• Long-Term Use of Three Wildlife Underpasses by American Black Bears
  • Colleen Olfenbuttel; Travis Wilson; Rachael E. Urbanek
    In 2005, a new 19.3 km section of U.S. Highway 64 in Washington County, North Carolina, USA, was completed. The new 4-lane divided highway section cut through high-quality black bear (Ursus americanus) habitat with a dense bear population. To reduce impacts on the bear population and increase diver safety, 3 wildlife underpasses were incorporated into this section. Three-meter-high chain link fence extended a minimum of 800 m from each underpass in both directions and parallel to the highway. University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK), in collaboration with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) and North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), conducted a study on the impacts of this highway on bear ecology. UTK found that bear population abundance declined after the new highway was built, likely due to mortality from vehicle collisions, habitat loss and fragmentation, and displacement. However, gene flow was not impacted, likely due to the mitigating factors of the wildlife underpasses. Using cameras, each underpass was monitored for wildlife use for 1 year after highway construction. Bears used all 3 underpasses, but use was limited to 10 bears on 17 occasions. UTK recommended that a follow-up survey be conducted to see if bear use of the underpasses increased over time. Starting in November 2019, a total of 11 cameras were placed at the three underpasses. In addition, 1 camera was placed at 15 gaps found in the fencing to document wildlife use. We will have results to present by August 2020 that will determine if and how bear use of the underpasses changed over time. Our results will also provide recommendations for maintaining and improving fencing and managing vegetation in and around underpasses. Our study will show the importance of continued monitoring of highway wildlife passages to determine long-term effectiveness and maintenance needs.

  • Disparity in Elk Behaviour Following Different Migratory Tactics on a Sympatric Winter Range*
  • Madeline Trottier; Mark Hebblewhite; Evelyn Merrill
    The partially migratory Ya Ha Tinda (YHT) elk herd (Cervus canadensis) in Alberta exhibits a western migration to montane summer ranges in Banff National Park, while resident elk remain on the sympatric winter range year-round. In recent years, a new migratory tactic emerged moving to industrial forest lands east of YHT. Previous studies have shown that despite high spatial overlap, western migrants showed different vigilance patterns in areas of human and predation risk than resident elk, which was attributed to differential exposure to predators and humans during the summer. We documented the foraging, vigilance, and grouping behaviors of GPS-collared elk following these three migratory tactics on the winter range in 2019 and 2020. We predicted that the new eastern migrants will exhibit higher vigilance than other tactics due to less predictable levels of human disturbance on the summer range east of YHT. We examined home-range overlap between migratory tactics using GPS data during the winters of 2018 and 2019, in addition to recording direct observations of foraging and vigilance of focal elk of each tactic relative to forage biomass, predation risk, and position in the herd. Preliminary results indicate high home-range overlap among all three migratory tactics, but significantly higher vigilance during foraging between eastern migrants (19.2 ± 2.5% total observation time) and residents (16.5 ± 1.6% total observation) across both years. Group sizes, snow and position within the herd best explained variance in vigilance. We discuss the implications of differences on anti-predator behaviors on winter foraging constraints among migratory tactics.

  • Abiotic Factors Influencing Pronghorn Recruitment in Southern Idaho for 33 Years
  • Pat A. Terletzky; Eric M. Gese; Cole Bleke
    Population dynamics of prey species has been investigated for decades, yet determining what factor(s) limits or regulates a prey population remains uncertain. While abiotic factors such as temperature and precipitation may act alone, they may interact with each other in a variety of combinations. Our objective was to identify what abiotic factors influenced pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) fawn recruitment in 14 management areas (study sites) in southern Idaho from 1984-2017. We obtained fawn:doe ratio data from Idaho Department of Fish and Game managers, while the abiotic data (temperature, precipitation, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index [NDVI]) were obtained from Google Earth Engine. A spring weather severity index was calculated from the temperature and precipitation data. We examined abiotic variables at sequential blocks of time (15, 30, 45, and 60 days) pre- and post-parturition and for the fall prior to parturition. The relationships between fawn recruitment and temperature, precipitation, and NDVI were examined using linear mixed models with the study site as the random variable. We used hierarchical modeling by comparing all univariate models for all time periods for each abiotic feature. Bayesian Information Criteria (BIC) was used to determine rank for each model, including the null model, within each abiotic feature. All variables with a BIC weight > 0.10 from the univariate model comparison were then incorporated into multiple variable models, although variables that were correlated were not included in the same model. The variability of the minimum temperatures prior to parturition and the amount and variability of precipitation in the fall prior to parturition greatly influenced fawn recruitment. As indicated in prior research, climate appears to be the main driver on the status of the doe while pregnant, thereby greatly influencing fawn recruitment.

  • Survival, Cause-Specific Mortality, and Blood Profiles of Elk Calves in Kentucky*
  • Kathleen E. Williams; Nathan D. Hooven; Gabriel Jenkins; Kyle Sams; Jonathan L. Fusaro; Joseph R. McDermott; R. Daniel Crank; Christine Casey; John Hast; Matthew T. Springer; John J. Cox
    Since the reintroduction of elk (Cervus canadensis) in 1997-2002, Kentucky’s elk herd has grown to be the largest population in the Eastern US. However, most of the research on this population’s vital rates was completed before elk were fully established and must be updated to reflect the current population. Neonate survival estimates are particularly important to understanding ungulate population growth dynamics, prompting us to provide an updated estimate of the survival rate of the youngest age class. In winters 2020 – 2021, 50 cow elk will be fitted with Vectronics Natal-Linked GPS collars and vaginal implant transmitters (VITs) across the 16-county Elk Restoration Zone in southeastern Kentucky. Using locations from expelled VITs, we will capture and deploy expandable collars on elk neonates in the summers of 2020-2021 and will monitor their movement and survival to one year of age. All cow and calf mortalities will be investigated, and cause of death will be determined via field necropsy, carcass condition, and genetic analysis of predator saliva collected from the carcass using swabs. During neonate capture, we will collect blood samples for hematological and serological analyses to identify any relationships between blood parameters, morphometrics, and survival. We will also identify any relationships between blood parameters and the calf’s cortisol levels, analyzed from hair samples collected at capture. These analyses will begin to provide a baseline of health and nutrition which has never been reported for free-ranging elk neonates. Additionally, these parameters could provide indirect information on the health of cows in the elk population during late gestation leading up to parturition. Information regarding health of individuals, and ultimately survival and incorporation of the youngest age class into the huntable population, is crucial to the development of management decisions concerning habitat improvement and harvest regulations.

  • Bears in Big South Fork: A Spatially Explicit Density Estimate of a Reintroduced Population*
  • Joshua David Alston
    Black bears (Ursus americanus) were extirpated from the Cumberland Plateau in the late 19th century due to habitat loss and overharvest. Fourteen female black bears with 16 cubs were reintroduced into Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (BSF) in 1996 and 1997. In 2010 and 2012, populations were estimated in Kentucky and Tennessee resulting in estimates of 38 and 190 bears respectively, representing an 18.3% annual population growth rate since reintroduction. Since that time, the population may have further increased and expanded its range. Our objectives are to obtain estimates of black bear population size, density, and population growth in and adjacent to BSF and to evaluate use of spatial covariates in predicting population density in unsampled heterogeneous areas. A total of 440 hair snares were constructed in a 3×3 clustered design with traps spaced 2-km apart within each cluster and 16-km between cluster centers. Snares consisted of 2 strands of barbed wire strung around 3-5 trees to create a roughly 25 m2 enclosure. Donuts for bait and a sweet-smelling scent lure were suspended from the center of the snares. Hair was collected weekly from each snare over a 6-week sampling period beginning June 24, 2019. Samples were comprised of all hairs on a single barb. The strand and barb number were recorded for use in a subsampling protocol. After hair collection barbed wire was burned to remove any uncollectable genetic material from the week prior. Collected samples were sent to Wildlife Genetics International (WGI) for individual identification of bears using 9 microsatellite markers including a sex marker. Genotype data will be used to create individual detection histories, and spatially explicit methods in R package secr will be used to estimate movement parameters based on captures and recaptures of individuals across time and space during the sampling period.

  • Population Density and Survival Rate Estimates of Elk in East Tennessee*
  • Katherine A. Kurth; Eryn M. Watson; Dailee L. Metts; Brad F. Miller; Richard W. Gerhold; Dana J. Morin; Lisa I. Muller
    Between 2000 and 2008, 201 Manitoban elk (Cervus canadensis manitobensis) were reintroduced to the 79,318 ha North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area (NCWMA) in East Tennessee. Population growth estimates of NCWMA elk are below initial projections, warranting current and accurate population research. We are using DNA microsatellites extracted from fecal samples and GPS collared elk to estimate density and annual survival rates of the NCWMA elk population. We collected fecal samples (n=357) using a clustered sampling design across 68 designated collection areas, primarily composed of wildlife openings. Collection took place weekly within the NCWMA from February through April 2019. Fecal samples were analyzed by Wildlife Genetics International (Nelson, British Columbia, Canada) using 16 microsatellites with sex determination. From the 157 successfully genotyped fecal samples, we identified 85 individuals (21 males and 64 females). We will estimate population density utilizing data from genetically identified individuals using a multi-session sex structured spatial capture-recapture model using the oSCR package in R. In addition, we collared 29 elk in 2019 and 2020, comprised of 8 males and 21 females. We have documented 5 collared elk mortalities which include 2 suspect meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis) associated disease, 1 poaching incident, 1 vehicle collision, and 1 legal harvest. We will use a known-fate model using the RMARK package to access Program MARK to evaluate yearly survival rates and the influence of sex and season on survival. Evaluating elk population density, survival rates, and causes of mortality to the population will allow for the identification of targeted management practices for increasing population growth and sustainability of NCWMA elk.

  • Heat Induced Behavioral Adaptations in a Wild Ruminant and the Potential for Competition with Cattle*
  • Jacob L. Dykes; Randy W. DeYoung; Timothy E. Fulbright; David G. Hewitt; Charles A. DeYoung; J. A. Ortega-S; Aaron M. Foley; Tyler A. Campbell
    Endotherms commonly experience heat stress. Thus, invoking adaptive behaviors to mitigate heat stress is imperative. Physiological responses are often more costly than simply modifying one’s behavior by seeking shade, exploiting wind, or altering activity patterns. However, behavioral changes could lead to competition with other species. We monitored GPS collared white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and cattle (30 deer, 10 cattle) on the East Foundation’s El Sauz Ranch in South Texas during spring 2019. Collars recorded animal location at 30-minute intervals. In addition, we deployed 100 black-globe thermometers across the landscape to monitor the thermal environment. We will use animal GPS data and operative temperature in resource selection models to evaluate the effects of heat stress on deer and cattle movement and resource selection. Also, we will assess the effect of heat on spatial and temporal overlap between deer and cattle across the landscape. Knowledge of deer and cattle movement, resource selection, and competition for thermal cover will further our understanding of how heat affects these species and which landscape characteristics help mitigate heat stress. The results of this study will give managers the knowledge needed to design habitat management and cattle-grazing regimes that may assist in mitigating the effects of heat stress on deer and cattle.

  • Examining Translocation Protocols of Reintroduced Elk Herds in the Eastern United States
  • Amber L. Evans; John W. Edwards; Christopher W. Ryan; Christopher T. Rota; Michael P. Strager
    Since the extirpation of elk (Cervus canadensis) in eastern North America, successful reintroductions have occurred in 12 eastern states and one Canadian province. The translocation process can cause high stress levels for individuals, which can then influence survival and long-term success in an establishing population. Differences in capture techniques, handling time, and even source population may influence results of a reintroduction program. From 2016 to 2018, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources reintroduced over 70 elk to the southern coal field region of the state. Elk were exposed to different protocols in each of three translocation efforts in West Virginia. Such circumstances where individuals within the same population were exposed to different translocation protocols provided a unique opportunity to query the translocation process to enhance future translocations. Moreover, we compared West Virginia’s elk reintroduction program to recent elk reintroduction efforts in other states. Key factors of the translocation process, such as capture techniques, estimated handling time, total time in holding, breeding activity, reproductive success, and mortality information, are compared within and across eastern elk herds. We compared summary statistics, where applicable, to examine trends in that positively and negatively impacted survival and behavior of reintroduced individuals. The resulting information will assist managers in designing protocols to increase the probability of success in future elk translocations in West Virginia and other states.

  • Utilization of Specific Crop Type and Phenological Growth Stage by Mule Deer in a Fragmented Landscape*
  • Joshua P. Vasquez; Levi J. Heffelfinger; David G. Hewitt; Shawn S. Gray; Warren C. Conway; Timothy E. Fulbright; Randy W. DeYoung; Louis A. Harveson
    In recent history, the increased demand for agriculture production has led to a shift in land cover from native rangeland to row crop farming. Research to better understand how species-specific interactions are affected by row crops will be beneficial for conservation and management of populations occupying these fragmented landscapes. Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) populations in the Texas Panhandle occur throughout an area of extensive agricultural land use. Mule deer have been intensively monitored; however, little is known about utilization of specific crop type and growth stage. We collected multi-year movement (via GPS collars) from 83 males and 86 females throughout 3 study sites in the Texas Panhandle. During our study period (January 2018-October 2019) crop type and growth stage in crop fields were monitored monthly in areas collared deer occupied. Our objectives were to assess what agricultural attributes affect mule deer space use associated with agriculture. Previous data from the Panhandle region indicate little use of crops, accumulating only 3-14% utilization relative to other land cover types. Although overall crop use was relatively low, preliminary data indicates high use of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum) during the early growth stages associated with winter months (Dec.-Feb.). The Panhandle region has a suite of varying crop species available to mule deer, however, specific crop species use by mule deer is to be determined. With our data we will be able to assess how different crop types and phenology affect mule deer foraging behavior seasonally. By understanding seasonal foraging preference, we can better predict mule deer distribution patterns, implications to nutritional status, and potential human conflict. Our data will enhance knowledge of mule deer biology, inform management decisions by state agencies, and better inform private land owners in an area of high anthropogenic influence.

  • Effects of Wolves on Elk Habitat Use in Wisconsin*
  • Jennifer L. Merems; Anna Brose; Shawn M. Crimmins; Jennifer L. Price Tack; Tim R. Van Deelen
    In systems where they co-occur, predation by wolves (Canis lupus) can be an important driver of elk (Cervus canadensis) population dynamics and habitat use. Most studies on the impacts of wolves on elk come from western North America, where elk populations have long been established and predator-prey communities are more diverse. In the Great Lakes region, effects of wolves on elk are poorly understood due to a relatively small number of established elk herds existing with wolves. Because wolf densities tend to be much higher than those in western regions, wolves may have an increased capacity to limit elk movement on the landscape. In this study, we sought to identify the environmental variables elk are selecting and understand the degree to which predation risk influences habitat use in northern Wisconsin. This information is a stepping-stone for further research into identifying the quality and quantity of forage available in areas heavily used by elk. This will allow us to determine whether wolves are displacing elk from high quality habitats and how that may impact elk populations.

  • Cougar Predation Behavior Across Environments and Seasons
  • Kristin N. Engebretsen; Julie K. Young
    Cougars (Puma concolor) are adaptable and efficient predators throughout their expansive range. The primary prey species of cougars in Western North America is the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), although they also prey on elk (Cervus canadensis), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), domestic livestock, small mammals, and birds. Due to the seasonal migration of many native prey species, cougars may exhibit behavioral plasticity in their hunting strategies throughout the year to fulfill their metabolic needs when contact rates with their primary prey fluctuate. These strategies may include switching to secondary ungulate prey, consuming higher frequencies of small prey, migrating to follow prey movements, or a combination of these tactics. Cougars must also contend with scavengers, such as black bears (Ursus americanus), which can kleptoparasitize cougar kills and reduce their consumption rates. This study examines the differences in prey selection and kill rates of cougars in response to the seasonal fluctuations in prey availability, environmental conditions, and competition. From May 2019 to August 2020, we visited all active or recent kill sites of GPS-collared females at three study sites in Utah that varied in terms of seasonal productivity and intraguild competition to evaluate how these factors impact the predation behavior of cougars. At kill sites, we identified prey species taken, habitat used for hunting and feeding, and evidence of scavenging by other species. We present our results on the seasonal fluctuations in prey selection and kill rates, as well as the hunting strategies employed by cougars. Understanding how cougars contend with variable prey resources and competition across a range of environmental conditions will deepen our understanding of predator behavior plasticity and improve our ability to effectively manage predator-prey ecosystems.

  • Determining Mammal Diversity on Fragmented Nature Reserves in South Africa*
  • Ian A. Mack II; Jeff Breeden; Thomas W. Schwertner; Hemanta Kafley; Heather Mathewson
    Nature Reserves in South Africa are severely fragmented, resulting in numerous isolated local populations of animals. The local communities depend on these nature reserves and their mammalian diversity for ecological and economic gains. Our study was conducted on Hans Merensky and Vygeboom Nature Reserves in Limpopo Province, South Africa. The Balepye community manages these nature reserves and are reliant on the reserves’ ecological diversity to attract prospective big game hunters and tourists. Activities on and around the reserves result in increased wages and sustainable livelihood opportunities for local community members. Accurate and current wildlife data is lacking on many reserves in South Africa, including Hans Merensky and Vygeboom Nature Reserves. Understanding current mammal diversity on these reserves is crucial for furthering conservation and successful management of wildlife species, including leopard and mesocarnivore populations. To further our understanding of mammal diversity on these reserves, we deployed paired game cameras in 4-km2 grids covering the entirety of our study sites. Vegetation surveys were conducted using transects 50 m from a specific camera location in each grid to classify vegetation type and structure. We are currently analyzing game camera photographs and vegetation data to determine current mammal diversity on these properties. We anticipate overall mammal diversity will differ between the two properties and vegetation types. Understanding local scale mammal diversity is a crucial component that will further our understanding of leopard and mesocarnivore populations on the reserves. It will also allow future researchers to study the impact of various management practices on the reserves, including reintroducing lions and other historically present species that are locally extirpated from these areas.

