• Scent Lures Decrease Detection Probabilities of Bobcats in An Agricultural Landscape*
  • Marlin M. Dart; Robert C. Lonsinger
    Carnivore conservation requires an understanding of how landscape patterns influence species occurrence. In the Great Plains, habitat loss and fragmentation are driven by conversion of grasslands to agricultural lands and this may negatively impact the spatial ecology of carnivores with large home ranges. In South Dakota, bobcats (Lynx rufus) are of management interest and potentially vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation, but they are difficult to monitor due to their elusive behaviors. Noninvasive camera trapping can improve monitoring, but bobcats often have low detection rates, which may limit the reliability of camera-based occupancy and capture-recapture estimates. We set 179 cameras from May to September 2019 (mean = 30 days ± 6.9 SD) to evaluate the influence of a non-species-specific lure (sardines) on bobcat detection and estimate the probability of occurrence in an agricultural landscape in South Dakota. Cameras were randomly set with one of three lure treatments: (1) lure applied, (2) no lure applied, or (3) lure applied only during the latter half of the survey. We evaluated probabilities of detection and occupancy using single-season occupancy models. Model selection suggested that lure negatively impacted bobcat detection (β = -0.91, 95% CI = -1.63, -0.21). Daily probability of detection was higher without (0.064, 95% CI = 0.042, 0.098) than with (0.027, 95% CI = 0.014, 0.048) a lure. These results suggested that to achieve a probability of detecting a bobcat at least once ≥0.80, 24 days of surveying would be required without a lure compared to 59 days with a lure. Preliminary estimates of bobcat occupancy (0.182, 95% CI = 0.12, 0.27) suggested space use is limited. We hypothesize non-species-specific lures may increase intraguild interactions, and this may result in reduced bobcat detection when a lure is used. Future analyses will consider the role of sympatric predators on detection and occupancy.

  • Movement of Bobcats and Coyotes in Illinois and Implications for White-Tailed Deer*
  • Nicole T. Gorman; Guillaume Bastille-Rousseau; Michael E. Egan; Peter E. Schlichting; Daniel J. Skinner; Michael W. Eichholz
    Movement is an essential behavioral link to understanding how predators interact with their ecosystems, including the top-down controls they exert on prey species, as well as the bottom-up influences predators experience. Research on predator movement has mainly focused on large predator species in the past. However, due to the widespread extirpation of large predator species in North America, mesocarnivores are the top predators throughout much of the eastern and midwestern United States today. The wide variety of natural and human-altered environments across these regions suggest that mesocarnivores will move differently due to variation in top-down and bottom up processes. We are fitting bobcats (Lynx rufus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) with GPS collars in two study sites, one patchy area dominated by corn and soybean agriculture in central Illinois and one more contiguous oak-hickory forested area in southern Illinois. We will use the GPS data from these collars to evaluate the movement patterns and spatial ecology of these two species in two different environments, explicitly focusing on determining how these sympatric predators might differ from each other in their spatial behavior, as well as how this behavior may differ in these contrasting ecosystems. We will also be combining these predator data with tracking data from GPS-collared white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the same study sites in order to better understand how bobcats and coyotes respond to deer on the landscape. This will allow us to evaluate how the potential differences in bobcat and coyote behavior may also have implications for deer spatial behavior.

  • Community Structure Shifts Post-Coyote Colonization
  • Rachel O. Chism; Chris Wheeler; Kayci Willis; Morgan Bosscawen; Ethan Smith; Chris S. DePerno; Aimee Rockhill
    Apex predator extirpation in the eastern United States combined with large-scale land use transitions has created ideal circumstances for coyotes (Canis latrans) to capitalize on their generalist potential. Our objective was to assess species richness of a mammal community post coyote colonization. We compared camera survey data from 2007 (pre-coyote colonization) and 2018 (9 years post-coyote colonization) in a localized site in eastern North Carolina. We placed 9 cameras on a 2.6 km2 grid over a 23.31 km2 property from June through September in 2007 and again in 2018. Overall species richness declined by 33% while total individual captures increased by 49%. Coyote captures increased from 0 to 196 captures/100 trap nights. Prey species captures increased from 43 to 284 (white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)) and 1 to 4 (eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)) captures/100 trap nights while subordinate carnivore captures decreased. Most notably, gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) captures decreased from 122 to 0 captures/100 trap nights. The results indicate that coyote presence as an apex predator has altered community composition and trophic structure through intraguild competition and competitive exclusion, potentially allowing for an increase in prey populations.

