, frequent vocalizations by 5 Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer) neonates that ultimately died of starvation due to abandonment. We did not observe this behavior by other neonates, regardless of survival or cause of mortality. Thus, we believe that neonate vocalization could serve as a useful field indicator of abandonment. Additionally, estimates of predation rates may be inflated because they are masking high rates of undetected abandonment.
We describe a new female vocalization for Peucaea aestivalis (Bachman's Sparrow) that may represent a type of female song. The vocalization has characteristics that are similar to the “excited” or “flight” songs that male P. aestivalis produce, and similar song characteristics can be found among other members of the genus, including one congener for which female singing is common. Two marked female P. aestivalis were observed producing the vocalization as well as four unmarked individuals that were paired with territorial males. A recording of one of these unmarked individuals collected in 1989 is similar to the vocalizations observed for marked females. Field notes collected at the time the recording was made suggested the “odd song” was produced by a female, and we provide a sonogram of this new vocalization based on this recording. The vocalization appears to be rare and may be difficult to link to external stimuli and social function.
Courtship behaviors in birds are often considered male-specific, as males compete for mates through displays that exhibit individual quality. Several courtship displays have been described for male Northern Cardinals including the complex song-dance display. We observed female cardinals performing the song-dance display on two separate occasions in south Mississippi within pre-breeding and breeding periods. Female performance of the display was very similar as reported for males. Given the behavioral attributes of cardinal mating pairs, it is plausible that bi-directional mate choice exists for this species and females are demonstrating aspects of individual quality to males through the song-dance display. Additional monitoring of courtship behavior is needed to determine the function of female performance display that was previously thought to be male specific.
Between December 2012 and April 2013, bats were observed flying during daylight hours throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Although some bats displayed typical foraging and drinking behavior, others appeared sick or incapable of flying, some were flying erratically, and one collided with a hiker. These observations tended to be reported on warmer-than-average days. Nine bats were collected and tested negative for rabies; 6 that were tested for White-nose Syndrome (WNS) via histology were all diagnosed as WNS positive. An additional 6 bats that were not tested for rabies were also WNS positive. We hypothesize bats were becoming increasingly active and emerging from hibernacula due to WNS.
The sex of American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) hatchlings is determined by the egg temperature during the middle third of the 9–12 week incubation period. As a consequence, predictable sex ratios are possible for clutches incubated in constant temperatures in the laboratory, but naturally occurring sex ratios of American Alligator hatchlings from wild nests exposed to fluctuating temperatures are not well documented. Over a 5-year period (1995–1999), we determined the sex of American Alligator hatchlings from wild nests left in the field until after sex was irreversibly determined. A total of 6226 hatchlings from 232 naturally incubated wild nests showed a strong female bias (71.9% females, yearly range = 62.3–89.4% females). Most nests (64.2%) produced hatchlings of both sexes. Of the remaining clutches that produced exclusively one sex (83 nests), 78 nests produced all females, and 5 nests produced only male hatchlings. For the 2 years in which nest-cavity temperatures were known, higher temperatures led to production of significantly more male hatchlings (P < 0.001 for both 1997 and 1999). Knowledge of natural sex ratios of hatchlings can aid in the management and harvest of this commercially valuable species, and in understanding sex-ratio bias in American Alligator populations.
Ecosystem benefits of heterogeneity-based rangeland management have been widely documented, but little research has explored ecologically based grazing systems from the livestock perspective. Fire and grazing management can advance conservation goals in old-field pasture stands in the southeastern US, but the viability of fire-based grazing for natural areas management remains unknown. Fire is a natural process in the southeastern US that can increase the forage quality of native vegetation. We report results from a patch-burn—grazing trial on a 16-ha pasture in eastern Tennessee, in which we predicted that fire would increase the crude-protein content of the stand and grazing would be concentrated in the burned patch. We measured crude protein content for the entire grazing season (April–September), expecting forage quality to decrease as forage matured. We also sampled fecal-pat density, tiller height, and frequency of herbivory in the burned and unburned areas in May and July to describe the spatial distribution of grazing before and after a four-week drought. Crude-protein content decreased as biomass increased following the fire, and in both sampling periods, fecal-pat density and frequency of herbivory were higher and tiller height was lower in the burned patch. Although the dominant native grass is widely perceived to have low forage quality, fire substantially increased crude-protein content in this study. We discuss how limited productivity between sampling events drove grazing in the unburned area, which acted as a grass-bank.