  • Movement Patterns of American Pronghorn Near Large-Scale Disturbance*
  • Megan Osterhout; Kelley Stewart; Cody Schroeder; Brian Wakeling; Perry Williams
    Pronghorn antelope (Antelocapra americana) are a native species in the Great Basin that occupy shrub steppe and grassland. Resource selection and movements of pronghorn are likely driven, in part, by water sources and open terrain that allows for quick escape from predation. One population of pronghorn occupy part of the Cortez Mountain Range located in the central region of Nevada. The Cortez Mountains are also impacted by an active open pit mine located at the base of the mountain. Objectives of this project are to understand movement patterns and selection of resources of this resident population of pronghorn near the mine. We captured 12 female pronghorn in the Cortez Range in January 2018. Each animal was fitted with a Vectronic GPS collar that emits six location points per day. As of April 2020, eight collars remain on the landscape and continue to emit locations. Attraction and repulsion points will be generated by modeling this data, allowing us to observe how animals select and avoid resources near the mine.

  • Remote Acoustic Surveys to Detect Bat Activity along the Kittatinny Ridge of Pennsylvania
  • Aaron Haines; Nicole Notarianni; Julie Zeyzus; John Chenger; Bryan Butler
    Bats are considered keystone species, providing a range of ecosystem services from control of important agricultural pests, to pollination and the spreading of seeds. As nocturnal foragers, bats use species-specific vocalizations in the form of echolocation to locate prey, which can be detected and logged using ultrasonic recording devices. Our objective for this project was to employ remote acoustic devices to record bat vocalizations as an index of bat species activity at natural areas along the Kittatinny Ridge of Pennsylvania. These natural areas included Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Cowans Gap State Park, Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center, Swatara State Park, Lehigh Gap Nature Center, and Boyd Big Tree Preserve. Each site was surveyed for 26-31 nights within the summer of 2018, the spring of 2019 and the summer of 2019. We detected a total of 9 bat species along the Kittatinny Ridge: Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), Eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis), Hoary bat (Aeorestes cinereus), Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans), Evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis), Tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus), Eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) and Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis). Boyd Big Tree Preserve was the site that had the greatest diversity of bat activity, while Cowans Gap State Park and Hawk Mountain had the highest recorded species richness based on recorded bat vocalizations. We recommend continued remote acoustic survey efforts along the Kittatinny Ridge and the enactment of conservation measures to protect ecologically important areas that support bat hibernation, roosting, and feeding habitat in order to maintain and increase bat populations.

  • Herpetofaunal Assemblage and Indices for Monitoring and Bioassesmnet of Margalla Hills National Park, Islamabad, Pakistan
  • Muhammad Rais; Jamal Ahmed; Arooj Batool; Aiman Naveed; Aqsa Shehzad; Maira Imtiaz
    Although species inventory (herpetofauna) of Margalla Hills National Park, Islamabad Capital Territory, Pakistan, is available, but it needs to be updated. There is no information on comparison of herpetofauna across different habitats of the park. Further, scale to measure changes in the ecology of the park is lacking. The current study was conducted from March 2018 to July 2019 in three different habitat types of the park using area-contained searches (circular plots 5m radius). As many as 302 individuals of 7 amphibian species, 303 individuals of ten lizard species and 32 individuals of six snake species were recorded. As many as 71 individuals of 7 amphibian species, 103 individuals of ten lizard species and 13 individuals of six snake species were recorded from the hiking trails; 142 individuals of 7 amphibian species, 145 individuals of ten lizard species and 16 individuals of three snake species from undisturbed forest area while 89 individuals of 7 amphibian species, 303 individuals of ten lizard species and 32 individuals of two snake species were recorded from urban areas in and around the park. The most common and frequently encountered amphibian species along the hiking trail and urban areas was Duttaphrynus stomaticus while Hoplobatrachus tigerinus in undisturbed forest. The most common and frequently encountered lizard species along the hiking trail and urban areas was Hemidactylus brookii while Ophisops jerdonii in undisturbed forest. The most common and frequently encountered snake species along the hiking trail and undisturbed forest were Rampholylops braminus while Ptyas mucosus mucosus in urban areas. The bioassesmnet, based on herpetofauna, of the park revealed good to excellent biotic integrity.

  • Assessing the Influence of Greening in Urban Residential Neighborhoods on Biodiversity and Human Health
  • Clay Bliznick; Howard Whiteman; Ted Smith; Aruni Bhatnagar; Andrea Darracq
    Globally, the functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide are declining due to human-driven landscape conversion, fragmentation, and degradation. To mitigate these effects, there have been increased efforts to restore ecosystem function in degraded landscapes, including greening in urban environments. This degradation, specifically the ecological systems that support green vegetation have be associated with poor human health outcomes. The objective of our research is to assess the broader biodiversity associated with urban greening and relate that to human health outcomes. Specifically, we are monitoring birds, bats, and butterflies within greening (n =34) and control areas (n=106) in residential neighborhoods in Louisville, Kentucky. Our sites are a part of the Greenheart Project, which is a five-year prospective interventional clinical trial. We collected biodiversity data pre-greening on our urban sites in July/August 2019 and will collect post-greening data next summer. We use point counts to document bird species, Pollard walks for butterflies, and bioacoustics for bats. We observed 54 bird species, 11 butterfly species, and 3 bat species combined across urban sites. Using this data, we plan to quantify diversity overall, by taxonomic group (birds, butterflies, and bats), and by guild and will compare these metrics between greened and non-greened sites. While there has not been extensive study on the effects of urban greening on biodiversity, an assessment of bird richness in community-driven greening projects in Boston, MA demonstrated greater species richness within greening project areas compared to random urban areas without greening (Strohbach et al. 2013). Similarly, we expect increases in species richness and diversity among surveyed taxa in pre-greening versus post-greening assessments.

  • Combining Field Sampling and Existing Data to Reveal Statewide Distributions of Mammals
  • Amanda E. Cheeseman; Shannon Farrell; James Gibbs
    Understanding species-ecosystem associations and current species distributions enables prediction of species range expansion and contraction, which is useful for determining species status and identifying conservation actions for species recovery. Data used to assess distributions are often leveraged from existing datasets such as museum records, citizen-sourced data, or regional monitoring programs; however, certain geographic areas and cryptic taxa are often poorly represented in such databases limited their value for modeling species range dynamics. In New York State, there has never been a formal statewide survey of mammals. Current records of small, cryptic mammals are lacking and the status of many of these species is unknown. Many common species also lack suitable distribution data for effectively monitoring distributional shifts over time. The New York Mammal Survey (NYMS) is pursuing the first statewide survey of the status and distribution of all New York mammals. We have compiled nearly 200,000 records of New York mammals and are continuing to leverage mammal occurrence data from publications, unpublished research, citizen science forums, and social media. To ensure coverage of small mammals in the database, we are augmenting these data with statewide standardized field surveys using Sherman, pitfall, tomahawk and camera traps. Integration of geographically haphazard historical data on mammal occurrence with data from location-targeted contemporary field surveys fills knowledge gaps and enables mapping current distributions, assessing changes in distributions through time. All data are now incorporated into the NYMS website where locality records can be searched, viewed, mapped through time relative to environmental and landscape covariates.

  • Assessing the Influence of Greening in Urban Residential Neighborhoods on Biodiversity and Human Health*
  • Clay Bliznick; Howard Whiteman; Ted Smith; Aruni Bhatnagar; Andrea Darracq
    Globally, the functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide are declining due to human-driven landscape conversion, fragmentation, and degradation. To mitigate these effects, there have been increased efforts to restore ecosystem function in degraded landscapes, including greening in urban environments. This degradation, specifically the ecological systems that support green vegetation have to be associated with poor human health outcomes. The objective of our research is to assess the broader biodiversity associated with urban greening and relate that to human health outcomes. Specifically, we are monitoring birds, bats, and butterflies within greening (n =34) and control areas (n=106) in residential neighborhoods in Louisville, Kentucky. Our sites are a part of the Greenheart Project, which is a five-year prospective interventional clinical trial. We collected biodiversity data pre-greening on our urban sites in July/August 2019 and will collect post-greening data next summer. We use point counts to document bird species, Pollard walks for butterflies, and bioacoustics for bats. We observed 54 bird species, 11 butterfly species, and 3 bat species combined across urban sites. Using this data, we plan to quantify diversity overall, by taxonomic group (birds, butterflies, and bats), and by guild and will compare these metrics between greened and non-greened sites. While there has not been extensive study on the effects of urban greening on biodiversity, an assessment of bird richness in community-driven greening projects in Boston, MA demonstrated greater species richness within greening project areas compared to random urban areas without greening (Strohbach et al. 2013). Similarly, we expect increases in species richness and diversity among surveyed taxa in pre-greening versus post-greening assessments.

  • Is Climate Change Increasing Predation on Hoary Marmots in North Cascades National Park?
  • Logan Whiles; Jocelyn Akins; Roger Christopherson; Jason Ransom; Lisa Shipley; Daniel Thornton
    Climatic changes are projected to restructure communities and reduce habitat for high-elevation specialists such as the hoary marmot (Marmota caligata), a hibernating rodent of subalpine meadows in talus fields. Some marmot species have exhibited recent population declines due to increases in predation, but the effects of predation remain largely unexplored in hoary marmots. Our project follows point count surveys for hoary marmots during 2007-2008 and 2016-2017 in the North Cascades National Park (NOCA) that recorded a decline in observed abundance of >50%. The objectives of our project are to investigate the: 1) effect of snow persistence on generalist and specialist carnivore distributions using camera trapping and occupancy modeling, 2) dietary composition of carnivores in marmot habitat using genetic analyses of scat samples, 3) effect of perceived predator presence on marmot vigilance using scan sampling, focal-animal sampling, and flight initiation distance trials, and 4) to continue point count surveys of hoary marmots in NOCA during 2018-2019. In 2018, across 69 remote cameras placed within 1 km of hoary marmot colonies, we recorded: Pacific martens (Martes caurina) at 42%, cougars (Puma concolor) at 13%, bobcats (Lynx rufus) at 10%, grey wolves (Canis lupus) at 7%, coyotes (Canis latrans) at 7%, and Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) at 6% of our cameras. Metabarcoding of carnivore scat revealed hoary marmot sequences in 8% of samples; frequency of occurrence was highest within Canidae samples (~30%), followed by cougar (~20%) and Pacific marten (~5%). After increasing point count effort threefold, we recorded reduced observable abundance at ~70% of hoary marmot colonies, an increase at ~20% of colonies, and no change at ~10% of colonies between 2007-2018. Overall, our preliminary findings corroborate assumptions of a declining hoary marmot population and highlight potential, as well as novel, predators in this system.

  • Habitat Suitability for Striped Skunks in a Spatially Heterogeneous Landscape
  • Katelyn Amspacher; Agustin Jimenez; Clay Nielsen
    Striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) are generalist mesopredators found throughout most of North America. Previous studies of striped skunk habitat preferences reveal varying trends throughout their large distributional range, but no spatial models of striped skunk habitat suitability currently exist. Southern Illinois is a unique region to examine habitat suitability for striped skunks given the high interspersion of row-crop agriculture, urban development, and forest cover. We developed a species distribution model (SDM) to examine striped skunk habitat suitability in southern Illinois. We incorporated 234 occurrence locations collected via camera traps during 2007-2010 and 108 occurrence locations collected using radiotelemetry during 2018-2020. We incorporated 1 km2 land cover data from the National Land Cover Database and an index of human modification of the landscape. We built models using SDM Toolbox and MaxEnt and tested multiple regularization multipliers and feature class types. Our final model (OER = 0.3465, AUC = 0.700) included a 1.5 regularization multiplier with a hinge feature class. Land cover and human modification explained 93.8% and 6.2% of variation in the model, respectively. Highest habitat suitability for striped skunks was found in areas with forest and developed open space with moderate human modification, and lowest habitat suitability in cultivated crops and woody wetlands with either very low or high human modification. Forested land provides natural food and shelter resources for striped skunks, thus a highly suitable cover type. Resources are likely augmented by human activity in developed open space to create a similarly suitable habitat. Cultivated crops provide few shelter opportunities for striped skunks and are often managed to exclude many insects, a prominent food source for the species. Similarly, flooding in wooded wetlands limits available dry shelter opportunities, decreasing habitat suitability. Our model indicates that striped skunks are a synanthropic species that regularly inhabit both natural and anthropogenic habitats.

  • The Myriad Effects of Landscape Composition and Island Accessibility on Predation Management on a Fragmented Landscape
  • Yulan Lu; John H. Porter; Brian M. Scharle; Raymond D. Dueser
    Effective predation management requires an understanding of both landscape composition and permeability to predator movement. The raccoon (Procyon lotor) is a significant predator on beach-nesting and colonial waterbirds on the U. S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. This study investigated the dual influences of land cover composition (Li) and island accessibility (Mi) on raccoon distribution and abundance on 31 island and marsh surfaces along the seaward margin of the southern Delmarva Peninsula. Eleven islands previously were classified as resident/source islands and 20 as transient/sink islands. We combined 11 years of USDA-WS raccoon trapping data (1,453 captures) on 11 islands with high-resolution (30-m pixel) NOAA C-CAP land cover maps for the year 2010 to determine a cover-class association for each of 7,431 trap stations. Eleven cover classes were represented. We tallied the area Aix (in hectares) for each cover class x found on surface i. Based on capture data, station GPS locations and cover-class information, we calculated the observed capture rate (rx) for each cover class, and estimated land cover suitability (Li) and island accessibility (Mi) for each surface. Given rxand Aix, we then calculated the projected numbers of captures (CI) for each surface. Both Li and Ciwere higher for woody islands than for grassy and for source islands than for sink. Mi varied independently of both cover composition and island type. These results suggest a clear guideline for predation management: Focus trapping on grassy islands to maximize protection of high quality shorebird habitat, but focus trapping on woody habitats to maximize capture rates. Trapping on grassy islands has been observed to both accentuate their sink function and provide direct protection for shorebirds. Trapping on woody source islands potentially may reduce overall raccoon abundance and disrupt the flow of dispersers between islands, but the benefits to shorebirds are less certain.

  • Understanding the Disturbance Human Recreation Causes for Wildlife Using Multiple Dynamic Agents within an Individual Based Modeling Framework
  • Soraida Garcia; Alex Cohen; Shadi Atallah; Patrick A. Zollner
    Human recreation within outdoor landscapes is growing, and the extent and intensity of the impact of such activities upon the wildlife are increasing. For example, the presence of humans may increase risk averse behavior by wildlife, restricting the access of wildlife to essential resources, and reducing foraging, thereby negatively impacting breeding. Ultimately, the impacts that recreationists can have on wildlife include directly or indirectly altering population structure and community composition. Unfortunately, understanding the impacts of recreating humans upon wildlife is a complex challenge that is dependent upon the wildlife species and human activity types. Our understanding of human-wildlife relationships can be improved by combining results from empirical studies with simulation models to extrapolate mechanisms to a broader range of circumstances and investigate their implications. Accordingly, we developed an IBM modeling framework, that enables both dynamic virtual human and wildlife agents to change their actions based upon their state as a consequence of their interactions with their environment and other virtual agents such as birders and bikers. We use this framework to model the disturbance of birds, in the Lawrence Creek Forest Unit (LCFU) of Fort Harrison State Park, by human recreation. We parameterize the model with human recreation data collected through an intercept survey of recreationists at the park and bird data from published studies. We simulate 3 scenarios of alternative trail spatial configurations within the LCFU. Our results indicate that birders influence the rates of disturbance of birds and the energy provided to nesting birds. Interestingly, simulations with imposed static human behavior rather than dynamic human agents estimated a much lower impact of birders on the disturbance of birds. This comparison illustrates the value of simulating both human and wildlife agents in dynamic ways and demonstrates a better approach to understanding the conflicts between human recreation and wildlife.

  • Occupancy and Co-Occurrence of Forest Wildlife in Southern Illinois*
  • Justin J. Remmers; Clayton K. Nielsen; Damon B. Lesmeister
    Two of the most influential factors affecting forest wildlife distributions are habitat and intraspecific interactions. Midwestern temperate forests offer diverse landscapes and ecosystems to explore such factors; however, research across large geographic regions that also incorporates a wide array of taxonomic groups remains scarce. To address this gap in the literature, we conducted camera-trapping surveys and are using occupancy modeling to (1) identify areas of high biodiversity and model the influence of habitat on species richness, (2) investigate temporal and spatial partitioning between eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) and fox squirrels (S. niger), and (3) assess co-occurrence patterns between predator and prey species. During January-April 2008-2010, we deployed 3-4 cameras to 357 sites (n=1,188 total camera locations) across a 16,058 km2 region of southern Illinois, USA, that was comprised of a continuum of forest cover. Thirty-three variables were measured at each camera site and encompassed both microhabitat variables (e.g., total basal area, stem density, coarse woody debris) and macrohabitat variables (e.g., landcover type, patch size). We collected >100,000 unique photographic captures of endothermic animals and observed 29 different wildlife species or taxonomic groups. We are currently applying novel occupancy modeling approaches to these data including: a multi-species, hierarchical model with 2 model variants; a multi-season, multivariate, co-occurrence model evaluating occupancy changes through time; and a single-season, multi-species, co-occurrence model capable of incorporating >2 species. Additionally, we will use a kernel density analysis to examine activity patterns between species. We hypothesize decreased distance to anthropogenic features (e.g., roads, buildings, municipalities) will decrease species richness, increase local extinction rates for species sensitive to distance, and increase local colonization rates for species resilient to distance. Furthermore, we expect microhabitat variables to be positively correlated with mammal occupancy. Our research will provide managers with information to forward wildlife conservation in forested Midwestern landscapes.

  • Estimating Abundance of Black Bears and Mountain Lions Using Camera Surveys in West Texas*
  • Jamie L. Cooper
    Large carnivores act as keystone species as they play an essential role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems. Estimates of large carnivore population sizes are therefore useful not only for their management, but also for management of their prey species. Difficulties arise when studying these carnivores as they are often elusive, few in numbers, and have large ranges, but ever-evolving methods using remote cameras and spatial data may provide practical options for obtaining population estimates. Limited research on the population estimates of large carnivores in West Texas has been published, thus, our objective was to evaluate the use of camera surveys to estimate abundance of black bears (Ursus americanus) and mountain lions (Puma concolor) in the Davis Mountains. We established a 342-km2 grid with 36 remote cameras to survey for these species. We placed cameras at baited sites on likely travel corridors, such as mountain saddles and game trails. We surveyed for two 12-week periods (summer 2018 and spring 2019) and collected approximately 835,000 photographs. In summer 2018, we collected 9 independent photos of mountain lions and 25 independent photos of bears. In spring 2019, we collected 39 and 21 independent photos of mountain lions and black bears, respectively. We will use these photos to estimate abundance and evaluate the use of camera surveys for monitoring large carnivore populations in West Texas. These results will be useful for conservation and management specialists interested in non-invasive techniques for acquiring population estimates.