  • Spatial Variation in White-Tailed Deer Morphology Across Southeastern North America
  • Julia Grace McManus; Charles Bish; Taylor Malasek; Zachary Pilgrim; Erin Barding; Micheal Bender; Jessica Patterson; David Patterson
    Morphological variation across space in large mammal species can provide insights into their overall ecology and evolutionary history. However, these analyses are frequently limited by the availability of high-resolution morphological data from a large number of individuals over a wide spatial scale. In this study, we compiled morphological data (>1,000,000 individuals; >600 localities) spanning two decades collected from white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) across Georgia, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee. We use these data to investigate spatial heterogeneity in the morphological characteristics (e.g., body weight, total antler spread, antler diameter) of this species across this region. In addition, we pair these data with abiotic environmental data (e.g., average monthly temperature, rainfall, elevation) collected from each of these localities. Our analyses indicate significant disparity in body size across southeastern North America that is potentially related to differences in abiotic conditions across these sites. These patterns indicate a significant relationship between morphology and environmental variability and could serve as a model for evaluating extinct mammal herbivore ecology in the paleontological record of this region. Future analysis will incorporate morphological data from additional localities outside of southeastern North America.

  • Rangewide Distribution of Swamp Rabbits
  • Jessica L. Esposito; Jason L. Brown; Clayton K. Nielsen; John W. Groninger
    Swamp rabbits (Sylvilagus aquaticus) are habitat specialists that evolved and remain endemic to bottomland hardwood (BLH) forests of southcentral and southeastern United States. Due to their specialized habitat needs, habitat use patterns, and ease of monitoring, swamp rabbits are potential indicator species of habitat quality for other wildlife in BLH habitats. We analyzed environmental variables that contribute to swamp rabbit distribution and predicted its potential distributional patterns for (1) the northern periphery of its geographical range and (2) its entire geographical range. MAXENT models were created with SDMtoolbox in ArcMap 10.6 using continuous and categorical predictor variables to analyze their contribution to swamp rabbit distribution. Presence locations were collected from ongoing research in southern Illinois, vetted occurrence data (1920-2019) obtained from and 4 research publications dated between 2000-2018. Top models were selected based on lowest OER followed by highest AUC. Valley depth was the only variable that significantly contributed (75.5%) to the top model for the entire species’ range (OER=0.023, AUC=0.752). For the northern periphery, the top model (OER=0.097, AUC=0.928) indicated temperature seasonality had the highest contribution for predicting distribution at 39.9%, followed by precipitation in driest quarter at 21.9%, valley depth at 17.3%, and landcover type at 10.7%. Valley depth response curves for both model types were comparable. Our results highlight the importance of BLH forest for swamp rabbits and the need for increased presence data throughout the mid-region of their geographical range. In turn, this information can be utilized as a tool to aide with monitoring and management of swamp rabbit habitat and occurrence.

  • Evidence of Seminole Bat Range Expansion from Post-Construction Monitoring at Wind Facilities in the Midwest
  • Julia R. Wilson; Wesley P. Conway
    At present, the known range of Lasiurus seminolus is relatively limited to the southeastern United States, extending from Texas to Florida up to southern North Carolina and west to Arkansas (Bat Conservation International, 2020). From 2012 to 2019, we documented L. seminolus bat carcasses at post-construction wind monitoring projects in three Midwestern states, confirming that L. seminolus is found notably further north than previously thought. Perry (2018) produced a study suggesting Seminole bats are expanding their range, citing county records as far north as Kentucky and southern Missouri. Our findings suggest Seminole bat range has expanded even further north, as Seminole bat carcasses have been collected during the fall migration season at wind facilities in northern Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