Many investigators sample a site or watershed only once and use that sample to characterize the location (e.g., indices of biotic integrity studies). Using real-world fish assemblages, we investigated the adequacy of using a single sample, site, or season to characterize the fish community at a site or watershed. We sampled twelve sites from the Little Choctawhatchee River watershed (416 km2) by electrofishing six times at each location over 18 months (n = 72). We estimated species richness at each site during each season and for the entire watershed using the Chao 2 estimator. We used these estimates to determine how many samples at the local level and how many sites at the watershed level were needed. Additionally, we determined the proportion of species found after 1–6 samples. Our results showed that to observe 80–100% of species, 5.6–47.4 samples, respectively, were needed at the local level over six seasons, 8.4–86.9 sites, respectively, were needed at the watershed level over a single season, and 9–70 samples, respectively, were needed for the entire watershed over six seasons. At the local level, we found a mean of 50–83% of the estimated species with 1–6 samples over six seasons. At the watershed level, we found a mean of 37% (SD = 3) with one sample and 76% (SD = 6) after six samples over one season. Our results indicate that in general a minimum of 5 samples is needed to detect at least 80% of the species present at the local (site) level, and a minimum of 8 sites is needed in watersheds of approximately 400–450 km2.
State and federal agencies have promoted native grass/forb plantings to increase and enhance habitat for Colinus virginianus (Northern Bobwhite). However, many plantings have resulted in dense stands of grass that do not provide suitable structure for Northern Bobwhite. Prescribed fire is an important tool for managing succession in southeastern grasslands, and previous research has suggested that the timing of prescribed bums can influence plant community composition and structure. We examined the response of planted, native warmseason grasses (NWSG) at three sites in Tennessee to the timing of annual burns conducted 2008–2011 during March, April, May, and September. The grasses included Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem), Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass), Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass), Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem), and Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats Grama). We monitored vegetation response once each summer during July or August). We used mixedmodel ANOVAs to analyze the effect of treatment on bare ground (no plant cover), forbs desirable for Northern Bobwhite, and each NWSG species individually for each location. Although NWSG did not show strong responses to season of burn, Switchgrass cover appeared to be increased by spring burns when compared to the control plots. Forb cover was sparse (<10%) throughout the study, and four years of burning did not stimulate forbs. Therefore, in high-rainfall environments, soil disturbance may be necessary to reduce grass cover and stimulate forb cover in dense stands of planted NWSG.
The dominant fish species within impounded coastal wetlands in the southeastern US may be different from the species that dominate natural marshes. We tested the hypothesis that resident fish assemblages inhabiting impounded coastal wetlands in South Carolina would differ from resident assemblages in natural marshes of the southeastern United States. We used rarefied species richness, Shannon's H' diversity, J' evenness, Morisita's index of similarity, and the percent similarity index to compare resident fish assemblages from two impoundments to 12 open-marsh resident fish assemblages from previously published studies in North and South Carolina. We used rotenone to sample fish assemblages in impoundments. The assemblages in natural marsh habitat had been sampled with rotenone and seines. We classified comparisons yielding a similarity index ≥0.50 as moderately similar and those with an index ≥0.75 as very similar. Fifty-three percent of the among-impoundment comparisons (Morisita's index) were at least moderately similar, whereas 7% of impoundment—natural marsh comparisons were moderately similar. A difference in tidal influence was the only parameter in the best-fitting model describing the observed Morisita's indices. The index of similarity decreased by 63% when tidal influence differed between compared assemblages. Species richness and diversity were greater in impoundments than natural marshes, but evenness was similar between habitat types. Our results support the hypothesis that resident fish assemblages in impounded wetlands and natural marshes are different, and suggest that a degree of tidal influence is the most important factor behind the difference.
Although well studied in coastal ecosystems, comparatively little information exists on the ecology of inland Alligator mississippiensis (American Alligator) populations, particularly at the periphery of their range. Our specific objectives were to estimate homerange area and assess diel (i.e., day vs. night) habitat-selection patterns of an urban, inland American Alligator population at the northwestern edge of the species' range. During 2010– 2011, we captured 14 (6 female, 5 male, 3 unknown sex) American Alligators, 9 (5 female and 4 male) of which were fitted with VHF transmitters. Mean home range (95% kernel) was 68.9 ha (SD = 31.6) and 40.9 ha (SD = 20.7) and the mean core area (50% kernel) was 20.6 ha (SD = 18.5) and 10.1 ha (SD = 6.6) for males and females, respectively. American Alligators primarily selected river channels and open-canopy shorelines during both day and night. The amount of emergent or floating vegetation and canopy cover in a particular habitat influenced the probability of selection by American Alligators but this probability was dependent on the diel time period. During the day, the probability of selection was higher in areas with emergent or floating vegetation and more canopy cover, whereas at night the probability of selection decreased with increasing canopy cover. American Alligators did not select open water at either the study-area level or within the home range, which may have been due at least in part to the presence of recreational boaters or differences in food availability between open-water areas and other areas occupied by American Alligators on the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge. Overall, the results of our study are largely incongruent with patterns of home-range size and habitat selection reported for the species elsewhere, suggesting that further study of other American Alligator populations at the periphery of the distribution range is warranted.