  • Discrete-Time Models of Animal Movement: Mule Deer As a Case Study*
  • Meghan P. Keating; Perry J. Williams; Kelley M. Stewart; Levi J. Heffelfinger; Cody J. McKee
    Water availability is a critical driver of habitat suitability for wildlife living in arid environments. Understanding movement behavior and identifying areas of attraction (or repulsion) is critical for wildlife management and conservation. We examined how water availability influenced mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) behavior in the Mojave National Preserve in southern California. We fit discrete-time movement models to > 900,000 GPS locations collected from 170 marked individuals. We first developed a movement model that permitted estimation of mule deer attraction to known water sources. We then extended our model to estimate the location of features of the landscape that animals were attracted to, but for which we lacked information (e.g., unmapped water sources). Our results suggested attraction to water affected mule deer movement behavior at the individual scale, even when animals were not using water sources. We were also able to provide a spatial surface describing the probability of attraction across the landscape to unknown features. Our results augment the inference obtained from resource selection functions or occupancy models by providing inference on how features of the landscape affect individual movement behavior. Our results also provide information to generate a spatial map for managers that describes areas that appear to be driving animal movement via attraction and repulsion, along with the associated uncertainty of those locations, even when we lack information on why animals are attracted to those locations.

  • Year-Round Northern Long-Eared Bat Acoustic Activity at Fire Island National Seashore*
  • Katherine Gorman; Tomás Nocera; Elaine Barr; W. Mark Ford; Lindsay Ries
    We sought to characterize year-round bat acoustic activity at the National Park Service’s Fire Island National Seashore on Long Island, New York. Our emphasis was on the threatened northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), in order to determine possible overwintering presence, post-hibernation arrival, pre-hibernation exit and/or maternity colony activity relative to meteorological and temporal variables.
    Since April of 2018 to present, we have maintained 5-19 zero-crossing, frequency-division detectors continuously on the William Floyd Estate portion of the park. Early spring and late fall detection of northern long-eared bats indicates the possibility of their use of local, atypical hibernacula. Summer acoustic presence coupled with an ongoing radio-tagging study has shown strong fidelity to the site by northern long-eared bats in the maternity period. Moreover, variation in recorded activity levels indicate that discrete areas in the park are important for foraging and day-roosting; confirmed by known locations of day-roosting bats.
    Activity is correlated with air temperature, but relationships with wind and precipitation have been equivocal. Given the highly developed suburbs surrounding the park, little typical day-roost or foraging habitat occurs locally on this part of Long Island except for within the park. Accordingly, the William Floyd Estate may be an important conservation area for the northern long-eared bat in the Long Island area.

  • Importance of the Early Environment on Amphibian Development: Applications for Head-Start, Translocation, and Reintroduction Programs
  • Bernardo A. Traversari; Erica J. Crespi
    Studies have demonstrated that environmental conditions experienced during larval development can affect the morphology, physiology and behavior of amphibians after metamorphosis. These carry-over effects are particularly important to consider in head-start conservation programs in which amphibian larvae are reared in captivity and released into the wild to enhance population persistence. If captive rearing conditions are not optimal, then the survival of released animals could be compromised. Yet, despite the increase in the number of these programs, little research has been conducted to test for adaptive carry-over effects in captive environments. In Washington, a head-starting program is currently underway for the Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens), headed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and in collaboration with Washington State University and the Oregon Zoo. In an effort to help maximize the program’s success, we carried out a larval rearing experiment looking at the effects of different aquatic environments on Northern Leopard Frog development. Specifically, we evaluated whether water from the Oregon Zoo’s salmonid exhibit could serve as an optimal rearing environment for the species in comparison to both charcoal-filtered Oregon Zoo water and treated tap water. Our results showed that while there were no significant differences between water types used, larvae tended to develop faster and achieve greater size and weight when reared in Oregon Zoo water. In addition, we were able to establish the use of active-charcoal filtration as a viable method for eliminating potential water contaminants, including steroid hormones, that could negatively affect amphibian well-being while in captivity. Though more research is needed to support these findings, they nonetheless provide important insights for the captive-rearing and reintroduction of Northern Leopard Frogs in Washington.

  • King Rail Microhabitat Use in the Migratory Range*
  • Dustin E. Brewer; Thomas M. Gehring; Brendan T. Shirkey
    The King Rail (Rallus elegans) is listed as ‘threatened’ or ‘endangered’ in 12 states in its migratory range, where populations have declined due to habitat loss. For my dissertation research, I’m currently investigating microhabitat use by King Rails in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio, which is in the migratory range. In 2019 and 2020 (if not cancelled due to covid-19), between May and August, I caught King Rails in Ohio and attached radio transmitters (n = 1 in 2019; 2020 field season not completed upon abstract submission). I tracked these birds to ‘homing’ locations where I described habitat variables within plots including: vegetative coverage, vegetative density, open water coverage, and crayfish abundance. I also measured these habitat variables 50 m away in a random direction from each homing location. Upon completion of data collection in 2021, I’ll statistically compare habitat at the homing and random locations to determine which habitat characteristics are associated with King Rail occurrence. For this conference, I’ll report descriptive statistics which result from the 2020 field study or, if the field season is cancelled due to covid-19, I’ll describe my research plans for 2021. My results will improve the ability of wildlife managers to create or maintain habitat for King Rails.

  • The Presence of Snake Fungal Disease in Wild and Captive Populations in North Georgia*
  • Elizabeth Jeanne Noble
    Snake Fungal Disease (SFD) emerged and spread throughout the eastern United States during the last several years. The disease is caused by a naturally occurring fungal pathogen, Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, that acts as an opportunistic invader and results in a high mortality rate among infected snakes after exposure. The fungal disease has been confirmed throughout southern Georgia and surrounding states; however, little is known about SFD in northern Georgia, and the paucity of research in the area hampers conservation efforts in the state. In this study, we surveyed wild and captive snake populations in northern Georgia to both confirm and monitor the occurrence of SFD in the region. Wild snake populations were surveyed at sites throughout several north Georgia counties and captured specimens were swabbed for presence of the fungal pathogen. In addition to swabbing, data were collected at each site such as location (e.g., GPS coordinates, habitat type), a morphological assessment (e.g., species, sex, mass, age) and a health examination (e.g., the presence of lesions, behavior) prior to release. Similar sampling protocols were followed with a group of captive snakes at the Elachee Nature Center in Gainesville, Georgia. Lab results confirmed presence of O. ophiodiicola in 10 of the 33 swabbed snakes. Seven of the confirmed positive samples were collected from wild snakes collected from several north Georgia counties, and 3 confirmed positive samples were collected from the captive snakes. This project deepens our understanding of how SFD is threatening wild snake populations in Georgia, and how infected captive snakes may alter behavior to enhance recovery after exposure to the pathogenic fungus. Our data can benefit conservation and management efforts as researchers collaborate with organizations such as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • Bats and Hummingbird Feeders: Simulating Different Monitoring Techniques to Examine Utilization of Introduced Alternative Food Sources by Long-Nosed Bats*
  • Mallory L. Davies; Theresa M. Laverty; Kathryn E. Stoner
    The endangered Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) and the recently delisted lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae) migrate north by following nectar corridors as plant food sources flower, such as columnar cacti and paniculate agave. Loss of these plants within the nectar corridor can jeopardize long-nosed bat populations. However, in areas of low flowering plant densities, L. yerbabuenae have been observed utilizing hummingbird feeders as an alternative food source as early as the 1970s. Managers and researchers are interested in learning about the utilization of artificial nectar feeders (ANFs) as an alternative food source and applying findings to future conservation efforts. We developed a simulation in Program MARK to examine the statistical power and financial feasibility of including data collected from different detection devices to answer two main questions: 1) Do long-nosed bats utilize ANFs more frequently as available forage declines? 2) Do long-nosed bats utilize high density ANFs more than low density ANFs? In each simulated scenario, we assessed the contribution of data collected from either acoustic monitors, camera traps, or PIT tags to our simulated field study design. In the field, we will set up high (5 ANFs) and low (1 ANF) density treatment plots that are filled daily with sugar water. For each treatment plot, we will establish control plots of 1 or 5 empty ANFs 500m away. All treatment and control plots will be placed within 30m of an agave patch with flowering stalks emerging. We will discuss results from our simulation and their implications for conducting our 2021 field study in the northern portion of Leptonycteris’ range, southwestern New Mexico. Our findings, paired with careful planning, are important first steps to achieving a meaningful impact on future management decisions and conservation efforts of Leptonycteris species and their plant food sources.

  • Parasite Evaluation in Endangered Mount Graham Red Squirrels and Invasive Abert’s Squirrels*
  • Deandra Jones; Dr. John Koprowski
    Invasive species are among the leading global threats to native wildlife and are a factor in the decline of 42 percent of threatened and endangered species. Invasive species can influence the ecosystem health through parasite loads that they introduce during establishment in new areas. In the 1940s, Abert squirrels (Sciurus aberti ) were introduced to the Pinaleño mountains in southeastern Arizona where they currently co-occur with endemic endangered red squirrels (Tamiasciurus fremonti grahamensis). There is little understanding of parasite loads between invaders and imperiled endemic species, including S. aberti and T. f. grahamensis; we will identify and quantify parasites in this important system. We will analyze over 60 Abert squirrels from their breeding season, between late February and early June, and targeting both sexes as equally as possible. All samples of Mt Graham red squirrels (T. h. grahamensis) will be sampled regardless of dates collected or sex only because samples of the endangered red squirrels are only limited to natural, accidental, and predatorial deaths. The entire gastrointestinal tract is examined for endoparasites following standard parasitological procedures and fecal samples are analyzed through qualitative flotation methods. From the study we hope to gain a better insight into possible parasite transmission routes and the role that parasites play in biological invasion. We strive to understand all aspects of factors that place species at risk of extinction, so that we can provide future management and conservation strategies for similarly threatened or endangered species.

  • Nest Site, Nest Temperature, and Hatching Outcomes Across An Environmental Gradient in the Gopher Tortoise
  • Kevin J. Loope; J. Nicole DeSha; David C. Rostal; Betsie B. Rothermel; Lora L. Smith; Kevin T. Shoemaker; Elizabeth A. Hunter
    Understanding how population vital rates respond to environmental factors across an existing gradient can reveal the degree to which species may be vulnerable or resistant to decline following anthropogenic climate change. In long-lived species, adult survival is likely to be robust to climate variation, whereas components of fecundity are more likely to be sensitive to environmental variation. Here, we investigate how female nesting decisions (nest depth and shadiness) are related to nest temperatures, and how these variables influence two aspects of fecundity, hatching success and hatchling sex ratios, in the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), a species of conservation concern with environmentally determined sex. We compare these relationships across a climatic gradient of five sites from Georgia and Florida, USA, using a dataset of 68 wild nests from 2018 and 2019 with nest temperature data recorded using iButton temperature dataloggers. As expected, mean nest temperature is significantly predicted by latitude, as well as nest shadiness and depth, indicating that female nesting behaviors influence the nest thermal environment. Nest thermal environment was important for fitness: we found a positive effect of daily maximum nest temperature on hatching success. Nest bottom depth also had a positive effect on hatching success, indicating that depth itself has additional effects on hatching beyond the effect of temperature. Interestingly, the effects of both temperature and nest bottom depth on hatching success were pronounced only in some populations, and there was no clear trend with latitude. We also present preliminary data on the interactions between nest temperature, site and hatchling sex ratios. Understanding the differences among populations could inform prioritization of conservation areas as well as translocation strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change.

  • Monitoring Freshwater Mussel Health Using Stable Isotope Analysis*
  • Alexandra M. Hicks; Nancy Boedeker; Brant Fisher; Casey Maynard; Elizabeth A. Flaherty
    Declines and extinctions in freshwater mussel populations across North America have resulted in the extirpation of 16 species in Indiana and the listing of 10 species as federally threatened or endangered. Research priorities for freshwater mussels often focus on monitoring population abundance, distribution, and habitat change with limited efforts towards monitoring health. Development of health parameters and monitoring protocols could lead to an improved understanding of challenges facing these species while also informing management and conservation efforts. As part of a larger project to develop comprehensive health monitoring protocols for freshwater bivalves in Indiana, our objectives were to develop and test a health monitoring protocol using stable isotope analysis to evaluate changes in resource use and detect changes in water quality and stream nutrients. We collected body tissue samples from plain pocketbook (Lampsilis cardium), fatmucket (Lampsilis siliquoidea), and Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) from 3 sites in Indiana, upstream of an urban area, downstream of the same urban area, and a rural site, and analyzed them for carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) stable isotopes. Our results indicated a significant difference in δ13C and δ15N between sampling sites and changes across sampling periods. We also identified overlap in signatures between species and within sampling periods indicating interspecific competition between native mussels and the highly invasive Asian clam. By collecting and analyzing samples regularly, stable isotope analysis will allow managers to monitor for changes in health parameters, chronic disturbances, changes in environmental quality, inter- and intraspecific competition, and ecological niche overlap. Combined with measurements of other health parameters, these protocols have the potential to provide a comprehensive program for understanding challenges to mussel populations while informing management and conservation especially regarding population restoration.

  • Masked Bobwhite Recovery Efforts – High Points and Hurdles
  • Donald H. Wolfe; Lacrecia A. Johnson; Rebecca Chester; John G. Goodwin, Jr.
    Masked Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus ridgwayii) are a critically endangered quail historically found in the Sonoran grasslands of southern Arizona, USA, and northern Sonora Mexico. Native populations of Masked Bobwhite may already be extinct in the wild, but captive populations exist at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Africam Safari, and G. M. Sutton Avian Research Center. Recovery efforts in the 1970s and 1980s were initially successful, but suffered debilitating setbacks in the mid to late 1980s and 1990s that ultimately resulted in failure. In the subsequent decades, land acquisition and improved habitat restoration efforts led to the belief that reintroductions could again be attempted and successful, and in 2016-2017 plans were developed to increase captive propagation and release efforts. Overwinter survivorship of birds released in 2018 (~20%) was encouraging, and reproduction of wild birds was documented in 2019. Although overwinter survival of 2019 releases was lower, an existing base of wild birds, in addition to improvements in rearing and release methods along with increased production from captive facilities has renewed hope that full recovery of the species in Arizona is possible. Release techniques, habitat restoration, updates, and future plans will be discussed.

  • Invasive Species Impacts on Threatened and Endangered Taxa*
  • Emily Ritter; Lauren Bleyer; Aaron Haines; Mathias Leu; Delaney Costante; Gokul Achayaraj; Lauren French; Laura Lielbriedis
    Behind habitat alteration, invasive species impact is the second leading threat causing native species to require federal protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the United States (US). This threat continues to grow due to continued species introductions into the US. The goal of this project is to identify the top invasive species that threaten wildlife protected under the ESA, how invasive species impacts vary by protected species taxa, and where are the invasive species’ regions of origin. We reviewed federal register listing documents for all threatened and endangered (T&E) species from 1975 through 2019. We identified all T&E species impacted by invasive species, and the taxa of these invasive species. We also summarized how specific invasive species taxa negatively impact T&E species through various interaction types (e.g., competition, predation, herbivory, disease, parasitism, adverse habitat modification etc.). Based on this analysis, we hope to provide guidance on invasive species mitigation efforts to both the National Invasive Species Council and National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species.

  • Plasticity in Gopher Tortoise Nesting Behaviors and Fecundity in a Translocated Population
  • Nicole DeSha; Kevin J. Loope; Matthew J. Aresco; Kevin T. Shoemaker; Elizabeth A. Hunter
    Understanding how species will respond to climate change is crucial to conserving global biodiversity. The intensity and rapidness with which the climate is changing suggests that adaptive evolution could be too slow to keep pace with climate change, and alternative mechanisms, such as physiological and behavioral plasticity, may be required for species to persist. Gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) are a threatened, keystone species that play important roles in upland habitats throughout the southeastern United States. Climate change could have diverse and strong effects on the fecundity and population demographics of gopher tortoises, as they are long-lived reptiles that rely on environmental temperatures for thermoregulation and sex determination. We used a population of translocated gopher tortoises at Nokuse Plantation, located in the panhandle of Florida, as a common garden experiment to assess whether plasticity of several nesting behaviors (i.e. nest temperature, depth, and orientation) and components of fecundity (i.e., clutch size, egg size, hatching success, sex ratios) can compensate for changes in environmental conditions. If tortoises exhibit plasticity by matching nesting behavior to local conditions, we predicted that distance from natal site would have no effect on nesting behaviors and fecundity. We compared nest characteristics among translocated females (from across the state of Florida) and examine how geographic and environmental distance from natal origin impacted aspects of fecundity. Our findings indicate that distance from natal site has no impact on female fecundity or nesting behavior. These results indicate that females adjust to novel environments by altering their nesting strategies to create suitable incubation conditions for developing offspring. Our findings contribute to understanding of resilience of gopher tortoises to impending environmental changes, and also inform managers on best practices for translocations in terms of suitable translocation distance from natal site.

  • American Chestnut in Kentucky: Spatial Information and the Future of Our Forests*
  • Jacob R. Pease
    Anthropogenic factors have been the causal agents in the decline of tree species globally. From logging and development to disease and poor management, threats to our forests have taken their toll. One species, the American chestnut (Castanea dentata) was once an integral basal tree species in Appalachian forests but was eliminated from the landscape by chestnut blight by the mid-1900s and is now functionally extinct. Blight-resistant chestnuts are being created to reintroduce this species back into its historical range. Efficient and effective reintroduction will require optimal restoration sites that will maximize planting success. This research has been part of an ongoing project focusing on determining chestnut site suitability in Kentucky’s US Forest Service lands. Specifically, the degree to which site suitability criteria from literature can predict chestnut locations in both Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (LBL) and Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF). Resulting analyses from remotely sensed data and maps will be used to further refine our knowledge of chestnut reintroduction and determine how land managers can optimize and expedite the reintroduction process across large landscapes. This project will provide a geospatial framework for chestnut reintroduction and improve methodologies for creating future frameworks for other at-risk species. The results of this project thus have the potential to serve as a model for land managers to utilize GIS and remotely sensed data as tools for the restoration of degraded landscapes.