  • Illinois’ Chiropteran Landscape: Leveraging NABat Acoustic Data to Inform Conservation of Illinois Bat Biodiversity
  • Tara C. Hohoff; Joseph A. Kath; Ashleigh B. Cable; Mark A. Davis
    Midwestern bats are facing multiple population threats including the effects of white-nose syndrome (WNS), fatalities at wind turbine facilities, and habitat fragmentation and disturbance. The impacts of these threats erodes the critical ecosystem services that bats provide, particularly as pest control in the agriculturally dominated Midwestern USA. To better understand the impact of these factors, the Illinois Bat Conservation Program (IBCP) has been collecting mist net and acoustic data since 2016. Acoustic data has been collected across the state in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources using the guidelines established by the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NaBat) to randomly stratify survey locations. To date, the IBCP has recorded over two million acoustic files for analysis. We will share insights into how the NaBat program has worked for our team and applications for this data. Acoustics have provided a larger dataset for analysis of distribution patterns and population trends, especially for more cryptic species. Our results reveal that while bats occur throughout the state of Illinois, specific hotspots emerge that are correlated with landscape usage patterns. These data are ultimately being leveraged to optimize monitoring strategies (including the siting of permanent acoustic monitoring stations, mist-net survey locations, etc.), validate habitat suitability models for state and federally listed bat species, and ultimately inform adaptive management strategies aimed at bolstering Illinois’ bat populations.

  • The Role of Dispersals, Human Food Supplementation, and Morphometric Plasticity in the Recolonization of Black Bears in Mississippi*
  • Lacy A. Dolan; Dana J. Morin; Elizabeth A. Flaherty; Lisette P. Waits
    Carnivore population recovery is challenging and understanding the factors that contribute to successful recovery can facilitate recolonization in the face of global carnivore declines. American black bears (Ursus americanus) experienced near-extirpation in Mississippi but recolonization is slowly occurring following state and federal protections and subsequent dispersal events from neighboring states (Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alabama). As bears disperse into their former range, adequate resources must exist for an individual to establish a home range. We will use hair collected from hair snares across 14 counties in western, southwestern, and southeastern Mississippi to investigate processes potentially influencing the rate and success of black bear recolonization. First, we will extract DNA from hair samples and identify individuals using microsatellites. Using assignment tests, we will identify the source populations for individuals and F1 offspring. We expect there will be more individuals immigrating from Arkansas with higher source population density along a wide riparian corridor. We will use stable isotope analysis to assess the importance of anthropogenic food sources in successful home range establishment. Specifically, carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) signatures from hair samples and potential food items collected across study areas, including vertebrates, plants, and insects, will be analyzed using a mixing model to estimate the relative contribution of anthropogenic and natural foods to the overall diet of bears. We expect to find greater amount of anthropogenic food exploitation in bears with access to agricultural fields and other anthropogenic food resources such as trash or orchards. Finally, we will evaluate shape differences in skull between historic (pre-1930s) and recent (1930-present) black bears skulls obtained from the National Museum of Natural History and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. We expect the differential use of anthropogenic foods between dispersed bears and source populations may have led to local jaw adaptation over the last century.

  • The Importance of Groundhog Burrow Networks and Their Potential Role as a Keystone Species*
  • Nicolas Szabo
    Groundhogs (Marmota monax) are a common sight in north Georgia, and their range extends throughout the Eastern United States, Canada and Alaska. These large rodents are often trapped or hunted due to their garden infestations and excessive burrowing causing infrastructure issues. However, their underground burrow networks play an important ecological role by providing vital shelter for foxes, opossums and potentially threatened species such as the northern pine snake and eastern spotted skunk. While groundhog behavior has been studied in the past, few studies have been done recently, and new information could be useful for their continued success and the conservation of potential cohabitating species. In this study we are observing groundhog behavior within proximity of their burrow entrances by placing trail cameras at select burrows throughout the Lumpkin County, Georgia area. We are observing and recording behaviors (i.e. marking, chewing, mating, etc.), GPS coordinates for burrow locations, sex, ambient temperature, time and date of observation, cohabitating species, and plant species consumed or chewed on by groundhogs. To date, our observations include multiple species in or around burrow entrances, mating or territorial grunts that are unique to the groundhogs more well-known “whistle” call, mating rituals, and relocation of pups. Due to the lack of recent data, this research could lead to advancement in the understanding of groundhog life history and their potential ecological role for threatened species.

