Residential development has been associated with habitat fragmentation and loss and declining diversity of indigenous species, especially when development occurs in ecologically sensitive environments such as wetlands and/or riparian zones. In recent decades, the upper mid-west region of the United States has experienced a dramatic increase in residential development along lakeshores. In northern Wisconsin, recent studies have documented negative effects of such development on local flora and certain fauna (avian and amphibian communities) but less is known about how mammal communities, especially carnivores, respond to housing development. To quantify the influence of lakeshore development on these taxa, we conducted snow track surveys on 10 pairs of low- and high-development lakes and deployed remote cameras at four lakes in Vilas County, Wisconsin, in 2008. Our results suggest that a higher diversity of carnivores (P = 0.006) were present on low-development lakes. Coyotes (Canis latrans) were detected most frequently (n = 34) especially on low-development lakes. Fishers (Martes pennanti), wolves (Canis lupus), bobcats (Lynx rufus), and northern river otters (Lontra canadensis) were exclusively detected on low-development lakes by snow track surveys. Raccoon (Procyon lotor) and red fox (Vulpus vulpus) detection was greater on higher-development lakes than low-development lakes. These results also were supported by 12 remote cameras on a subset of four lakes. We also investigated the influence of housing and road density in the surrounding landscape (500 m buffer) on carnivore community composition by means of a non-metric multidimensional scaling ordination. Significant associations were observed between community composition and landscape attributes associated with development. Our results suggest that residential development along lakeshores is having a negative impact on carnivore diversity in this region.
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