  • Long-Term Monitoring of Snake Fungal Disease in the Eastern Massasauga in Illinois
  • Seth M. LaGrange; Sarah J. Baker; Laura A. Adamovicz; Ethan J. Kessler; Matthew C. Allender; Michael J. Dreslik
    The eastern massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) is state endangered in Illinois and federally threatened in the USA. In Illinois, the massasauga is limited to several small populations around Carlyle Lake, Illinois. Monitoring for the massasauga at Carlyle Lake started in 1999 and this field season marked the 21st year of the project. Over that time, we have collected information on movements, environmental data, demography, behavior, mark/recapture history, growth, health, and disease. These data are useful for assessing long-term population trends and determining what factors are impacting population size over time. Managing small disjunct populations has become increasingly common and therefore understanding how management affects population trends is imperative for small populations. Several management endeavors have occurred at our sites containing eastern massasaugas allowing us to assess the impact and success of such management activities with regards to population size, health, and disease prevalence. With the discovery of Snake Fungal Disease (SFD) in the early 2000s, health and disease information became increasingly important and added another consideration for the management of this species. We originally discovered SFD in this population in 2008 and have regularly collected swabs since 2011. In total we have swabbed 648 snakes and SFD prevalence averaged 19.3 percent across the study period. Of the 648 snakes swabbed, 181 were between year recaptures allowing us to look at individual changes in SFD over time. The combination of these data has given us a holistic understanding of the population status of eastern massasaugas in Illinois and the threats to their survival.

  • Noninvasive Genetic Investigation of Canids on Galveston Island, Texas*
  • Tanner Michael Barnes; Melissa T. Karlin; Kristin E. Brzeski
    Hybridization has historically been considered a threat to biodiversity. Rates of hybridization and introgression have increased worldwide due to habitat modification and human-mediated animal translocations. However, natural hybridization has been recognized as a potential mechanism of adaptation. Introgressions through hybridization can blur species distinctions, creating conservation and policy challenges. With the recent advancement in sequencing technology researchers are better able to detect these introgressions and solve these challenges. Two species of canids, the coyote and red wolf, historically hybridized along the American Gulf Coast as red wolf populations declined in the mid-1900s. Red wolves were declared extinct from the wild by 1980 and only 14 captive wolves remained. Recently, two independent studies rediscovered red wolf genetics persisting in hybrid canids along the gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana prompting new investment for the critically endangered species. We utilized the advancements in sequencing technologies to noninvasively investigate canids on Galveston Island, Texas where red wolf ancestry has been documented. Our study has the potential to benefit the endangered red wolf through the rediscovery of genetic variation and advance a better understanding of how hybridization facilitates adaptation.

  • Effects of Roads on Endangered Mount Graham Red Squirrel: Impacts of Wildfire
  • Hejie Xu; John Koprowski
    Multiple reasons are behind a species’ endangerment in the modern world, including human activities, climate change, and anthropogenic infrastructure such as roads. Increased forest fire fueled by multiple anthropogenic and environmental factors has contributed to widespread forest mortality, carbon emissions, periods of degraded air quality; which would have potential effects on wildlife’s behavior. As one of the most abundant infrastructures, roads can be a direct cause of habitat fragmentation, which is a major threat to biodiversity. Understanding animal behavioral responses to roads and traffic provides valuable insight into causes and mechanisms of the effects of linear development on wildlife and aids effective mitigation and conservation. An endangered forest-dependent species, the Mount Graham red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis) is the study organism to test hypotheses to explain the negative effects of roads on animal occurrence. Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona is the only place in the world that this subspecies of squirrel call home, which burned more than 48,0000 acres by Frye Fire (caused by lightning) in 2017. The goal of this research is to compare the probability of red squirrel home ranges that included roads and random lines in forests, and assessed effects of traffic intensity on the rate of road crossing and movement patterns with pre-fire data. Permitting identification of potential shifts of wildlife’s behavior and ecology through the effects of roads on wildlife after major habitat-destruction natural disasters. This research will highlight the importance of the level of traffic noise at a local scale when investigating potential behavior differences in burned an unburned habitat and monitoring effects of anthropogenic noise on wildlife. By understanding how animals would respond to road activities would provide valuable insights on future conservation paths on aspects of movement ecology, especially during the essential recovering period after serious natural disasters such as wildfire.

  • Increasing Trends in the Mosquito Vector for Avian Malaria in Core Endangered Forest Bird Sites on Kaua’I, Hawaii
  • Bryn Webber; Lisa Crampton; Kim Shoback; Dennis LaPointe
    Mosquitoes pose a threat to Hawaii’s native forest birds as vectors of avian malaria. The situation is particularly dire on Kauai, the lowest of the main Hawaiian Islands that still has a relatively intact avifauna, including three endangered forest bird species. Consequently, we have been working to understand the abundance, distribution, and seasonality of the malaria-carrying mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, at mid and high-elevation sites known as core habitat for Kauai’s native forest birds. In 2011-14, we surveyed adult and larval mosquitoes at two sites, one in the core and one in the periphery of current forest bird range. To survey adults, we used CO2 and gravid traps, and to survey larvae we conducted dip surveys in stream margins and overland transects. In 2018-19, we repeated the core site surveys, and added six new sites at 2500-3000’ around the Plateau. Results suggest that 1) mosquito numbers increased over the decade; 2) core habitat is largely mosquito-free from January-July, but not other months (48 adults were captured over just seven trap nights in August); and 3) sites within 4km of core habitat contain high densities of mosquitoes as early as April. Most adult mosquitoes were caught in CO2 traps and very few larvae were found, suggesting among other possibilities that mosquitoes are immigrating from outside the study area. We will validate these results with additional surveys this fall. Understanding the distribution, seasonality, and survivorship of C. quinquefasciatus in Kaua’i will help lead to safe, effective, and cost-efficient mosquito control techniques for use across the state.

  • The Effects of Prescribed Burns on White- Tailed Deer in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey*
  • Jenna L. Walker; Catherine A. Tredick
    Prescribed burns are commonly used as a forest management technique and provide various benefits to forest ecosystems. These include reducing the probability of wildfires, managing invasive species or improving wildlife habitat. Stockton University, located within the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey, has adopted a ten-year forest plan to be carried out on 1,522.80 acres of land, including the use of prescribed burns. To better understand the impacts of these prescribed burns on wildlife, the activity levels of white- tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) were analyzed both before and after four different prescribed burns on campus. We used motion-sensor wildlife cameras at four different sites to capture white- tailed deer activity. Two cameras were located directly within areas that underwent burning, while two additional cameras located within nearby, unburned forest areas were used as controls for comparison. Overall, we assessed deer activity at regular intervals post- burn and subsequently compared to the activity levels prior to burning. We will present results of changes in deer activity pre- and post- burn to determine how prescribed burning affects white- tailed deer activity in a pine- oak forest ecosystem.

  • Evaluating Genetic Diversity and Distinctiveness of Northern and Southern Idaho Ground Squirrel Populations Using Adaptive and Neutral Loci*
  • Molly J. Garrett; Soraia Barbosa; Kimberly R. Andrews; Amanda R. Goldberg; Digpal S. Gour; Paul A. Hohenlohe; Courtney J. Conway; Lisette P. Waits
    The endemic northern Idaho ground squirrel (Urocitellus brunneus, hereafter NIDGS) and southern Idaho ground squirrel (Urocitellus endemicus, hereafter SIDGS) have recently been distinguished as separate species. These two species are morphologically distinct, occupy different habitat types, and do not interbreed. NIDGS is a federally listed endangered species and SIDGS is a state listed species of conservation concern. However, recent modeling efforts have indicated SIDGS may be more susceptible to future habitat loss and fragmentation than NIDGS. Previous work on these species has suggested population persistence may be highly dependent on locally adapted genotypes. Recent work from our research group used genomic methods to provide novel information on neutral and adaptive genetic diversity and differentiation within and between populations of NIDGS and SIDGS. Genetic samples were collected from 304 Idaho ground squirrels using buccal swabs and were used for Restriction Site Associated DNA Sequencing (RADSeq) to identify 7,197 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) loci. A clear genetic separation between NIDGS and SIDGS for both adaptive and neutral loci was observed, with elevation being the main variable explaining adaptive differences. However, this study evaluated NIDGS and SIDGS together, limiting the scope of this research to broad-scale variation. Furthermore, this study used samples collected from a limited range of the geographic distribution of each species. To further understand which factors are influencing differentiation and connectivity at smaller scales and to estimate key demographic variables like effective population size, we plan to develop a genotyping panel from neutral and adaptive SNPs. This SNP panel will then be used to genotype archived samples of both species to expand the geographic coverage of this genetic dataset. Analyzing these species separately with increased sample sizes will provide more powerful approaches to understand gene flow, local adaption, and metapopulation dynamics in each species.

  • Genetic Rescue Or Genetic Swamping: A Long-Term Assessment of a Population Augmentation*
  • Tiffanie B. Atherton; Clayton K. Nielsen; Edward J. Heist
    Population augmentations are sometimes considered when managing populations at risk of extirpation. The eastern woodrat (Neotoma floridana) is broadly distributed throughout the southeastern U.S., with a northern edge of the distribution in southern Illinois. Following a massive reduction in range size throughout the 1900s, the eastern woodrat was added to Illinois’ endangered species list in 1977. Field surveys uncovered 3 remnant populations including one at LaRue Pine Hills (LPH) which was augmented in 2004-05 by woodrats originating from genetically distinct populations from the Ozarks (Missouri and Arkansas). The goal of our study is to determine the current conservation status of the eastern woodrat in southern Illinois and to what extent the current population are descendants of translocated animals. Our objectives are to: (1) estimate effective population sizes (Ne) of the LPH remnant population and the current population; (2) determine what fraction of the genes in the current population originated from the remnant population; and (3) determine what fraction of the remnant mitochondrial DNA has been preserved in the current population. All 3 objectives use LPH remnant woodrat samples (n = 40) and 2019 field samples (n = 83). We will assess the changes in Ne using 12 microsatellite loci and the program LDNe to estimate linkage disequilibrium. NEESTIMATOR will be used to correct for bias of single sample estimators. To determine what fraction of remnant genes persist, we will use the Bayesian clustering program STRUCTURE, which assigns individual genotypes to K populations. Cytochrome b haplotype network trees constructed using POPART will be used to evaluate distributions of remnant and introduced haplotypes. Conservation implications include a re-assessment of the LPH population following an augmentation in accordance with Objective 3 of Illinois’ Eastern Woodrat Recovery Plan, which aims to remove the eastern woodrat from state endangered status.

  • Living on the Edge: A Genomic Analysis of Two Dragonfly Species along the Southern Edge of Their Range
  • Rachel Honerlaw; Jered Studinski; Amy Welsh
    Two species of dragonflies, the crimson-ringed whiteface (Leucorrhinia glacialis) and Hudsonian whiteface (L. hudsonica), are found in Canada and the northern United States. Maryland and West Virginia represent the most southern extent of their range, where they occupy specialized habitat (i.e., fishless, acidic bogs). This habitat is rare and will likely become more rare in the face of climate change. Therefore, these two species are of conservation concern in both states. Little is known about their dispersal ability, making it uncertain whether these species could adapt to climate change by shifting their range. Additionally, we do not know whether they are genetically adapted to their specialized habitat, making it difficult for them to thrive in new locations. Genomic DNA was extracted from dragonfly wings from populations in Maryland and West Virginia. RAD-Seq resulted in the identification of 1,186 SNPs, 11 of which appear to be under selection. Using only neutral SNPs, genetic differentiation was highest between species (average FST = 0.225) and less variation within species (average FST = 0.014). The same pattern was observed using adaptive SNPs, but levels of genetic differentiation were much higher compared to neutral SNPs (average FST between species = 0.706; average FST within species = 0.230). One of the 11 loci matched the histone-lysine N-methyltranferase mRNA in other insects, which may be regulating gene expression. Methyltransferases are usually responsible for turning on and off genes by attaching methyl groups to the DNA. These data help inform management agencies about the migration abilities of these species and whether there are unique adaptations present on the edge of these species’ range. Potential management tools, such as assisted migration in the face of climate change, can be more properly evaluated.

  • Diet Analysis of Coyote Scat in South Carolina Through DNA Metabarcoding*
  • Jordan L. Youngmann; Stacey L. Lance; John C. Kilgo; Charles Ruth; Jay Cantrell; Gino J. D’Angelo
    Coyotes (Canis latrans) are generalist omnivores which consume a wide range of plants and animals. With their recent expansion into the Southeast, and potential impacts on endemic game and non-game species, there is considerable interest in what coyotes consume. Coyote diets have traditionally been assessed through simple visual identification of morphometric characteristics of food items within scat. This method can only broadly categorize prey and plant species and may not document the varied diet choices of coyotes due to digestion. However, through the recently developed technique of DNA metabarcoding, we hope to more fully explore the diet of coyotes. We will use fecal samples collected during the spring of 2020 and 2021 on secondary roads at 3 sites across South Carolina, USA, with the goal of 100 samples per site. We will design and optimize an array of genetic primers to detect species found within each fecal sample through DNA metabarcoding. Species of particular interest include white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), and other ground-nesting birds. Interestingly, there has been little documentation of coyote consumption of bird species and there is some concern that traditional diet analysis has failed to identify instances of predation. These data will provide a better understanding of coyotes’ role in this region’s food web and their place as a novel predator across the landscape.

  • Unique Evolutionary History of the White-Bellied Tree Pangolins and Implications for Conservation and Management
  • Melanie Quain; Al Mutasim Al Zadijali; Manuel Frontera; Ken Kraemmer; Joe Gaspard; Justin Miller; Jan E. Janecka
    With a rising demand from wildlife markets, pangolins have become the most trafficked species in the world and are rapidly approaching extinction in many areas. There are 8 extant taxa, four of which are endemic to Africa. Due to a highly conserved morphology, it has proven difficult to understand the recent evolutionary history of pangolins. Around 20 Mya, Asian and African pangolins diverged into 3 genera: Manis(Asian Pangolins), Smutsia(large African pangolins), andPhataginus(small African pangolins). Recent phylogenetic analyses have revealed cryptic species, particularly within the white-bellied tree pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis). Our laboratory has sequenced whole genomes of two white-bellied tree pangolins from Togo (Western Africa) on an Illumina MiSeq at 6x coverage. We extracted two mitogenomes and 6 nuclear gene segments and performed phylogenetic analysis. Mitogenome phylogenies indicate that the pangolins in Togo have genetic differences from nearby populations in Ghana (west Africa) that approach recently diverged species, although the nuclear genes suggest lower levels of differentiation. Regardless of the taxonomic classification, the pangolins in Togo are a unique lineage that, at the very least, can be classified as a subspecies of Phataginus tricuspis. Our whole genome analysis suggests that this warrants special conservation status, consistent with the unique biogeography of the Dahomey Gap. Our lab also identified thousands of SNPs that can be utilized as markers for population analysis. By considering the recent evolutionary history of white-bellied pangolins in Togo, more appropriate conservation and management strategies can be designed that ensure their survival in this region.

  • Genetic Variability of White-Tailed Deer in Southwestern Pennsylvania and Applications for Forensics
  • Melanie Quain; Jan E. Janecka; Lisa Ludvico
    Despite being one of the most important and widely distributed mammalian species in the United States, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) faced near extirpation in many areas of the U.S. during the 20thcentury. To prevent this event from progressing, hunters and wildlife managers began to implement strategies that enabled deer populations to recover and expand. To understand present-day population diversity and dynamics, determining the genetic variation between individuals and populations has proven to be a useful tool. Additionally, genetic methods have become vital for assisting law enforcement in solving and prosecuting poaching. We have therefore genotyped 7 microsatellites in 96 white-tailed deer to examine the genetic diversity in southwestern Pennsylvania populations; these samples served as a reference forensics database. The mean number of observed alleles per locus was 0.648 (range 8-18) and the mean observed heterozygosity was 0.681 (range 0.475-0.885). Within the sampled region, there was no significant structure detected. This molecular panel provided a probability of identity of 1 in 1.2 billion. Two multiplex PCR panels were optimized and used to provide DNA matching for two poaching cases in 2019 and 4 cases in 2020 submitted by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. With the success in processing these submitted cases, our lab has now established the genetic testing of deer for wildlife forensics in southwestern Pennsylvania. Through the analysis of additional samples from different regions, and more microsatellites, our lab will be equipped to provide forensic services to other state agencies and also bring insight into the population structure of other regions. Our goal is to understand the population dynamics of this important species and to continue to develop additional tools for wildlife management and law enforcement.

  • Landscape Genetics of Wolverines in Alaska*
  • Elise Marie Stacy; Lisette Waits; Paul Hohenlohe; Martin Robards
    Wolverines (Gulo gulo) are an important furbearing species in Alaskan culture, economy, and ecosystems. Little is known about their genetic population structure or the possible impacts of landscape features on gene flow. The goal of this study is to determine which landscape features act as facilitators or restrictors of gene flow across Alaska. We will evaluate if gene flow is driven by natural landscape features such as ecoregion boundaries, snow persistence, and terrain ruggedness and anthropogenic features such as transportation infrastructure and development. We have obtained tissue, hide, and hair samples through collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, the University of Alaska Museum of the North and personal collaboration with many local wolverine trappers and fur handlers. We have genotyped 83 samples collected from the first study season using 12 microsatellite loci. All loci were found to be in Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium following Bonferroni correction, with a mean of 5.5 alleles and mean observed heterozygosity of 0.59. Bayesian clustering analysis using program STRUCTURE revealed that wolverines in northern Alaska have a high degree of connectivity and are not subdivided into multiple populations. Isolation by distance analysis on samples with location information accuracy within 30 kilometers (n=74) indicated a significant relationship between genetic distance and geographic distance but with small effect (r = 0.079, p = 0.05). Future steps include analysis on a larger geographic distribution of samples in Alaska, developing landscape genetic models to test for isolation by barrier, resistance and environment, and generating genomic data (SNPs). These data will have important implications for management of wolverines in the face of land development and climate change.

  • Lasiurid Bats Exhibit Diverse Foraging Strategies and Large Home Ranges in Agricultural Iowa
  • Julia Wilson; Tim Sichmeller; Mandy Kauffman
    Migratory tree bats comprise the majority of fatalities at wind turbines in the fall migration season in North America. However, tree bat fatalities have been found at several Iowa wind facilities during the summer maternity season. Prior studies examining maternal home ranges of Lasiurus borealis have largely focused on forested habitats, and few data exist that describe foraging behavior of Lasiurus cinereus. From 2018 – 2019, we examined summer landscape use by tree bats in areas relatively devoid of forested habitat near operational wind facilities. We conducted foraging telemetry and collected multi-azimuth triangulations on 10 Lasiurid bats in central Iowa, and obtained complete foraging data on six L. borealis and one lactating L. cinereus. L. borealis exhibited notable intraspecific variation in total and core foraging ranges, and larger average foraging ranges than available studies to-date. Several L. borealis roosted in standalone trees in non-forested habitat types (agricultural land, residential areas) and foraged heavily across open landscapes. The lactating L. cinereus in this study had a substantially larger total and core foraging range (9,482.5 ha and 1,113.3 ha, respectively) and foraged more extensively over agricultural land than seen in prior studies. Findings suggest migratory tree bats exhibit broad geographic variation in foraging and roosting ecology, warranting further consideration as U.S. wind facilities are frequently constructed in open areas away from forest.