  • Urban Carnivore Abundance Varies Across Species and Forest Patches in Urbana, Illinois*
  • Laura S. Whipple; Maximilian L. Allen; Jinelle H. Sperry
    Large-scale wildlife studies offer valuable information on how communities vary across large spatial scales. The SnapshotUSA project aims to create an open-access wildlife database to investigate trends in wildlife communities across the USA. Carnivores are of particular interest because they fill important ecological niches and can cause cascading effects on ecosystems. However, results from large scale collaborative projects can be subject to variabilities in methodology and equipment. We compared mammal communities and carnivore distribution and abundance in three forest patches in Urbana, Illinois as part of SnapshotUSA to better understand how wildlife distribution varies across spatial scales. We deployed 14 motion-triggered camera traps in forested areas for a total of 966 trap nights during September and October 2019. In addition, we deployed 18 camera traps in six sets of three during November and December 2019 to determine how detection of wildlife species varies between different numbers and models of camera traps. We found a mammal species richness of 15 (mean = 9.0 ± 0.46 per camera site) across the Urbana study site, and naïve occupancy for mammal species ranged from 0.07- 1.00. Of the species detected, 6 were carnivore species (domestic cat; coyote; raccoon; red fox; striped skunk; and long-tailed weasel). The mean relative abundance for species ranged from 0.21-204.76. We also found that relative abundance and naïve occupancy were significantly correlated for mammal species. Our detection study found that the number of camera trap detections and the taxa of wildlife species captured varies based on the camera model, suggesting that camera type may be an important consideration for large scale studies. We plan to compare the Urbana, Illinois results to other forested sites in the SnapshotUSA database. Large-scale projects and datasets like SnapshotUSA show promise as important tools for monitoring changes in wildlife communities across the USA.

  • Ecological Characteristics of Dirunal Rest Sites Used by Ringtails
  • Kathleen P. Gundermann; David S. Green; Cale H. Myers; J. Mark Higley; Sean M. Matthews
    The ringtail (Bassariscus astutus) is a species of conservation concern and culturally significant for many Native American communities. Little, however, is known about their basic ecology in the forested ecosystems in the northwestern edge of their range. Like other procyonids and forest carnivores in northern California, ringtails use tree cavities during diurnal resting bouts to provide shelter, protection from predators, and sites to raise young. Yet, it is still unclear what ringtails are selecting for in the rest sites that they use. To better understand the influence of forest characteristics and co-occurring fishers (Pekania pennanti) on the selection of rest sites by ringtails, we live-captured and fixed VHF radio-collars to 24 (15M: 9F) adult ringtails in 2008 on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in northern California. Ringtails were tracked to 158 unique rest sites on 441 occasions using triangulation and walk-in methods. Ringtails selected rest sites in three categories of forested stands relative to non-forested stands in Hoopa: 1) mature forests with large trees and multiple canopy layers, 2) stands dominated by small trees without a closed canopy, and 3) stands dominated by brush and small-trees. Ringtails also selected rest sites that were further from perennial creeks and closer to stand edges. The density of fisher space use did not appear to influence ringtail rest site selection. These results indicate late- and some early-seral forest conditions in Hoopa provide suitable habitat for ringtail rest sites. Rest site selection in early-seral stands and near stand edges likely reflect high structural retention goals of the Hoopa Tribe in logged forests and abundant prey resources in these stands. This is a good first step in understanding rest site selection and how the high structural retention in a mosaic of seral stages could benefit ringtails throughout their range.