Melanism is rare in Canis latrans (Coyote), but we detected the phenotypic trait several times in northwest Georgia. We observed up to 9 melanistic Coyotes during a 9-year period, 2003–2012: 5 from trail-camera photographs, 2 from live-captures during a radio-telemetry study, and 2 from hunter-kills. The ancestry of southeastern Coyotes is unclear, and we suggest that a genetic study including melanistic individuals could increase understanding of the potential influence of C. lupus (Gray Wolf), C. rufus (Red Wolf) and/or C. lupus familiaris (Domestic Dog) on the Coyote's genetic makeup and evolutionary history.
The Old Cahawba Forever Wild Tract (OCFWT) is a 1216-ha property that was acquired by the State of Alabama Forever Wild Program in August 2009. The OCFWT is characterized by Black Belt prairie pockets, upland dry/calcareous forest, Pinus taeda (Loblolly Pine) plantations, and bottomland/floodplain forest. The property lies 14 km southwest of Selma, AL, and is bordered to the northeast by the Cahaba River. The site is managed by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources with an emphasis on recreational use and habitat management. An intensive floristic study of this area was conducted from January 2010 through July 2013. A total of 691 taxa (690 species) from 411 genera and 139 families were collected, with 280 taxa being county records. Asteraceae was the most-collected family with 74 species. Poaceae, Fabaceae, and Cyperaceae were the next most-represented families with 63, 57, and 29 species, respectively. Quercus was the most-collected genus, represented by 13 species and two named hybrids. One hundred and thirty-three non-native species were collected during the surveys. One introduced species, Oxalis brasiliensis G. Lodd, was determined to be a North American record. Plant collections were deposited at the Alabama Natural Heritage Section Herbarium (ALNHS), with duplicates deposited at the Anniston Museum of Natural History Herbarium (AMAL), Jacksonville State University Herbarium (JSU), and Auburn University Herbarium (AUA).
Many temperate deciduous forests are recovering from past logging, but the effects of logging legacies and environmental gradients on forest insect pollinators have not been well studied. In this study, we asked how pollinator abundance and community composition varied with distance from logging roads and elevation in old (logged >90 years ago) and young (logged 20–40 years ago) southern Appalachian forests. Insect pollinators were sampled at 15 previously logged sites along an elevation gradient at 5 distances from logging roads during summer 2010 and spring 2011 using pan traps. In summer, many pollinator groups were more abundant in younger forests and closer to logging roads, likely due in part to more light availability and a greater abundance of floral resources near roads. Total bee abundance was greater near logging roads, but only in younger forests, suggesting that the role of roads in providing nectar and other resources may diminish as forests mature. In spring, many pollinator families were less abundant at mid-distances (2–10 m) from roads compared to road edges (0 m), but abundances were generally the same at 100 m from the road as at road edges. Two important bee families, Apidae and Andrenidae, were strongly associated with high elevations in spring. Our results suggest that logging legacies may provide supplemental resources such as food and nesting sites to insect pollinators during the summer months especially, with the effects of roads often extending at least 100 m into young forests.
Kentucky falls within the northern periphery of the range of Macrochelys temminckii (Alligator Snapping Turtle). To better understand the status and distribution of this species, we conducted a multi-year survey targeting areas with historical records and other suitable habitat in western Kentucky. A secondary goal of this study was to collect baseline freshwater turtle-distribution data from western Kentucky. Survey efforts from 30 May 2003 through 17 May 2012 resulted in no Alligator Snapping Turtle captures. Total survey effort comprised 829 net nights over 118 survey nights at 24 sites within 10 Kentucky counties. The average number of survey nights per site was 4.9, and the average number of net nights per site was 34.5. Despite survey efforts comparable to other studies, it is possible that Alligator Snapping Turtles remain in suitable habitats in Kentucky at densities that were too low to detect with our survey methods. If continued intensive outreach and sampling in Kentucky fail to detect this species, the reintroduction of captive-propagated individuals should be considered in suitable habitat.