  • Cougar Recolonization of Eastern North America: Habitat Connectivity and Human Dimensions*
  • Brianna M. Winkel; Clayton K. Nielsen; Elizabeth M. Hillard; Ronald Sutherland; Michelle A. LaRue
    Cougars (Puma concolor) have been recolonizing Midwestern North America during the past 2 decades with >950 cougar confirmations east of established populations. Management and public interest in habitat connectivity and human dimensions east of current cougar range have grown as confirmations increase and models predicting habitat connectivity and population viability for the Midwest show potential for sustained breeding populations. However, although long-range dispersal and recolonization continues, no studies have assessed potential habitat and human dimensions associated with cougars throughout their historical range in eastern North America. We are using ArcGIS, the Analytical Hierarchy Process, and geospatial data to evaluate suitable habitat for cougar recolonization of eastern North America and potential dispersal corridors based on 5 factors: habitat type, slope, human density, distance to roads, and distance to water. Our study area encompasses >8,564,917km2 and includes all 37 states and 4 Canadian provinces from Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. Our dispersal models compare 2 techniques, Least Cost Paths and Circuitscape software, to determine which might be more suitable for mapping dispersal for individuals with no prior knowledge of the landscape. We also distributed 20,000 surveys to assess public opinion regarding expanding predator populations within eastern North America to evaluate potential social impacts of recolonizing cougars. Our survey responses are divided into classes based on different demographics to better pinpoint potential areas of conflict between humans and carnivores. Cougar range expansion and the sociological impacts of increasing large carnivore populations are important topics for wildlife managers; our research will identify areas of potential cougar recolonization and address the social implications of increasing cougar-human interactions.

  • Risk Effects in the Movement and Behavior of White-Tailed Deer*
  • Michael Edward Egan; Guillaume Bastille-Rousseau; Nicole T. Gorman; Peter E. Schlichting; Daniel J. Skinner; Michael W. Eichholz
    Risk effects result from an animal’s behavioral response to potential sources of mortality. The behavioral response to risk is important for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), a prey species that face predator and anthropogenic risks that, in many cases, have been altered in type and magnitude by human development. Using GPS data from white-tailed deer, coyotes (Canis latrans), and bobcats (Lynx rufus), we will assess the impact of risk and habitat on the behavior and contact of white-tailed deer. We will capture and fit deer, coyotes, and bobcats with GPS collars at two sites in Illinois. One site will be in a predominately agricultural landscape in central Illinois and another in more forested Southern Illinois. Predator GPS data will be used to characterize risk across the landscape based on predator use and anthropogenic risk will be estimated based on the prevalence of hunting and human activity. We will use white-tailed deer movement data to identify deer behavioral states, analyze deer social networks, and build resource selection functions for white-tailed deer. We will further relate deer behavior to risk by modeling deer behavior and contact as a function of perceived risk and habitat. Our results will provide insight into how multiple risks, including those from predators and humans, impact the behavior, movement, and contact of white-tailed deer. Our improved understanding of the movement and behavior of deer will improve our ability to model the distribution and abundance of deer using mechanistic models that incorporate the stochasticity and complexity of behavior and connect behavioral theory to ecological patterns. Improvements to our ability to capture behavioral complexity will be increasingly important in our ability to answer specific ecological and management questions, such as the impact that movement, behavior, and risk might have on chronic wasting disease (CWD).

  • Modeling Black Vulture Movement and Habitat Selection in Southern Indiana and Northern Kentucky*
  • Marian Wahl; Bryan Kluever; Lee Humberg; Grant Burcham; Brett Dunlap; Patrick Zollner
    Black vultures (Coragyps atratus) are unique among New World vultures in that they are documented to kill newborn livestock, creating a financial burden to producers. While these predation events are well established, very little research has been done to quantify the extent of this loss, identify risk factors, or evaluate potential mitigation techniques. Historically, black vultures were endemic to the southeastern United States and Central and South America. However, in recent decades, black vultures have expanded their range into previously unoccupied regions, including the Midwest. Cattle producers in this region are increasingly concerned about impacts on their herds as vultures and predation events become more common. Identifying and understanding the suite of environmental and anthropogenic variables that influence foraging, roosting, and movement will delineate where and how depredation risk is greatest. Step selection functions (SSF) derived from fine-scale GPS tracking data provide an excellent means for habitat selection studies. Previous studies on black vultures in the southeastern US employed GPS trackers to analyze movement near airfields or in limited-use areas, but no research has focused on habitat selection in agricultural landscapes. We will capture and attach GSM backpack transmitters to black vultures in agricultural landscapes of southern Indiana and northern Kentucky. We will then use SSFs to model how vulture movement is impacted by landscape configurations, including vegetation type, human infrastructure, and cattle production. As proof of concept, this study uses black vulture movement data from GPS-tagged birds in the southeastern US from previous USDA research efforts. We identify landscape predictor variables and conduct SSF analyses to understand how those features impact vulture movement ecology. This pilot study will allow optimization of our analytical methods and will inform future experimental design for trapping and tagging.

  • Landscape Connectivity Challenges Facing the Southern Expansion of New Jersey Bobcats*
  • Ariana L. Cerreta; Kyle P. McCarthy; Gretchen Fowles
    In urban environments, the threats of habitat fragmentation and destruction, barriers to dispersal, and anthropogenic causes of mortality affect the recolonization potential of extirpated species. One such species, the bobcat (Lynx rufus), historically occurred throughout the state of New Jersey, but due to agricultural expansion at the turn of the century and increased urbanization now occurs almost exclusively in the northern portion of the state. Our study examined current barriers to dispersal and the possibility of the establishment of central and southern New Jersey bobcat populations. To evaluate landscape connectivity throughout New Jersey, we applied circuit theory using the program Circuitscape within a GIS framework. We developed a statewide habitat suitability index for bobcats and used the inverse of these values to assign habitat resistance values, with some adjustment for road-based metrics. We then ran “current,” representing movement potential, through this resistance landscape between each pair of habitat cores and used summed current densities for each cell to create a connectivity map. Using circuit theory in combination with least-cost path analysis, we next identified potential barriers and bottlenecks to bobcat movement throughout New Jersey. Our results indicated that there are severe barriers and connectivity challenges throughout central New Jersey along the urbanized corridor bordering Interstate 95. We will incorporate these connectivity maps into subsequent spatially explicit, individual-based models to examine the probability of bobcat recolonization of habitat patches in central and southern New Jersey. Additionally, these maps will allow state managers to prioritize important regions for bobcat connectivity to maintain or improve within the Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey framework.

  • Riparian Vegetation Community Response to Bison Restoration in the Northern Great Plains*
  • Sze Wing Yu; Kyran Kunkle; Donald Hagan; David Jachowski
    The American bison has been re-introduced throughout North America since its near-extirpation in the 1800s. However, most herds are small, isolated, and no longer play a significant ecological role in the grassland ecosystem. In 2001, the nonprofit American Prairie Reserve was established to create a 3.5 million acre reserve in the Northern Great Plains of Montana with a large restored herd of plains bison (Bison bison bison) capable of fulfilling its historic ecological role. The reserve has grown to over 400,000 acres with over 800 bison. Much of its acreage is leased from the Bureau of Land Management that typically leases land for seasonal cattle grazing. The use of these lands to graze bison has caused controversy in the region. Public concerns include the impacts of bison restoration on range health and wildlife habitats, especially in riparian areas that are highly valuable for wildlife but sensitive to overgrazing. Our study’s objective is to compare the response of the riparian vegetation community to continuous year-round bison grazing versus seasonally rotational cattle grazing. We use transect-based surveys to assess riparian plant species richness, diversity, and structure in adjacent bison and cattle sites with 2 cattle treatment sites and 5 bison treatment sites of varying times since reintroduction. Preliminary results from our first field season suggest that riparian vegetation communities have responded similarly to grazing by both species. However, exotic plant species richness was significantly higher in the cattle treatments than in the bison treatments (p = 0.015, F = 7.123). In general, riparian communities were diverse with 75 encountered plant species from 18 families. Once completed with a second field season, our study will inform decision-making about using public lands for bison in this region.

  • Conservation Implications of Invasive Species and Urban Forest Size on the Movement Patterns and Habitat Selection of Eastern Box Turtles*
  • Nolan J. Sawtelle; Dr. Omar Attum
    We considered the effect of invasive plant species and urban forest size on the movement patterns and habitat selection of the Eastern Box Turtle. Eastern box turtle populations are believed to be declining as a result of reduced habitat and invasive species. Previous work on Eastern box turtles has failed to address whether small urban forests can support viable and healthy turtle populations. We studied the movement patterns and habitat use of Eastern box turtles in Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve, Louisville, KY using telemetry. We found no evidence of box turtle selection of native microhabitat (distance to nearest shrub, largest DBH of standing and fallen trees, canopy cover) and invasive species (percent creeping charlie and wintercreeper ground cover, density of bush honeysuckle taller than one meter). We did, however, find that box turtles avoided areas of the preserve with high densities of bush honeysuckle less than one meter tall. Roughly 43 % of this urban forest may be unsuitable habitat for box turtles because of high densities of bush honeysuckle less than one meter tall. We suggest that continual management of invasive species is vital to maintaining box turtle populations in urban forests.

  • Does Intercropping Switchgrass in Private, Working Pine Forests Affect Avian Diversity and Abundance*
  • Rebecca Bracken; Daniel Greene; Darren Miller; Scott Rush
    Wildlife conservation on private, working forests has received increased recognition in recent years, especially for at-risk species, including many songbirds. Although forest management effects on avian diversity and abundance have received much attention, less is known about effects of alternative practices, such as intercropping switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) for biofuel, within managed loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) stands. We tested the hypothesis that intercropping switchgrass alters species composition relative to non-intercropped stands (control). We conducted point counts within both loblolly pine stands intercropped with switchgrass and controls for 9 years within a forest landscape consisting predominantly of loblolly pine stands in Kemper County, Mississippi. We surveyed 5 blocks of each treatment, 3 surveys each per treatment, with 5 replicates each year. We compared number of detections of each bird species within intercropped and control treatments for each year. We detected 69 species, with 71% overlap in species assemblages between intercropped and control plots. We detected 11 species, including Sedge Wren (Cistothorus stellaris) and Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna), only in switchgrass plots. We detected 9 species, including Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) and Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorum), only in control plots. We found little effect of switchgrass on abundance of individual species. Further evaluation of interplay between local and landscape features will be explored within working forests to best apply management practices to optimize performance of these systems relative to forest production and conservation goals.

  • Analysis of Upland Sandpiper Breeding Habitat Management
  • Evan K.M. Griffis; Henry R. Campa III
    The upland sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) is a species of conservation concern, endangered in five states and threatened in ten. Exploitation by market hunters and habitat degradation due to agriculture in the late 1800s and early 1900s removed the sandpiper from much of the central U.S. Through habitat management programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program, continental numbers have risen by 0.417% since 1966, though particular regions demand special attention to stabilize local losses in breeding numbers. A drop of -3.845% in the Great Lakes region and -4.382% in the Prairie Hardwood Transition has been observed (BBS, 2017) and demands immediate attention. I reviewed scientific literature from 1886 to 2019 and current management protocols to describe current range, habitat requirements, and factors responsible for a -4.499% loss in breeding numbers in states east of the Mississippi River since 1966. Using this information, I describe habitat management strategies to conserve breeding upland sandpiper in the eastern U.S. Upland sandpipers use grassy fields of 30 ha or more for nesting consisting of flat topography with minimal occurrence of transitional edge. Vegetation height at time of nest initiation is the most important factor in nest site selection, with all found in grasses between 15 cm and 60 cm tall and 62% of nests between 15.5 cm and 30.8 cm. The most effective management practice for upland sandpipers involves burning in mid-April to early May on a three-year cycle while leaving grasslands undisturbed during the breeding season of May through June. This practice supports the highest average nest density of 3.3 nests per 40.5 ha. Grasslands are most productive for sandpipers when bordering grazed grassland, used for brood raising and feeding. These management actions should continue in the Great Plains region and be used to conserve breeding numbers in the eastern U.S. where possible.

  • Analysis of Environmental Impacts of Paper Industry on Biomes
  • Mikail Akshin Bakhtiyarov
    Climate change has many impacts on the natural environmental systems that support wildlife: biome distribution, habitat processes, the migratory routes of animals, etc. A Biome is a community of plants and animals that have common characteristics for the environment they exist in. Biomes have a range of latitude and altitude that it is suited to but can’t survive further towards the poles. As the climate warms up, animals may move further to the poles to keep within their temperature range. Some species can’t adapt to new climatic conditions. As some species become extinct or move to new areas, other species could be left without a food supply. Some biomes can disappear due to sea level rise (coral reefs, mangroves, some polar habitats). Changes in the ecosystem will impact the timing of seasonal life-cycle events such as fertility patterns and nesting of birds. This presentation provides the analysis of the global impacts of the paper industry on the wildlife. Although paper industry is never accused for climatic changes or global warming, it impacts the globe at every stage in its lifecycle. In fact, paper is the third biggest source of industrial greenhouse gas emissions in the world. For example, in the United States each person uses more than 700 pounds of paper each year. Four billion trees around the world cut down each year to make paper. Paper industries also pollute water resources of the world by discharging many pollutants into bodies of water. Toxic chemicals like chlorine, iodine, and sulfur dioxide, contribute to the damage of the aquatic eco-system. They also create water acidification and oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon cycle imbalances. This presentation discusses the following options to save our environment and wildlife: paper recycling, growing hemp, switching to digital newspapers, magazines and books, switching to electronic communications.

  • Impacts of Conifer Removal on Sagebrush Songbirds*
  • Elise Zarri
    Removal of encroaching conifers is a common restoration strategy for sagebrush habitats in the United States. In sagebrush, Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is often used as an umbrella species, assumed to confer protection on any species sharing sagebrush habitat with them. However, this assumption may not hold true when specific habitat alterations are undertaken for the umbrella species, such as conifer removal. Although conifer removal has been found to be beneficial for sage-grouse populations in terms of abundance and reproductive success, impacts to other sagebrush-associated species are not well understood. The objective of this study is to determine how conifer removal affects the abundance and reproductive success of co-occurring sagebrush songbirds. I surveyed birds through territory mapping and monitored nests in montane sagebrush habitat in southwest Montana to assess the impact of conifer removal on multiple species of songbirds. Sites with hand removal of conifers, leaving the shrub layer intact, were compared to control areas without conifer removal. Results show that conifer removal correlates with higher abundances of grassland and sagebrush associated species like Brewer’s Sparrow (Spizella breweri), Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), and Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus). Generalist songbird species, including Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina), White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), and Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) were more abundant in non-removal areas. Nest success did not differ significantly between removal and non-removal areas for any species except White-crowned Sparrows, which had significantly higher nest success in conifer removal. Continued data collection will occur for the next three years, but preliminary results suggest that conifer removal is beneficial for most sagebrush songbirds through increased abundance and minimal impact on reproductive success.

  • Patterns in Bobwhite Quail Occupancy Over 15 Years Across the State of Arkansas, Usa
  • Grace Christie; Marcus Asher; Connor Gale; Andrhea Massey; Cody Massery; Christopher Middaugh; Ellery Ruther; John Veon; Brett DeGregorio
    Northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) populations have been rapidly declining across their natural range in the eastern, central, and southern United States for decades. Estimates of range-wide decline calculated by the Breeding Bird Survey indicate an annual loss of 3%, with the most dramatic declines reported from the southeastern US. Regional variation in the severity of the population decline indicates locality-specific causes. Existing models of landscape factors on bobwhite populations may not be generalizable due to local variation in habitat types and land use. Many of these studies have focused on abundance rather than occupancy, meaning that the study of the mechanistic basis of bobwhite-landscape relationships is needed to better guide conservation through habitat creation and management. To address the limitations of past modeling studies concerning habitat-scale effects on bobwhite populations, we built an occupancy model capable of handling a zero-inflated data set. Occupancy models are particularly useful when answering questions about species in decline, given their ability to account for incomplete detection. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) has been monitoring bobwhite using presence-absence surveys for approximately the last 15 years. Using their available survey data, habitat variables identified as critical to bobwhite populations by the AGFC, and the model we have built, we examined how bobwhite habitat and occupancy throughout the state of Arkansas has changed over this period.

  • Assessing Multi-Scale Habitat Relationships and Responses to Forest Management for Cryptic Herpetofauna in the Missouri Ozarks
  • Shelby Timm; Alexander Wolf; Xiaoming Gao; Kenneth Kellner
    Cryptic or uncommon herpetofauna are often understudied due to the extensive effort it requires to obtain adequate data for statistical analysis. Additionally, potential impacts from forest management on these already small or difficult to study populations may have a dissimilar effect in comparison to more common species. To address this, we examined species-specific responses of less common herpetofauna within the Missouri Ozarks to even-aged and uneven-aged silvicultural systems at multiple scales, as well as their habitat associations. Using capture histories collected over 23 years (1992-2014) on the Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project (MOFEP) we examined the cumulative effects of two harvest entries (1996 and 2011) at both the local- (stand-level) and landscape-scale (compartment-level) for eight uncommon amphibian and reptile species. We modeled capture probabilities with respect to multiple habitat- and harvest-related covariates. Three species showed compartment-level declines in the post-treatment period, however only two of the declines appeared to be related to forest management; the decline for the third species was observed in both treatment and control compartments suggesting that the cause was environmental. In contrast to compartment-level responses, we observed stand-level responses in five species, mostly positive. In general, our observed declines were minimal and currently we have no concerns that forest management will lead to the loss of any of the less common herpetofauna species considered here. Our models showed habitat associations for multiple species, which aids our understanding of species’ life history strategies and can also guide future management efforts.