  • Diseases, Spatial Distribution, and Live-Trapping Techniques for Nine-Banded Armadillos in Southern Illinois
  • Carly Haywood; Clayton K. Nielsen; Agustín Jiménez
    Originally endemic to South America, the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) has recently expanded its range northward to Illinois. With this range expansion comes concern from both wildlife managers and the public regarding potential incoming pathogens and unknown impacts on native wildlife. Our research, conducted during 2019-2020 in southern Illinois, addressed the following 3 objectives intended to provide information regarding this novel species: (1) test for the presence of Trypanosoma cruzi and Mycobacterium leprae, (2) model the potential distribution of armadillos in southern Illinois, and (3) attempt several different armadillo capture methods. For Objective 1, we tested roadkill specimens for T. cruzi and M. leprae, 2 pathogens known to infect humans, using PCR and ELISA, respectively. All 81 samples tested for T. cruzi and all 25 samples tested for M. leprae were negative. The latter case is consistent with the enemy release hypothesis, suggesting armadillos have evaded parasites present in their native environment due to geographical distance. The absence of T. cruzi in the sampled individuals implies dispersing individuals are more robust than those at the center of their range. For Objective 2, we used MAXENT to model potential armadillo distribution in 51 counties in southern Illinois using 39 presence locations. Modeling identified low-intensity development to be the most important predictor of armadillo presence. For Objective 3, we attempted to capture armadillos using spotlighting on roads, staking out burrows, unbaited single-door cage traps, and unbaited double-door cage traps. Based on the ratio of trap nights per capture, we found the use of double-door cage traps to be the most efficient method. Our study will aid in managing colonizing armadillo populations by presenting information regarding dynamics of disease transmission, predicting areas of armadillo presence and likelihood of impacts on native populations and wildlife damage, and capture methods.

  • Carnivore Distribution at the Suburban Interface in Western North Carolina
  • John Hoover; Chris DePerno; Aimee P. Rockhill
    The interactions between coyote, red fox and gray fox in the urban interface in Western North Carolina are ecologically important. Our objective was to use remote camera data from candid critter in western North Carolina to determine if habitat selection differed by species in relation to proximity to man-made structure, maintained yard, agriculture/ early successional field, and forest habitat. We analyzed 325 captures, of which 249 were coyote, 41 gray fox, and 35 red fox. Significant differences were detected between species distance to man-made structure (F = 8.098, df = 3, P < 0.001) and between species distance to maintained yard (F = 6.486, df = 3, P = 0.002). No significant difference was detected between species distance to agricultural/early successional field (F = 0.122, df = 3, P = 0.885). We determined that coyotes selected forested habitat and tended to be farther from man-made structures, while gray and red foxes were located closer to anthropogenic landscapes.

  • Mismatched Spatial Scales Limit the Utility of Citizen Science Data for Estimating Wildlife-Habitat Relationships
  • Alyson M. Cervantes; Maximilian L. Allen; Alexandra C. Avrin; Laura S. Whipple; Morgan J. Farmer; Craig Miller; Thomas J. Benson; Javan M. Bauder
    Carnivores are essential to functioning ecosystems but are declining due to habitat loss and human-wildlife conflicts. Few carnivore species are successful in human-altered landscapes, however, coyotes (Canis latrans) have adapted to these habitats. In Illinois, coyote populations have substantially increased since the 1970’s, with coyotes becoming the apex predator in the state. To determine detection and occupancy for coyotes across Illinois, we used citizen science and evaluated volunteer archery hunter observations. We also used these observations to assess occupancy across the ten Wildlife Management Units in Illinois. Our detection variables included date, hours spent hunting, and time period (AM or PM), which were provided by the hunter data. We also included temperature and precipitation. For occupancy, we chose five different habitat variables, which included forest patch density, forest patch index, grassland shape index, agriculture cover, and urbanization. We used a modeling framework to account for imperfect detection, which showed a 58% greater statewide site-level occupancy estimate compared to our naïve occupancy estimate. Coyote detection was most influenced by time period (z = -7.79, p <0.0001) and the number of hours hunted (z = 6.32, p <0.0001). However, coyote occupancy was not significantly affected by any habitat covariate we tested. While occupancy varied across the Wildlife Management Units, our 95% CI overlapped for all sites, rendering it hard to assess the reason for these differences. Archery hunter observations are reported on a county level, while the location of the hunter is non-random and on a much smaller scale. This limitation in the observation data creates scale mismatching. We suggest wildlife managers ask additional questions on archery hunter data surveys to address variation in detection and consider scale mismatching when developing management plans.