The Paint Rock River (PRR) drainage in northern Alabama and southern Tennessee historically supported 58 freshwater mussel species. This study semi-quantitatively examined the mussel assemblage at 42 sites in the Paint Rock mainstem and 5 sites in Estill Fork, a headwater tributary. A total of 1825 live mussels were collected over 78.9 person-hours, with an overall catch per unit effort (CPUE) of 23.1 mussels/person-hour. Forty-one species were collected live and/or fresh dead, including federally protected Epioblasma triquetra (Snuffbox), Fusconaia cor (Shiny Pigtoe), Lampsilis abrupta (Pink Mucket), Lampsilis virescens (Alabama Lampmussel), Pleuronaia dolabelloides (Tennessee Pigtoe), Quadrula cylindrica cylindrica (Rabbitsfoot), and Toxolasma cylindrellus (Pale Lilliput). The river system continues to support a high diversity of mussels (48 species collected in the past 25 years). The survey also identified several sites in the basin suitable for the reintroduction of extirpated species.
Understanding the interrelationship of environmental and biological factors that influence population growth rates of invasive Sus scrofa (Wild Pig) is a requisite for population management of the species. Such information can be used to evaluate various types of population control to ensure that the most cost-effective damage-abatement methods are used. We developed a sex- and age-structured model to simulate general population dynamics of Wild Pigs in Texas. Our objectives were to estimate potential statewide Wild Pig population-growth rates for Texas, identify model parameters that most influenced population trajectories, and compare resulting model predictions with ancillary population-trend data. Our Wild Pig simulation model estimated a mean annual growth rate of 0.32 (SE = 0.01), and stochastic model projections of Wild Pig population sizes ranged from 3.6 million to 16.9 million after 5 years. To evaluate parameter sensitivity, we recast our simulation results into a Bayesian belief network, and evaluated input-parameter influence based on variance reduction using Shannon's measure of mutual information. Our results indicated that the most influential model parameters within our simulation were number of litters per female and number of piglets recruited into the population, while adult and juvenile survival had little influence on Wild Pig population size within our simulations. Overall, our results suggest that natural resource managers should focus efforts towards reducing Wild Pig reproductive success, as opposed to attempting to increase adult mortality, when conducting Wild Pig population-control campaigns.
We analyzed soils in Alder Bald, Grassy Bald, and Rhododendron Bald communities on Roan Mountain to infer the influence of vegetation on soil and to help guide management strategies. In all vegetation types, soils were acid (pH = 4–5) sandy loams. We found vegetation-associated differences for organic content, cation exchange capacity, acidity, two plant macronutrients (K, Mg), and three cations (Fe, Na, Zn). We predicted that nitrogen compounds would be highest in the Alder Bald because Alnus viridis ssp. crispa (Green Alder) can harbor nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Organic content was highest at the alder-bald sites, ammonium was similar among vegetation types, and nitrate was high at only some sample sites. The unique soil properties of the Alder Bald community, its likely role in primary succession, and its documentation as a long-standing community type on Roan Mountain suggest that management should be directed towards its conservation.
The two forest-management practices of prescribed burning and thinning are techniques used to reduce heavy fuel loads that have resulted from years of fire suppression. Therefore, the National Fire and Fire Surrogate (NFFS) study was conducted to determine the effects of prescribed burning and thinning on different environmental factors. This study was conducted in the Clemson University Experimental Forest in South Carolina, one of the 13 NFFS sites in the United States, and examined the impacts of these management practices on spider populations. We used pitfall traps to sample ground-dwelling spiders to determine if changes in population levels had occurred one year following implementation of these practices. We collected a total of 1220 specimens of Araneae, representing 13 families. Results indicated that by 1-year post-treatment, spider populations had recovered following the initial (2001) burning and thinning. However, in 2002, when we compared the first post-burn samples to pre-burn samples in thin burn plots, we found a significant decrease in the mean abundance of Agelenidae and Linyphiidae after the prescribed burn.
Using pitfall traps on 12 sites in the southern Appalachian Mountains during 2007–2008, we collected 6552 carabid beetles representing 46 species. We collected 40 species in 14 genera at 9 spruce—fir sites and 29 species in 12 genera at 3 hardwood sites. When adjusted for sampling effort via rarefaction, spruce—fir and hardwood sites did not differ in species richness. However, there were significant differences in species composition. Based on non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMS) analysis, species assemblages for spruce—fir forest were distinct from those found for hardwood forests, with the 4 northern spruce—fir forest sites clustered independently from the 5 southern spruce—fir sites. Composition by genera varied by season: Pterostichus was the dominant genus in the summer and autumn, and Sphaeroderus was the dominant genus in the winter and spring. The species captured by pitfall traps in this study differed somewhat from the species found at these sites in a previous survey made by hand-collection. However, when adjusted for sample size via rarefaction, species richness, evenness, and Fisher's α did not differ between these samples made by different collection methods.