  • Effects of Forest Management on Early-Successional Avian Species in South Carolina*
  • Michael Adams; Amy Tegeler; Michael Hook; Michael Small; Beth Ross
    Early-successional habitats are a critical habitat type for ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) and golden-winged warblers (Vermivora chrysoptera). In South Carolina, early-successional habitats have declined over the last 70 years, and the extent of which ruffed grouse and golden-winged warblers use habitat in the state remains unknown. The goal of this project is to assess the status and distribution of golden-winged warblers and ruffed grouse in the Blue Ridge of South Carolina. We also aim to determine how management of early-successional habitats influences presence/absence of ruffed grouse and golden-winged warblers on public lands, and to evaluate the use of Autonomous Recording Units (ARUs) to detect and monitor both species. Additionally, we are monitoring blue-winged warblers (Vermivora cyanoptera) and prairie warblers (Setophaga discolor) as indicators of early-successional habitat. Using a conditional occupancy design, we are conducting point count surveys for ruffed grouse (March – April 2020 and 2021) and golden-winged warblers (May – June 2020 and 2021) at sites representing varying degrees of timber harvest management and controlled burning intensity. If a species is detected on a visit, we return to survey this site again. If there is no detection, we select a new site to survey on subsequent surveys. ARUs are placed at sites with and without positive detections of our target species. To evaluate the efficacy of ARUs to detect these species, we resurvey the site at least once simultaneously with an ARU recording. The results of this project will provide occupancy estimates for ruffed grouse and golden-winged warblers in South Carolina. Since golden-winged warblers are proposed to be listed under the Endangered Species Act, knowing if they occur in South Carolina will better prepare managers for a potential listing decision. This project will also help inform habitat management for both species and provide guidelines for future monitoring protocols.

  • Using Global Positioning System Collars to Assess the Impact of Livestock Grazing on the Greater Sage Grouse*
  • Taylor Fletcher; Jason Karl; Courtney Conway; Vincent Jansen; Eva Strand
    Understanding the short and long-term effects of domestic livestock grazing is essential to effective rangeland management, however, current estimations of livestock use rely largely upon in-field measurements that may lack precision and uniformity. Our first objective was to develop an estimate of grazing intensity that could be used to validate and supplement in-field measurements using locations taken from a large number Global Positioning System (GPS) cattle collars. Our second objective was to use the GPS derived estimate of livestock use to determine if an impactful relationship exists between domestic livestock distribution and movement and Greater Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; GRSG) nesting behavior. Thus far, approximately 150 low-cost GPS collars have been allocated amongst three study sites within the ongoing Idaho Grouse and Grazing project where sage grouse demographic data has been concurrently collected. Collars were randomly assigned to individuals within herds in spring grazed pastures with start dates ranging from mid-April to early May. Collars were left on for the duration of the herd’s time in the pasture, with location data taken every ten minutes and saved to an internal data card. For each spring grazed pasture, collar locations were overlaid on a 30x30m pasture grid. The number of GPS fixes that occurred within each cell were summed and relativized to create a total grazing intensity surface. Each relativized cell within the total grazing intensity surface was binned into a range of percent grazing intensity. Confirmed GRSG nest sites and fates were then tallied according to their nest location’s corresponding grazing intensity to determine, first, if hens make nest site selections based on the landscape’s degree of grazing intensity, and second, if nest fate is influenced by the landscape’s degree of grazing intensity.

  • Wetland Soil Texture Analyses for Improved Understanding of Turtle Habitat and Distribution*
  • Megan Tenney; Darien Lozon; James T. Anderson
    Soil texture is one of the most important physical properties of soil because it determines the amount of water, air, and nutrients available for plant growth. This is determined by calculating the relative proportion of sand, silt, and clay within the soil. Wetland soil is differentiated from upland soils due to its water saturation to near or above the soil surface for a significant part of the year. This can lead to the limitations of oxygen diffusion deep in the soil. Different soil textures can influence wetland hydrology, vertebrate distribution, and the growth of plant species. Soil texture is essential in the evaluation of wetland conservation sites as native species are more likely to be found in clay soils and sandy soils can lead to the invasion of exotic species. We are interested in how soil texture influences habitat use and distribution of snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina). However, different methods of soil particle analysis are used to determine soil texture and can vary in terms of accuracy and complexity To investigate the variability between methods, soil samples from 39 wetlands in north-central West Virginia, will be collected and analyzed utilizing four different methods of soil particle analysis (i.e., sieve, hydrometer, jar measuring, and sieve-hydrometer methods). Soil type will be compared to the United States Department of Agriculture Web Soil Survey for additional comparison. This study will improve our understanding of levels of accuracy across different methods and determine if complexity is necessary to increase accuracy.

  • Contrasting Habitat Associations for Three Bird Species in Riparian Forests and Management Implications in Pennsylvania
  • Jeffery T. Larkin; Cameron J. Fiss; Halie A. Parker; Darin J. McNeil; Brett Ramer; Michael Tyree; Joseph Duchamp; Jeffery L. Larkin
    Pennsylvania contains nearly 7 million ha of forest and more than 138,000 km of rivers and streams, many of which are forested. These riparian forests provide habitat for a wide suite of avian species, including several species of conservation concern. We examined the influence of vegetation structure, stream type, and stand-level forest management on the abundances of three songbird species associated with riparian forests: Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina; WOTH), Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis; CAWA), and Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla; LOWA). We conducted 304 point count surveys along 34 stream sections in central and southwestern Pennsylvania during May-June 2018-19. We used N-mixture models to examine factors that most influenced species abundances. Naïve occupancy for Wood Thrush, Canada Warbler, and Louisiana Waterthrush were 34%, 43%, and 17%, respectively. The total number of surveys with only one focal species was 94 (CAWA), 48 (WOTH), and 15 (LOWA). The total number of points where multiple focal species were detected ranged from 3 (all three species) to 52 (at least 2 species). Wood Thrush abundance was most influenced by area of managed forests (+) and huckleberry (Gaylusaccia spp.) height (-). Louisiana Waterthrush abundance was most influenced by stream order (+) and percent huckleberry (-). Canada Warbler abundance was most influenced by percent cover of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia; +) and area of managed forests (-). While all three species occur relatively frequently in riparian forests, our results indicate that both microhabitat and local management actions play a role in regulating their abundance. No one management strategy is likely to benefit all three species, thus managers should evaluate species conservation potential on a site-by-site basis. Given the broad range of many of these species, it is also important to recognize that these findings may not apply outside of riparian zones or beyond the northeastern US.

  • Habitat Selection of Eastern Wild Turkey Broods*
  • Stefan D. Nelson; Patrick H. Wightman; Bret A. Collier; Michael J. Chamberlain; Bradley S. Cohen
    Resources are located heterogeneously across the landscape, forcing animals to make behavioral tradeoffs and select for patches that best accommodate their energetic and thermoregulatory needs while balancing predation risk. These behavioral tradeoffs manifest as shifts in habitat selection wherein animals change their spatiotemporal use of habitats to meet current and future needs. While some aspects of habitat selection (nest-site, roost-site, etc.) have been extensively studied in wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), brood habitat selection is one of the least understood aspects of wild turkey reproductive ecology. Despite many populations having rebounded across the country in recent decades following reintroduction and new introduction efforts, recent research indicates that turkey populations across the southeastern United States are experiencing declines in productivity and recruitment, as evidenced by decreasing poult-to-hen ratios. These declines in poult-to-hen ratios raise concerns about the availability and composition of quality brooding habitat. To better understand factors influencing brood habitat selection, we are measuring arthropod biomass as a measure of forage availability, air temperature as a measure of thermoregulatory stress, and vegetation characteristics as a measure of cover at known locations of brooding and non-brooding female eastern wild turkeys (M. g. silvestris). We conducted our first field season in 2019 in the Piedmont region of Georgia, and preliminary results suggest arthropod abundance, basal area, and refuge from daytime temperatures may influence wild turkey brood habitat selection. We discuss the potential implications for habitat management, particularly for eastern wild turkeys in pine-dominated systems of the southeastern United States.

  • Habitat Use of Wintering Henslow’s Sparrows in Power Line Right-Of-Ways
  • Abigail W. Dwire; Todd M. Schneider; Elizabeth A. Hunter
    Henslow’s Sparrow (Centronyx henslowii) is a grassland bird species of conservation concern that has traditionally relied on pine savanna habitats for food and shelter in the winter months; however, today only fragmented remnants of these habitats remain. During the last few decades, Henslow’s Sparrows have been recorded using power line right-of-ways (ROWs) in Georgia as an alternative habitat for overwintering. Due to low tree cover and a graminoid-dominated understory, these ROWs share similar vegetative characteristics to traditional pine savannas; however, it is still unclear what micro-habitat characteristics these sparrows are keying in on within the ROWs. To address this question, we conducted weighted-rope drag surveys through ROW transects at three Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in the coastal plain of Georgia from January-March in 2019 and 2020, and recorded coordinates where individual Henslow’s Sparrows flushed from the ground. Within these transects, vegetative measurements including height, density, percent cover, and species composition were recorded at systematically placed plots (representing available habitat) and at flush point plots (representing used habitat). Vegetation structure and composition differed across the three WMAs surveyed, with the driest site having the lowest species diversity and shortest plant height. The driest site also had the lowest density of Henslow’s Sparrows compared to the other two WMAs, indicating that plant height may be an important factor in Henslow’s Sparrow habitat selection. We used Principle Component Analysis to identify influential habitat characteristics which we then put into a logistic regression to assess how those characteristics affect Henslow’s Sparrow habitat use versus availability. These results will help to inform best management practices in ROWs for this species of conservation concern.

  • Effects of Habitat Restoration on Density and Habitat Selection of Sitka Black-Tailed Deer in the Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska*
  • Lydia M. Druin; Lisette P. Waits; Jennifer R. Adams; Bonnie Bennetsen; Sophie L. Gilbert
    Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) are the northwestern-most mule deer subspecies and are of high socioeconomic and ecological importance in Alaska’s temperate coastal rainforest. This species relies on old-growth forest stands aged >150 years old for shelter and forage availability during deep-snow winters, but much of these forests have been logged throughout southeast Alaska, including over 40,000ha on Prince of Wales Island. Resulting successional stages >20 years old have reduced forage availability due to closed canopy, even-aged stands, and deer have declined in density in these areas as a result. To mitigate or reverse the effects of canopy closure, artificial canopy gap treatments have been shown to increase forage on the landscape through increasing light on the forest floor and subsequent understory growth. However, deer density and habitat selection response to these gaps is unknown. To fill this gap in knowledge, we collected spatial capture-recapture data via fecal DNA for an estimated 50 individuals in the Staney Creek watershed of Prince of Wales Island, comprising both a canopy-gapped treatment area and a nearby untreated control area. We will use this data to quantify the number of likely deer home-ranges in the treatment and control areas in the coming months. In combination with data from 85 motion-triggered and time-lapse cameras across the treatment and control areas, this data will provide insights on deer density in and selection for gap, matrix or control forest. Our results will provide new insight into the efficacy of this habitat restoration treatment for deer, the target species of gap treatments.

  • Value of Permanent Forest Openings to Rocky Mountain Elk in Wisconsin*
  • Anna Brose; Timothy Van Deelen; Jennifer Merems; Jennifer Price-Tack
    The importance of open areas with early successional forage species has been well documented in elk (Cervus elaphus). In the Great Lakes region, the pre-settlement mosaic of grasslands, open woodlands, and closed forests have largely shifted to human-dominated land uses (agriculture, urban areas) and dense forest stands. Using existing elk telemetry data and new vegetation sampling, we are evaluating the use and habitat quality of managed forest openings relative to other forest types in Wisconsin’s Northern Elk range to inform management decisions and allocation of resources. Specifically, we are examining whether elk selectively use forest openings on landscape- and home range-scales, and whether different opening management techniques produce different forage value to elk. We emphasize the use of cross-discipline techniques, including standard habitat assessment techniques as well as landscape ecology metrics. This project emphasizes the value of academy-agency partnerships and science-based management recommendations.

  • Pilot Study Examining the Distribution and Habitat Associations of the Eastern Spotted Skunk in Tennessee*
  • Lindsay E. Shaw; Emma V. Willcox; Mallory E. Tate; Daniel Benson
    Over the past several decades, Spilogale putorius (eastern spotted skunk) has seen significant population declines across its historical range. In Tennessee, S. putorius is listed as a species of greatest conservation need; however, little is known about its occurrence, distribution, and habitat associations in the region. During the winter of 2020, we collaborated with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to conduct a pilot project examining the occurrence and habitat associations of S. putorius on three wildlife management areas (WMAs) in the state. To determine occurrence, we randomly located 36 baited remote cameras, >1.5 km apart, across these three WMAs. We checked and rebaited camera locations every two weeks from January 1 – March 31, 2020 and at each check downloaded and examined all photos for signs of S. putorius presence. We defined a sampling occasion as a 24-hour interval and a detection as any number of S. putorius images collected at an individual camera during a sampling occasion. Over our 3-month sampling period, we had 54 S. putorius detections, with the species photographed at 11 of our 36 cameras and on two of our three WMAS. Due to the success of this pilot project, our study will be expanded statewide in 2021. As we continue to collect additional data, we will explore habitat associations by examining the effect of landscape-level characteristics on the probability of S. putorius occurrence using a single-species occupancy framework and remotely-sensed geographic information system layers derived using ArcMap. Landscape-level characteristics we will consider include, but are not limited to, elevation, land cover type, canopy cover, stand age, stand size, percent rocky outcroppings, and distance to road, water sources, and agricultural areas. These results will be used to develop a map of predicted S. putorius occupancy in Tennessee that will be used to inform species conservation efforts.

  • Integrating Indicator Species Metrics into Decision Support Tools Can Aid Operational Resilience for Sagebrush Ecosystems
  • Mark A. Ricca; Peter S. Coates; Cali L. Roth; Shawn T. O’Neil
    Imperiled sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystems of western North America are experiencing unprecedented conservation planning efforts. Advances in decision-support tools help operationalize concepts of ecosystem resilience by quantitatively linking spatially explicit variation in soil and plant processes to outcomes of biotic and abiotic disturbances. However, failure to consider higher trophic-level fauna of conservation concern in these tools can hinder efforts to operationalize resilience owing to spatiotemporal lags between slower reorganization of plant and soil processes following disturbance, and faster behavioral and demographic responses of fauna to disturbance. We describe peer-reviewed multi-scale examples of decision-support tools for management and restoration actions that evaluate general resilience mapped to variation in soil moisture and temperature regimes through lenses of habitat selection and population performance responses for an at-risk obligate species to sagebrush ecosystems, the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). The intended product of these efforts is a more targeted operational definition of resilience for managers by using quantifiable metrics that help limit chances of spatiotemporal mismatches among restoration responses owing to differences in engineering resilience between sagebrush ecosystem processes and sage-grouse population dynamics. Moreover, spatial resilience can be promoted though explicit consideration of sage-grouse and sagebrush predicted responses to active and passive management treatments across space and time. We describe tools that include multi-scale geospatial overlays and simulation analyses of post-disturbance land cover recovery aimed at prioritizing primary threats to sagebrush ecosystems in the Great Basin in the western portion of sage-grouse range (i.e., grass-fire cycles and conifer expansion), and exemplify underlying concepts with broader application to a range of ecosystems.

  • Assessing Edge Effects on Small-Mammal Foraging Using Giving-Up Density Stations*
  • Danah E. Hunt; Maggie M. Woodall; Michael J. Bender
    Foraging decisions are often critically important to species’ fitness and survival. The importance of these decisions have been documented for small mammals and indicate that habitat conditions influence predator vigilance and resource acquisition. Powerlines are a prevalent landscape component found across the southeastern U.S. and, while they potentially influence animal activity and habitat use, their impact is poorly understood. Our objective for this project was to assess the influence of a powerline on small mammal foraging within Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve in Hall County, GA. To achieve our objective, we used feeding stations containing a mixture of sand and sunflower seeds and measured the giving up density (GUD) after one week, with the assumption that small mammals seeking to balance predator vigilance and exposure with acquisition of food will consume more resources when they feel least threatened. Feeding stations were placed at varying distances from the powerline edge and GUD was modeled using linear regression to assess the influence of distance to edge, vegetation cover, and habitat type on foraging. Preliminary analyses indicate that giving up density was lower (i.e., animals consumed more seeds) as distance into the powerline increased. Our results suggest that powerlines are used by foraging small mammals, but that the rodents avoid use of powerline edges. This result generally agrees with previous research that indicates predation risk is higher along the edge of a habitat than within the interior. Future efforts will focus on increasing our sample size and determining if our results persist throughout seasons.

  • Nesting Predation on the Islands of Lake Lanier*
  • Maggie M. Woodall; Danah E. Hunt; Michael J. Bender
    Ecological interactions on islands often vary from interactions characteristic of mainland ecosystems. When compared to the mainland, islands typically exhibit higher population density, less interspecific interactions, and lower species/predator richness. However, the degree of difference between the mainland and neighboring island is typically influenced by island size and isolation since these factors are particularly relevant to rates of colonization and migration. Our objective for this project was to assess how island size and isolation influenced the rate of nest predation on islands in Lake Lanier in northeast Georgia. Lake Lanier is approximately 60 mi2 and contains many islands that are used as nesting habitat by a variety of species. Based primarily on tracks and other signs, predators of nesting birds on the islands likely include raccoons, rat snakes, domestic dogs, and opportunistically by a dense population of white-tailed deer. During the pilot study, we created 40 (4 nests on 10 islands) artificial ground nests modeled after Canada geese nests found on the islands from previous nesting seasons by raking leaf litter into a mound with a depression in the center. We placed 3 chicken eggs in each nest, checked for predation after ~ 7 days, and used logistic regression to evaluate the influence of island size, isolation, and the distance of the nest to the island edge on the likelihood of predation. Ten nests were depredated during the study and preliminary modeling results indicate that island size was the most influential variable with predation risk increasing with island size.

  • Effects of Timber Management on Mammalian Communities in Xero-Hydric Flatwood and Bottomland Hardwood Forests*
  • Evan G. Barr; Andrea Darracq; Jordan Tandy; Brianna Gibbons; Elliott Clouse
    Negative public views and lack of funding have limited the actions of natural area managers attempting to implement management plans. Some negative public views stem from a lack of proper monitoring following timber management to demonstrate that the management has met management plan objectives for wildlife. The Clark’s River National Wildlife Refuge (CRNWR), located in Benton, KY, is made up of 11 units containing xero-hydric flatwood (XHF) and bottomland hardwood (BLH) forests. To improve forest conditions, CRNWR began planning and implementing timber management, mostly consisting of forest thinning and patch cuts, in summer 2019 and they will continue implementation of their plan over the next five years. Our objective is to evaluate the effects of timber management within XHF and BLH forests on mammalian populations. We placed cameras at 85 random points with 500 m spacing on CRNWR and attempted to cover each XHF and BLH forest stand where timber management will be implemented and additional control areas where timber management will not occur. We began sampling in September 2019 and will continue sampling each summer/fall and winter/spring before and after management to produce a long-term data set. In addition to other potential analyses, we will monitor changes in activity and occupancy of mammals in response to timber management. Our results can help provide information to land managers and the public about the importance of timber management to mammals.