  • Top-Down and Bottom-Up Drivers of Sleeping Strategies in Mammals*
  • Ishana Shukla
    Sleep is a vital function of all mammalian life, but the innate properties of sleep leave prey vulnerable to predation and deprive predators of hunting opportunities. In order to balance these physiological constraints, mammals must optimize their sleep to maximize foraging, while minimizing predation risk or competition. However, the predominant sleeping strategies and the degree to which sleep is driven by bottom-up and top-down factors still remains largely unknown. Here, we review findings from 203 publications and classify sleeping responses into four categories: grouping, physiological adaptations, temporal avoidance, and nesting. These strategies are primarily associated with a species’ trophic level, habitat, and phylogenetic history. Furthermore, we discuss evidence that human presence affects the sleeping habits of all trophic levels, especially apex predators. Human-induced behavioral changes in top predators cause cascading changes to sleeping behavior, leading to asynchronous predator-prey activity and a positive feedback loop towards nocturnality.

  • Evaluating the Winter Diet of a Reintroduced Elk Herd in the Cumberland Mountains, Tennessee, Using Next-Generation Sequencing Techniques*
  • Dailee Metts; Katherine Kurth; Eryn Watson; Brad Miller; Charles Kwit; Jennifer DeBruyn; Lisa Muller
    A distinct subspecies of elk (Cervus canadensis), the North American elk (C. canadensis canadensis), once inhabited portions of the southeastern United States, including Tennessee, until their extirpation in the mid 1800s. From 2000 to 2008, 201 Manitoban elk (C. canadensis manitobensis) were reintroduced on the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area (NCWMA). A year-long food habits study using histological analysis of plant material from collected feces was completed for the NCWMA elk from 2003 to 2004 and has since aided managers in their landscape planning. Since then, more elk have been released onto the area, food plots have been established throughout the NCWMA by managers, and the population has had approximately 20 years to establish itself on the landscape. Thus, a reevaluation of dietary habits is warranted. We collected 357 groups of fecal pellets from 68 set openings within the 79,318 ha NCWMA weekly from February to May of 2019 for a winter fecal diet analysis using next-generation sequencing techniques, also referred to as metabarcoding. Metabarcoding is a non-invasive methodology that has proven to be more effective in identifying herbivore diets than previously used methods. We will conduct DNA extractions, a two-step polymerase chain reaction protocol, and complete library preparation of the samples using the Illumina MiSeq sequencing protocol to isolate the plant DNA from the other genetic material in the scat. A bioinformatical analysis will then be conducted to determine what plants are identified from sequencing. The results from this study will further inform managers of the dietary habits of the reintroduced NCWMA herd and assist them in future habitat management.

  • First Documentation of Scent Marking Behaviors in Striped Skunks*
  • Kathrina Jackson; Christopher C. Wilmers; Maximilian L. Allen
    Communication between animals plays a critical role in an individual’s fitness and viability of a population. Solitary animals use chemical communication (i.e., scent marking) to locate mates and defend their territory to increase their own fitness. Previous research has suggested that striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) do not perform scent marking behavior, despite being best known for their olfactory defense cues. We used video camera traps to document behaviors exhibited by striped skunks at a remote site in coastal California between the January 2012 to April 2015. Our camera traps captured a total of 71 visits by skunks, the majority of which (73%) included a skunk exhibiting scent marking behaviors. In all, we documented 8 different scent marking behaviors. The most frequent behaviors we documented were cheek rubbing (45.1%), investigating (40.8%), and claw marking (35.2%). The behaviors exhibited for the longest duration on average were grooming (mean=34. 4 s) and investigating (mean= 21.2 s). Although previous research suggested that striped skunks do not scent mark, we documented that at least some populations do and our findings suggest that certain sites in striped skunk populations are used for communication via scent marking. This study is also another example highlighting how camera traps allow researchers to discover previously undocumented animal behaviors.