  • Utilization of Cameras to Monitor Arboreal Habitat Use by Green Salamanders
  • M. Kevin Hamed; Walter H. Smith
    Green salamanders (Aneides aeneus) have been increasingly observed in arboreal habitats. However, a reliable method has not been identified to maximize arboreal detections. We evaluated traditional visual tree inspections against camera-assisted surveys during 2019 at sites with known green salamander occurrences across southwest Virginia. Traditional surveys consisted of visually inspecting tree surfaces with binoculars to document arboreal surface activity. Though we occasionally observed green salamanders on tree trunks, our observations when using this method were sporadic. We then implemented monitoring, assisted by two different camera devices. We used a Whistler borescope to inspect any tree refugia (knotholes, hollow stems), searching every tree we could safely access within ~10 m of rockfaces. In 2020, we also mounted Recoynx XR6 trail cameras to face trees that could have green salamander activity. We visually inspected photographs to determine green salamander arboreal activity. We found that borescopes can dramatically improve salamander detections in trees, particularly for animals in stem or trunk refugia, with an up to tenfold increase in encounter rates observed for borescope-assisted surveys compared to traditional tree surface surveys. We also found that salamanders tended to use the same refugia repeatedly, and they were typically in those refugia following periods of wet weather. Trail cameras were effective at documenting tree use. Arboreal habitat use was greatest during and within 24 hours of a precipitation event. Our results suggest arboreal habitat use is even greater than previously thought and that cameras provide an effective tool for studying this mode of habitat use.

  • Determining Population Characteristics of the Lesser Siren in Central Illinois*
  • Baylee McLaughlin
    The lesser siren (Siren intermedia) is a fully aquatic, understudied salamander that is found throughout the central and south-central United States. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources currently identifies the lesser siren as a Species in Greatest Conservation Need. Knowledge gaps about a species can create misconceptions about population viability, resulting in little to no conservation efforts, or implemented efforts that are not reflective of the actual population status. Over a 7-month trapping period, including a 2-month presence/absence survey, I examined population characteristics of sirens in central Illinois in order to fill information gaps on this cryptic species. A total of 45 minnow traps are placed throughout three sites, and captured individuals are anesthetized with MS-222 in order to be safely handled. Each individual is marked using a PIT tag. Water temperature and depth, as well as ambient temperature, are also collected to better understand habitat preferences. The project is set to conclude in May 2020, but preliminary results demonstrate the need for management and further research on Illinois populations. The estimated population size is 54 sirens, which is much smaller than populations observed in other regions. The number of captures is significantly correlated to ambient temperature, but not water temperature or water depth. Adult males are significantly larger than females in total length and snout-vent length, but not wet mass. The majority of individuals range from 281-360 mm in size, with mean total length (316.4 mm) and mean snout-vent length (213.4 mm) representing smaller individual sizes than reported throughout their range. Low population and individual sizes may warrant conservation efforts for this species in Illinois. This is the first study on population characteristics of S. intermedia in Illinois, and will therefore provide much needed data for developing and implementing conservation strategies for this vulnerable species.

  • Reproductive Phenology of Red-Backed Salamanders Near the Southern Range Edge*
  • Madelyn A. Hair; Hannah M. Coovert; Kristine L. Grayson
    Red-backed salamanders, Plethodon cinereus, are a common terrestrial salamander known for their role in forest food webs and nutrient cycling across the northeastern United States. Surface activity duration of such terrestrial salamanders is based on tolerance limits to temperature and moisture. Populations in northern or mountainous regions experience bimodal surface activity in spring and fall due to large seasonal changes in climate, whereas the surface activity of southern populations is less constrained during mild winters and more limited in summer under hot and dry conditions. We are examining the seasonal differences in surface activity in a southern population of P. cinereus, and the effects of temperature on reproductive timing and juvenile recruitment. Our dataset includes four years of field surveys (2016 – 2019) using artificial cover boards in a suburban park in Richmond, Virginia. This population has been documented to have an unusually high population density from spatial-capture recapture analyses. We examined the association between seasonal and yearly differences in adult salamanders with observable eggs, and the proportion of juvenile salamanders compared to adults. Females were observed with eggs most frequently in February, with another peak of visible eggs in November. Juvenile salamanders were observed more frequently in April and October, suggesting two opportunities for reproduction each year in southern populations. Defining the relationship between temperature and reproductive success in P. cinereus is critical for understanding the effects of climate change in a common forest salamander. Responses of this species to temperature at the southern range edge can provide insights on its capacity for plasticity in a rapidly warming world.

  • Created Managed Ephemeral Wetlands As Habitat for Amphibian Populations in Western Kentucky
  • Andrea N. Drayer; Jacquelyn C. Guzy; Rachel Caro; Steven J. Price
    Loss of wetlands worldwide has necessitated the creation of wetlands. Yet, the physical attributes and community composition of created wetlands often differ compared to natural wetlands. We surveyed three types of ephemeral wetlands [managed open canopy (MOC), unmanaged open canopy (UMOC), and unmanaged closed canopy (UMCC); managed = created wetlands with water control structures] in western Kentucky to estimate amphibian richness and occupancy among wetlands, and estimated abundance of three common species: Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus), Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum), and Crawfish Frog (L. areolatus). In addition, we quantified variability in physical characteristics and water quality parameters among wetland types. MOC wetlands had a greater percent of submergent vegetation than both UMCC and UMOC wetlands, shallower depth at 1.0 m from the wetted wetland edge than UMOC wetlands, and larger wetland surface area than UMCC wetlands; water quality values were highest at UMCC wetlands. Mean predicted amphibian species richness and occupancy was highest at larger wetlands. Occupancy of the three locally common species was not influenced by wetland management type and varied little among species. Estimated abundance of L. areolatus, a species of conservation concern, was higher at MOC wetlands, and conversely, Am. maculatum abundance was highest at UMCC wetlands. Wetlands with greater surface area had higher estimated abundances of L. areolatus and L. sphenocephalus. Our results suggest created, large, managed open canopy wetlands are important conservation tools for the overall amphibian community and function to augment local populations of amphibian species of conservation concern (i.e. L. areolatus).

  • Corticosterone Levels and Heterophil to Leucocyte Ratios in Response to Parasitism in Wild Cottonmouth Populations*
  • Emma Fehlker Campbell; John B. Hewlett; Andrea K. Darracq
    Helminth endoparasites and hemoparasites are frequently found in wild populations of Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus), but little is known about their physiological effects on wild populations. Additionally, these parasites may interact with diseases, including snake fungal disease (SFD) which is caused by the fungus Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola (Oo). To our knowledge few studies have assessed potential interactions between SFD and parasites in snakes. Thus, the objective of our study is to assess the individual and interactive effects of Helminth endoparasites, hemoparasites, and snake fungal disease on cottonmouth physiological stress. We are using two measures of stress; corticosterone (CORT), which is the primary stress hormone excreted by cottonmouths, and Heterophil to Leucocytes (H/L) ratios in the blood, which generally correlate with CORT levels. We collected 20 cottonmouths (> 300 g) from three populations in Western Kentucky. Within 3 – 5 minutes of capture we collected blood from the caudal vein of each snake to quantify baseline CORT. Additionally, helminth presence was determined by counting parasites in the oral lining, snakes were assessed for lesions consistent with SFD, and each snake was swabbed for future determination of SFD status using qPCR. From each blood sample, a thin smear was made using Giemsa-Wright stain. Using the smear, hemoparasites were identified and counted and H/L ratios were determined under 1000x magnification. We will present preliminary results from these data.

  • Added Value: Systematic Gopher Tortoise Surveys Provide Estimates of Gopher Frog Abundance in Tortoise Burrows
  • Lora L. Smith; Jennifer M. Howze; Jennifer Staiger; Eric Sievers; Deborah Burr; Kevin Enge
    The gopher frog (Lithobates capito) is under review for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Much of our knowledge on the status of gopher frogs is based on detections of larvae at breeding wetlands, but little is known about abundance of the species in its terrestrial habitat. We recorded observations of gopher frogs during gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) surveys during which a camera was used to search burrows and we used distance analysis to estimate frog abundance at 4 Florida conservation lands. We also recorded burrow size, incidence of frog co-occupancy with tortoises, and distance from burrows to breeding wetlands. We observed 274 gopher frogs in 1,097 tortoise burrows at the 4 sites. The proportion of burrows occupied by frogs among sites ranged from 0.17-0.25. Frog abundance in tortoise burrows was 742 (512-1,076 95% CL) at Etoniah Creek State Forest, 465 (352-615) at Ft. White Wildlife Environmental Area, 411 (283-595) at Gold Head Branch State Park, and 134 (97-186) at Watermelon Pond Wildlife Environmental Area. The proportion of frogs in burrows occupied by a gopher tortoise ranged from 0.20-0.72 and frogs used burrows from 7-43 cm in width. Distance from frog-occupied burrows to the nearest breeding wetland ranged from 141-3,402 m. Our data on gopher frogs collected in conjunction with gopher tortoise monitoring efforts using distance sampling and burrow cameras provided novel information on frog abundance in their terrestrial habitat. However, our abundance estimates were limited to the portion of the population inhabiting tortoise burrows, and the extent to which frogs use tortoise burrows over other available refuges (small mammal burrows, stumps, or other structures) is unknown. Nonetheless, recording gopher frogs in burrows during tortoise surveys required no additional effort and abundance estimates derived from these data may prove useful in detecting population trends in this cryptic species.

  • A Review of the Chigger Infested Amphibians in the United States and Mexico
  • Kristin A. Bakkegard
    Chiggers are the parasitic larval form of mites which infest all terrestrial vertebrates. In amphibians, chiggers burrow in and under the skin and have the potential of harming the infested animal through mechanical damage to skin and limbs, decreased reproductive success, or by introducing a pathogen. The discovery of chigger infested Northern Slimy Salamanders (Plethodon glutinosus), in north-central Alabama prompted a literature review, starting with the earliest record in the United States (1921) to the present, of chigger infested amphibians in the United States and Mexico. Data collected included the host, its chigger species, state, and county (if provided) to generate a map of chigger infesting amphibians and to look for patterns in the host-parasite relationship. Two of the six genera of chiggers that infest amphibians, Hannemania (an amphibian specialist) and Eutrombicula (a vertebrate generalist) are found in the United States and Mexico. Chigger infested amphibians have been reported in 20 US and 13 Mexican states. In the US, three species of Eutrombicula and seven species of Hannemania are known to infest amphibians. In Mexico, there is one species of Eutrombicula and at least six species of Hannemania known to infest amphibians. In the United States, 26 species of salamander and at least 28 species of frog are hosts. In Mexico, one salamander and at least 18 species of frog are hosts. The chigger mite with the largest geographic range is Hannemania dunni. I encourage others to publish their observations of chigger infested amphibians in order to better understand the host-parasite relationship and the risk they may pose to populations and species.

  • Research and Teaching Opportunities with a Large-Scale Salamander Collaboration Network (SPARCnet)
  • Kristine L. Grayson; Caitlin Fisher-Reid; Louise Mead; Hannah Coovert; Raisa Hernández Pacheco; Jennifer Sevin; Sean Sterrett; Chris Sutherland; David Muñoz; David Miller; Evan Grant
    Understanding wildlife responses to climate change has never been more urgent. For species with wide geographic ranges, there can be substantial variation in population processes and the effects from environmental change. Terrestrial salamanders in the genus Plethodon are often used in ecological studies as a key component of forest ecosystems, where lungless respiration through their skin and high abundance serves as a commonly used indicator of forest health. The eastern red-backed salamander (P. cinereus) is the most widespread and commonly studied species, yet most studies focus on local population dynamics. Understanding larger scale spatiotemporal patterns in population dynamics in relation to climate requires expanding beyond studies at single institutions. The Salamander Population and Adaptation Research Collaboration Network (SPARCnet) was founded in 2013 by researchers at Pennsylvania State University and the USGS Northeast Amphibian and Research Monitoring Initiative (NEARMI). It has since grown to include collaborators at 19 institutions and 8 education organizations. SPARCnet aims to provide a consistent framework for understanding population trends in P. cinereus, while delivering education opportunities for students. Researchers, educators, and citizen scientists apply the same cover-board plot study design and sampling methods across the range of the salamander in eastern and north-central North America. Most participants mark the salamanders they find, and thus have long-term spatial-capture-recapture data, along with basic population demographic data. Educators at these institutions are also developing course-based research modules available as open education resources for collaborative teaching. This network serves as an important model for bringing field research to students and building robust population data for species with wide geographic ranges.

  • Assessing the Density, Demography, and Resilience to Commercial Harvest of Aquatic Turtles in the Mississippi Delta Region of Arkansas*
  • Andrhea D. Massey; Dr. Brett DeGregorio; Dr. J.D. Wilson
    Due to their unique life history strategies (low juvenile survival, delayed sexual maturity, and adult lifespans of considerable length), turtle populations may be particularly vulnerable to overharvesting, suggesting that unregulated harvest of aquatic turtles may cause irreversible damage to their populations. With many states (e.g., Missouri, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas) closing or otherwise strictly regulating harvest of aquatic turtles, pressure on turtles in states with no harvest limitations, such as Arkansas, may significantly increase. In order to effectively manage turtles, it is imperative that managers know how many of each species exist in the area harvest is occurring. Our goals here were to 1) use mark-recapture approaches to estimate the density of the most commonly harvested turtles in agricultural and fish farm habitats across Arkansas, 2) use a GIS to quantify the extent of available habitat within the harvest zone, and 3) extrapolate the total abundance of each of the species within the area. These baseline estimates will be crucial for further modeling efforts aimed at assessing the sustainability of different harvest regimes.

  • Snakes on a Lane: Predicting Hotspots of Snake Road Mortality in Southeastern Ohio
  • Ryan B. Wagner; Viorel D. Popescu; Carl R. Brune
    Roads constitute just 1% of the total land in the US, but their impacts on wildlife are significant and far-reaching. Snakes are particularly susceptible to road mortality because many species do not avoid crossing roads, may use the road’s surface to thermoregulate, or freeze when approached by a vehicle. We conducted opportunistic surveys to collect road mortality points for snakes in southeastern Ohio over 15 years (2003-2018). We used logistic regression to predict roadkill hotspots and evaluate variables that influence road mortality. The species most frequently detected dead on roads were Black Ratsnakes (Pantherophis spiloides), Northern Black Racers (Coluber constrictor), Eastern Gartersnakes (Thamnophis sirtalis), and Rough Greensnakes (Opheodrys aestivus). Across the 14 snake species detected dead on roads, percent pasture within a 100 meter buffer of the roadkill point, township route, and county route, were all negative predictors for road mortality. State route was a positive predictor for road mortality. These results indicate that high traffic roads pose a risk to snake populations, but that mortality also occurs on low traffic roads as well. Our top model showed that low levels of pasture embedded in other land cover types was an important predictor of roadkill, suggesting that edge habitat contributes to snake road mortality. Because road mortally does not seem to be localized, road mortality mitigation structures such as underpasses and fences may have limited benefits for snake populations in our study area. The creation of edge habitat away from roads could supply snakes with necessary habitat without increasing their risk of being killed.

  • Hellbender Population Demography in West Virginia and Assessment of Existing Sexing Methodologies
  • Nicholas Bolin; Jayme Waldron; Holly Cyphert; Shane Welch
    Hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) are giant, fully aquatic salamanders that require swift-flowing waterways with high levels of dissolved oxygen. They are a species of conservation concern, over the past several decades they have experienced declining recruitment rates and increasingly male-biased sex ratios throughout their range. Accessing sex ratio data can be difficult. The most common sexing method is to examine the cloaca of sexually-mature adults during the breeding season, but this method (1) may not always be accurate, (2) cannot be used outside a brief period in late summer, and (3) cannot be used to sex immature specimens. Here we present data collected in Monongahela National Forest, WV in fall 2019 and spring 2020 as part of a long-term mark-recapture study. We report important demographic parameters for populations in Monongahela National Forest, including age structure and tertiary sex ratio. To verify sex both within and outside the breeding season, we used a recently-developed PCR assay to visualize sex-specific loci. Additionally, we compared measurements of serum calcium and potassium levels, a novel approach to sexing hellbenders, and morphological analysis with this genetic method.

  • Assessment of Turtle and Leech Parasite-Host Assemblage Variation in Middle Tennessee Wetlands Across a Disturbance Gradient
  • Laura Horton; Bill Sutton
    Prior research has established clear links between decreased reptile biodiversity in degraded or disturbed habitats, including chelonian groups. There are negative impacts associated with high parasite loads on hosts, and previous studies found parasite loads increase with habitat disturbance, however there have been no published attempts to evaluate detectable sublethal health effects associated with this potential increase in chelonian ectoparasite (leech) load. Thus we assessed if leech loads varied across a landscape disturbance gradient in Middle Tennessee wetlands and if they follow measurable patterns of increased sublethal health effects on chelonians by assessing heterophil:lymphocyte ratios, packed cell volume, and host body condition. We sampled 19 wetlands from June-October 2018 and obtained data from three host species; Trachemys scripta elegans, Sternotherus odoratus, and Chelydra serpentina. Collectively, the interpretation of these data may be used to understand how anthropogenic disturbance affects wetland turtle-leech communities and potential associated health implications.