  • Distribution and Habitat Preferences of Small Mammals in Old-Growth and Managed Secondary Forests of Northwestern Minnesota*
  • Joseph E. Riley; Elizabeth Rave; Jeffrey Ueland; Mark Fulton
    We determined the diversity of small mammals in differently managed forests in Northwestern, MN, during summer 2019 and 2020. Ten sites were chosen each in an old growth forest and a heavily managed forest. Two hundred Sherman live traps, baited with a peanut butter and oat mixture, were placed at each site for three consecutive days to determine diversity of small mammals. For each trap at each site, GIS mapping was used to determine cover type, soil type, flow distance, and road distance. Habitat data will be compared to trapping data to design a logistic regression model for predicting the composition of small mammal communities in old growth and heavily managed forests throughout Northwestern MN. Results from this research will allow the MN DNR to better manage forests to enhance biodiversity in accordance with their Wildlife Action Plan.

  • Variation in Reproductive Success in a Gunnison’s Prairie Dog Colony in Archuleta County, Colorado
  • Donna M. Bruns Stockrahm
    Prairie dogs are an important component of grassland ecosystems and are often considered “keystone” species. Five species of prairie dogs exist in North America. Gunnison’s prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) have a relatively small distribution, being limited to the “Four Corners” area where Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet. In our long-term study (7 years) of Gunnison’s prairie dogs in a 3-ha portion of a larger colony in Archuleta County, Colorado, over 300 prairie dogs were live-trapped, weighed, aged, sexed, ear-tagged, and marked with a unique dye pattern on their fur. Reproductive condition and capture location were also recorded. After more than 2,000 captures over the 7 years, only 27 females (of which 22 were first captured as pups) and 10 males (of which 7 were first captured as pups) were captured during multiple years. Of the 22 known yearlings, at least 4 showed no evidence of lactating or having been bred. Pup production varied from summer to summer, usually 30-50, with a high of 69 pups and a low of only 8 pups. For each summer, pup sex ratios did not significantly differ from 1:1. During the summer of few pups, at least 7 of the 9 adult females captured showed evidence of lactation. Based on the condition of their nipples, several appeared as if they had not nursed their litters to weaning. For this poster, possible factors for this drastic decrease in pup production/survival are investigated. Body weights of females in late summer prior to the low pup numbers compared to their weights the following spring showed no obvious trends. Botflies (Cuterebra sp.) on the few pups we captured seemed to be more prevalent during that summer which perhaps weakened their condition. Late snow pack might have also contributed. Plague was not considered a factor.

  • Modeling Spatial Mate Search Strategies and Interactive Networks during Reproduction in Mule Deer*
  • Levi Heffelfinger; David Hewitt; Aaron Foley; Shawn Gray; Warren Conway; Timothy Fulbright; Randy DeYoung; Louis Harveson; Daniel Olson; Justin Shannon
    Mating strategy differs substantially across mammalian species. Most cervid species are highly social, with males and females occupying the same areas, leading to competition for females during the rut. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) use a single-female tending strategy where a male will frequently check females for receptiveness. Conversely, little is known about mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) mating strategy and evidence suggests they exhibit a harem strategy where a mature male defends a group of females against other males. Moreover, rut coincides with migration for some mule deer populations which has potential for different mating strategies. Using GPS location data of 83 adult males and 86 adult females in the Panhandle of Texas (non-migratory) and 146 adult males and 202 adult females in several regions of Utah (migratory), we are documenting and quantifying the reproductive strategy of mule deer. Collared male and female deer where in close spatial proximity to each other in all study areas and we are using spatial analyses to document interaction patterns between sexes. Moreover, we are quantifying mate-search strategies of males throughout the stages of rut (early, peak, and late) and how strategies differ with age and geographical region. Preliminary evidence suggests there may be additional attractions facilitating interaction between individuals such as agriculture in the Texas Panhandle or migratory behavior in Utah. Difficulties lie in disentangling attraction by individuals for mating versus auxiliary factors such as resource attraction or migration. Dependent on resource availability and migratory status, we expect that male mule deer will likely exhibit less roaming and re-visitation of areas that females occupy than white-tailed deer males because mule deer are more gregarious. Our study is the first to use location data to explicitly investigate the reproductive strategy of mule deer.

  • To Glean Or Hawk? Foraging Strategies Used by Bat Species in North and South Dakota
  • Hanna Karevold; Mandy Guinn; Erin Gillam
    Insectivorous bats often occupy particularly large geographic ranges and play a crucial role in regulating prey communities. It is likely the availability and diversity of food resources will differ across these ranges, potentially leading to spatial variation in dietary preferences and foraging behaviors. Since spatial variation among local insect communities is typically associated with fluctuations in temperature and precipitation, populations across the range of a species may be behaviorally adapted for foraging in their local environment. This project aims to investigate the dietary composition and associated foraging strategies of the eleven species of bats found in North and South Dakota. North and South Dakota fall directly within the Northern Great Plains ecoregion consisting of high-latitude land naturally dominated by grassland habitat types. From 2016-2019, fecal samples were collected from bats caught in three distinct study areas; 1) central North Dakota consisting of mixed-grass prairie, 2) western North Dakota, commonly referred to as the badlands, consisting of eroded clay slopes and buttes, and 3) the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota consisting of forested hills and mountains. This dataset provides a well-rounded picture of dietary preferences and foraging strategies used across a range of various bat species and habitat types found within the Dakotas. Furthermore, understanding population level differences in dietary needs can provide managers with critical information, allowing them to key in on the protection of resources that are important to local bat populations.

  • Fisher Range Expansion in Minnesota: Current Evidence and Key Knowledge Gaps
  • Michael J. Joyce; Michael C. McMahon; John D. Erb; Cooper Crose; Scott Hagen
    The fisher population in Minnesota has declined by 50% over the last 20 years. Despite this decline, fishers have simultaneously expanded their range into the southern half of Minnesota, with verified sightings of fishers in southern Minnesota increasing over the last 15 years. Our objective was to use recent fisher sightings as a first evaluation of the population status of fishers in southern Minnesota and to identify key knowledge gaps that should be addressed with future research. We summarized all verified observations of fishers and described the context of each sighting. There were 79 verified observations of fishers south of the harvest zone in Minnesota from 2005-2020, with 89% of observations occurring since 2014. Fishers are typically associated with mature and old-growth forests, and fisher observations tended to occur in forested riparian areas, including the Mississippi and Mississippi river valleys, in remnant forests and woodlots, and in forested parks in the greater Twin Cities Metropolitan area. Nonetheless, 13% of observations were made in areas with relatively little forest cover, and there is significantly less forest cover in southern Minnesota than the core fisher range in northern Minnesota. Observations of kits confirm that reproduction is taking place. Collectively, our results suggest a breeding population is present in the south-eastern part of Minnesota, while the timing of observations in areas lacking forest cover suggests that these observations represent dispersing juveniles. Although the increasing frequency of sightings suggests fishers are doing well in the southern half of Minnesota, a better understanding of fisher ecology in southern Minnesota is needed to inform conservation and management of fishers in this newly occupied region. We will highlight key knowledge gaps that should be addressed by future research.

  • Interspecific Niche Partitioning between Two Sympatric Mesocarnivores: How Bobcats and Coyotes Coexist in Oklahoma*
  • Nathan James Proudman; Jerrod L. Davis; Michelle Haynie; Victoria Jackson; W. Sue Fairbanks
    Bobcats have shown surprising resilience to the ever-increasing pressures exerted upon them by human activity. However, overharvest, habitat fragmentation and reductions in their major sources of prey can negatively impact bobcat populations. Coyotes have dramatically increased their range over the past century, often impacting ecosystem structures in these novel environments, including the reduction of sympatric bobcats. Niche partitioning between these sympatric mesocarnivores is widely debated and poorly understood, but it is important to understand the complex relationships which allow each to persist. Using a combination of hair-snares, camera trapping and scat analyses, the interspecific niche partitioning between bobcats and coyotes in Oklahoma is being explored. Initial results from multi-species occupancy models suggest bobcat occupancy is negatively correlated with that of coyotes. These models also suggest temporal partitioning of activity times, in which bobcats are more diurnal than expected, exhibiting distinct asynchrony with rabbit and rodent prey. Further analyses will allow us to better understand this relationship.


    Location: Virtual Date: Time: -