  • Sub-Lethal, Behavioral and Developmental Effects, of the Neonicotinoid Pesticide Imidacloprid, on the Larval Wood Frog Behavior
  • Megan Sweeney
    Imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide, is used to prevent the spread of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid which has killed thousands of Eastern Hemlock trees across the United States. This pesticide, if applied through the method of soil drenching (spraying pesticide directly onto soil around infested trees) can run-off into nearby streams and wetlands and have potential negative effects on aquatic biota. At the same time climate change may lead to faster pond drying (i.e. shortened hydroperiods), which act as an additional stressor on for species such as larval amphibians. In this study we evaluated the sublethal effects of Imidacloprid (10 ppb concentration), as well as shorter hydroperiods on the larval behavior, growth, and survival of model organism, the wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus). We performed three behavioral experiments evaluating swimming speed, time spent swimming, and the distance swam by the larvae. We found that swimming time, distance, and speed were not negatively affected by the natal environment Imidacloprid or the hydroperiods. When naïve larvae were exposed for a short time to various Imidacloprid concentrations we found that the time spent swimming, distance swam, and speed of the larvae were not impacted. When a stimulus was applied halfway through the experiment, we found that larvae exposed to the pesticide were negatively impacted, and swam shorter distance swam and spent a shorter time swimming. Our study suggests that long-term exposure to low (10 ppb) concentration slows the reaction time and behavior of larval wood frogs, potentially increasing the risk of predation. We conclude that Imidacloprid application to combat the invasive Hemlock Woolly Adelgid should minimize run-off into nearby wetlands and streams, specifically use trunk injection and avoid soil drenching.

  • Terrestrial Salamander Community Dynamics and Trophic Ecology in Pacific Northwest Forests*
  • Christopher Cousins; Tiffany Garcia
    Terrestrial (Plethodontid species) salamanders have the highest abundance of any vertebrate groups in North American forests, yet their community and trophic ecology in the Pacific Northwest remains understudied. Found in multiple microhabitats, their ecological role in linking the forest floor, canopy, and aquatic systems is vital to understanding forest ecosystem function and health. As predators of decomposer invertebrates, salamanders have strong impacts on leaf litter decomposition rates, affecting nutrient transfer and carbon sequestration. Our project will shed light on the role of Plethodontids as conduits of energy transfer between habitats, on the functional role that they play controlling arthropod communities, and how their trophic ecology changes depending on community assemblage. Sampling sites are within experimental forests in western Oregon that contain forest stands varying in Plethodontid biodiversity and stand age to understand prevalence of niche portioning and impacts of habitat disturbance on community networks. We will use a combination of active and passive survey results (e.g. terrestrial and arboreal artificial cover objects) that characterize the top-down control of Plethodontids on invertebrate populations. Our study focuses on prey functional class (decomposers, defoliators, etc.), allowing us to investigate Plethodontid impacts on forest health. This information is necessary for the prediction of how Plethodontid and arthropod communities will respond to changing climates. Broader impacts of this work include the effects of arboreal plethodontids on key arthropods in the forest canopy, a topic of concern to forest managers. This study will shed light on how the community ecology of this highly abundant group of vertebrates maintains forest health, and how it changes relative to timber harvest and stand age.

  • Monitoring Strategies for Repatriated Eastern Indigo Snakes in Southern Alabama*
  • Francesca T. Erickson; Conor P. McGowan; James C. Godwin; Daniel V. Young; Craig Guyer
    The Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi) was extirpated from Alabama in the 1950s and was declared threatened throughout its range under the Endangered Species Act in 1978. In 2010, a repatriation program began in Conecuh National Forest (CNF), and now that ten years have passed since the inception of the program, monitoring of this population is crucial. Previous projects in CNF involved radio tracking indigo snakes after release and looking at release methods, home range, and habitat selection. However, since 2014, monitoring has been restricted in temporal scope and sampling methods. Monitoring of a population after reintroduction is crucial in determining population size, survival rates, reproduction and the success of the reintroduction effort. We are evaluating five different monitoring methods: the previous radio tracking data, intensive pedestrian surveys, camera trapping, remote RFID readers and passive box traps. Our objectives are to evaluate multiple monitoring methods with respect to the value of information gathered and monitoring costs. In 2019, increased pedestrian surveys and box traps successfully yielded an increased magnitude of encounters and captures of released snakes. In 2020 camera traps recorded indigo snakes at multiple gopher tortoise burrows, however individual IDs could not be made. We will deploy remote RFID PIT tag readers by placing antennas around tortoise burrows in 2020 and 2021. This will allow for identification of all PIT-tagged individuals using a burrow, when, and how often. These five methods all show potential for success, but have different costs and quality of gathered information. We will analyze data via occupancy modeling and N-mixture modeling, and aim to make abundance and survival estimates. We can then make recommendations on the best and most cost-effective methods of monitoring this species.

  • Herpetofauna Community Response to Wetland Restoration in Western Kentucky*
  • John Connock; Howard Whiteman; Michael Flinn
    Wetlands perform many critical ecosystem services and support a diverse array of aquatic and terrestrial communities. Since the late 1700s, the US has lost over 50% of its historic wetland area, with Kentucky in particular having lost more than 80% of its wetlands. The US has implemented numerous programs to combat wetland loss by creating and restoring wetlands through initiatives such as the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). Since 1990, the WRP has restored more than 2.2 million acres of wetlands across the US. Restoration serves to benefit many wetland species including amphibians and reptiles. In this time, few studies of the WRP have examined the impact of restoration on amphibian and reptile communities in WRP wetlands when compared to communities in regional natural wetlands. Our objective is to quantify amphibian and reptile diversity across three wetlands types in the Jackson Purchase region of western Kentucky: WRP wetland easements, natural historic wetland tracts in the region, as well as unrestored cropland proximate wetlands that are common in the region. Additionally, this study will also examine how the age of the easement combined with vegetation assessments impact the community structure of amphibians and reptiles. We will employ multiple methods to assess amphibian and reptile diversity in our study wetlands including timed-constrained surveys, acoustic recorders, hoop nets, and aquatic minnow traps. Preliminary data does not suggest a trend, with all three wetland types having similar levels of species richness, made up mostly of generalists. Results from this study will inform managers on how amphibian and reptile communities have responded to WRP restoration efforts. Furthermore, findings from this study will be used as part of a larger, multistate collaborative assessment of the impacts of WRP restoration on soil and water quality as well as across multiple taxa.

  • An Assessment of Intention to Visit Wildlife Management Areas in Tennessee*
  • Clara Shattuck; Neelam C. Poudyal; Cristina Watkins
    Maintaining visitation of public lands including wildlife management areas (WMAs) is critical to land managers in order to continue conservation efforts and offer recreation opportunities. Visitation can have a variety of influences on support for and maintenance of WMAs. Decline in fee revenue due to low visitation has direct influence on funding for conservation and facility operation, and visitors also bring in expenditures that can have significant economic impacts in terms of jobs, tax revenue, wages, etc. in rural communities. WMAs are public lands set aside for wildlife conservation, education and recreation and differ from other kinds of public lands in their relative size, proximity to rural areas, and types of outdoor activities allowed. While there have been many studies investigating visitation constraints at other types of public lands, no study has looked at this issue for WMAs.
    Results from a mixed-mode survey of 3,037 sportspersons (response rate = 30.40%) conducted in 2019 showed that having access to private property (51%), being able to lease land for recreation (28%), and WMAs being too crowded (23%) were major reasons for not visiting WMAs. Results also indicated that WMA conditions that would be most likely to encourage more visitation if improved upon were having good chances of harvesting lots of big game or fish (73%), having good chances of harvesting trophy game or fish (71%), and less crowded hunting opportunities (66%). This study seeks to use these results along with socioeconomic data to investigate whether and how these factors may influence sportspersons’ intentions to use WMAs. These results provide stakeholders with information on identifying structural and personal barriers and can help managers to better serve the public while ensuring conservation for the future.

  • Are University’s Adequately Preparing Undergraduate Wildlife Students to Meet Employer Needs?*
  • Trevon Strange; Dr. Terry Messmer; Dr. Jessica Tegt; Dr. Frederick Cunningham
    Demand for diversely skilled wildlife biologists and higher-level scientific researchers in the wildlife profession are projected to grow at a high rate over the next 10 years. However, graduating students are not meeting the skill-set requirements that professional wildlife agencies are looking for in new hires. This research in progress examines the performance gap between university wildlife programs, wildlife agencies, and student expectations. I am evaluating undergraduate wildlife curricula offered at 43 accredited universities listed on the National Association of University Fisheries and Wildlife Programs (NAUFWP) and comparing their programs to see if they meet the qualifications for a federal series standard 0486-wildlife biologist. Concurrent to the curricula analysis, two surveys are being administered to wildlife agencies and students. The first survey will assess the employee knowledge and skill-sets desired by state and federal agencies that hire wildlife biologists. The second survey was sent out to 40 undergraduate student chapters of The Wildlife Society at the accredited universities on the NAUFWP list, to assess their personal learning and professional goals. The data from this survey will help identify performance gaps that exist between university programming, and wildlife agency needs for high-level job performance. Surveys are being distributed online using a modified Dillman survey design method and surveys will be analyzed in the statistical package for social science (SPSS). Results from the surveys will demonstrate where gaps exist between university preparation of students for professional success, and what the professional agencies expect. Based on the assessment of the data I will produce a tool that provides recommendations to close the gap and create skilled and marketable students.

  • Assessing Wildlife Attacks on Human and Victim’s Perceptions: A Study from Sauraha and Amaltari Sector of Chitwan National Park, Nepal
  • Sistata Bagale
    Human wildlife conflict has increased in recent years posing severe conservation concern resulting in a significant loss in terms of human/wildlife deaths and monetary. This study aimed at assessing the patterns in wildlife attacks, identify major attack sites and people’s perception towards attacking wildlife. Household questionnaire (n=79), key informant interviews (n=12), focus group discussion (n=2) were conducted. Secondary data of wildlife attacks (2014 – 2018) was obtained from the park and buffer zone user management committee. Data were analyzed using MS Excel and SPSS V.16. Spatial distribution map was prepared through Arc Map 10.3. Total of 82 incidents were recorded, with the highest number of attacks from Rhino (45) followed by tiger (14), wild boar (12), marsh crocodile (5), elephant (4) and sloth bear (2). 34% of attacks occurred inside buffer zone forests within 1 km distance from the park boundary. 26% occurred while collecting forest products, farm (16%), herding animals (12%) and fishing (6%). The number of attacks was significant with age groups (χ2 = 13.610, df = 4, p-value = 0.009), with the highest number of attacks (51%) observed among age groups 40 – 60. The highest attack was observed in spring (33 %), followed by autumn (28%), winter (27%) and summer (12%). 51 % of the attacks occurred in the morning. Of the total attacks, 23 % were fatal, 49 % severe and 28 % minor injuries. The level of severity was highest for elephant (75%) followed by a crocodile (40%), tiger (36%) and rhino (20%). About 80 % of the respondents were positive towards the conservation of wild animals and 20 % were negative. 52% of respondents reported dissatisfaction with compensation procedure and amount. Thus, a victim-friendly compensation scheme and appropriate species-specific field-based solutions should be designed to ensure human-wildlife coexistence. Keywords: Co-existence, Compensation, Conflict

  • Underlying Social Conflicts Drive Human-Wildlife Conflict in Laikipia County, Kenya
  • Mackenzie Goode
    Now understood as one of the most critical threats to many wildlife species, human-wildlife conflict receives increasing attention from an array of disciplines. Recent findings remind us that direct wildlife damage is not, in fact, the main driver of this conflict. Instead, human-wildlife conflict is likely the result of, or a manifestation of, underlying social conflicts. In Laikipia County, Kenya, a biodiversity hotspot and mosaic landscape of private wildlife conservancies and farms of various scale, drivers of conflict are not well-understood. Small-scale farmers experience a physical and emotional burden as a result of crop raiding damage by primarily elephants and baboons. In-depth semi-structured interviews with small-scale farmers revealed complex attitudes towards wildlife. Both interviews and participant observation uncovered a deep mistrust in institutions, such as the country’s wildlife agency and neighboring conservancies, and unresolved conflicts between farmers and Maasai pastoralists. Frequently, farmers reported having been denied monetary compensation for crop losses as a result of possessing too little acreage, only exacerbating mistrust in institutions. One innovative mitigation strategy employed by a large-scale farm in the area was presented to participants for feedback. Participants suggested that such a strategy to mitigate crop raiding would not address the pressing local issues described in interviews. Thus, as other studies predict, this context likely requires a multi-faceted approach to tackling human-wildlife conflict–an approach which encompasses short-term solutions for direct wildlife damage but also long-term mediation between social groups.

  • Distribution, Population and Human Conflicts of Black Bear in District Mansehra, KPK, Pakistan
    Abstract Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibitanus) occurs in various parts of the country including the District Mansehra. It is categorized as “Vulnerable” in the Pakistan. Its population is decreasing due to many factors. In District Mansehra. Yet no precise research conducted on Asiatic Black Bear. Human-Bear Conflict is still a big issue because human populations and villagers inhabiting in the area suffers a lot due to which they are pressurizing Wildlife Department for economic losses reliefs i-e crop damages and depredations by the specie. Therefore, the current study has been designed. Result showed that, distribution of Black Bear in district is interesting regarding losses. A total of 66 indirect signs were recorded in study area including 23 % scats and foot prints, followed 20% animal activities, and 17% tree markings, with minor percentages from other signs. A total of 17 dens of Asiatic Black Bear were recorded which indicates that at least 17 individuals were present there. Overall distribution range of Asiatic Black Bear was between 1511m to 2570m elevation in the study area. The direct field sighting of Asiatic Black Bear was recorded only once at Kaghan valley, while questionnaire survey reported sightings of the species at different sites during different months. A total of n=74 domestic livestock were killed by Bear, of highest killings were goats (75.6%), sheep (13.5%), and cow (10.81%). Out of total goat mortality, 85.7% were adult goats while 15.3% were young goats. A total of 16420 kg maize was damaged and consumed by Asiatic Black Bear in the study area of worth 3284 U$; average rate per 40 kg=8 U$. About 80% attacks on livestock and cultivated crops by Asiatic Black Bear were observed in the month of July, August and September 2016. Key words: Asiatic Black Bear, distribution, population, crop damages, conflict, Mansehra

  • Sex and Age Ratios of Savannah Elephants in Northern Botswana Using Digital Photogrammetry
  • Nate J. Weisenbeck; Arthur Young
    Through progressive conservation management Botswana has earned its reputation as a haven for elephants. It is estimated that the carrying capacity of elephants for the entire country is between 50,000 and 55,000. Botswana’s thriving elephant population in 2016 was estimated to be about 131,626. This explosion in population size was likely due to the three-year hunting ban set in place. Now after years of crop damage, loss of jobs, and loss of a food source the people of Botswana look to regain their lives now that the ban on hunting has been lifted as of the summer of 2019. Botswana is currently facing one of the worst droughts in years. We conducted research to determine the growth rate of the African elephants in Botswana. 1,153 pictures were taken of elephants, but due to visual obstructions only 152 of the photos were usable. We sampled elephants along the Khwai river, Mababe depression, and around the Okavango Delta in the Northwest region of Botswana using a Canon EOS Rebel T5 at both 55mm and 250mm focal lengths. We used photogrammetry to measure the shoulder heights of the elephants by using a program called ImageJ. The age of each of the measured elephants was calculated using the shoulder height and their age and sex. We compared the percentage of calves and adults over the age of 11 to the age distribution of an elephant population at a stable stage distribution. The calculated sex ratio of males to females was 1.05:1. Out of population size of 152 elephants 18 males and 33 females were over the age of 11. Without a management strategy in play the population will crash. Hunting offers an incredible opportunity to manage the elephant population as well as provide food and jobs to local villagers.

  • Translocation of Timber Rattlesnakes at Two State Forests in West Virginia*
  • Elizabeth M. Johnson; Shane Welch; Kevin Oxenrider; Jayme Waldron
    Wildlife translocation is commonly used by natural resource agencies to manage wildlife populations, particularly when the target wildlife species is considered dangerous or perceived to be a nuisance. Insight into the outcomes of rattlesnake translocations is limited, making it difficult to employ a translocation protocol that limits negative impacts to rattlesnake conservation. Snake translocation studies have consistently identified negative effects of translocation on snake movement and survival; specifically, snakes exhibit signs of post-translocation stress by moving greater distances, maintaining larger activity ranges, and exhibiting lower survival probability. We used radio telemetry to monitor free-ranging timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) at two state forests in West Virginia. The goal of our analysis was to examine the effect of translocation on timber rattlesnakes. We are using two treatments to examine whether the effects of translocation differ when snakes are translocated to locations within their established home ranges (intra-home range translocation) versus those that are translocated outside of their established home ranges (extra-home range translocation). We calculated average home-range size and mean daily movements in 2019. Apparent survival for telemetered individuals in 2019 was 100%. We will implicate translocation treatments in the 2020 field season.

  • Best Management Practices and Current Status of Dog-Hunting for White-Tailed Deer in the Southeastern United States
  • Gino J. D’Angelo; Thomas J. Prebyl; David A. Osborn; Jacalyn P. Rosenberger
    Hunting white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) with dogs has been steeped in tradition and controversy. Today in the United States, dog-deer hunting for white-tailed deer only occurs in 9 states of the Southeast. We reviewed hunting regulations and primary literature, interviewed state-agency biologists, and simulated deer movements on national forests in Mississippi to investigate the current status of dog-deer hunting and develop recommendations for best practices to manage methods associated with the tradition. Our study revealed many inconsistencies regarding how states regulate deer hunting with dogs. Dog trespass onto unauthorized properties was the most common complaint that each state’s wildlife agency received from disgruntled landowners and hunters. Hunter permitting and registration requirements have made hunters more accountable for trespass and were beneficial based on the perceptions of state agencies of fewer public complaints. The results of our simulations indicated that the 50th, 70th, and 90th percentiles of the expected maximum distances travelled by deer during dog-deer hunts to be 1.9 km, 2.3 km, and 2.7 km, respectively. In turn, we expect hunts would need to be limited to areas >1.9 km from property boundaries to ensure 50% of hunts are completely contained on a specific property, >2.3 km to ensure 70% containment, or >2.7 km to ensure 90% containment. When excursions by deer were eliminated from simulations, the expected distances required to contain 50, 70, and 90% of hunts were reduced ≥52% to 0.88 km, 1.06 km, 1.34 km respectively. We recommend: 1) developing plans for consistent communication among agencies and stakeholders; 2) allowing dog-deer hunting where the practice is accepted culturally; 3) developing and enforcing permit systems to ensure hunter accountability; and 4) encouraging or requiring tracking and correction collars on dogs to reduce trespass.

  • Repairing Relationships: Providing the Glue to Mend Conservation Management and Public Opinion*
  • Amanda Hartman Medaries; Dustin Ranglack; Melissa Wuellner; Letitia Reichart; Michelle Fleig-Palmer; Pricila Iranah
    Established in 2001, the American Prairie Reserve (APR) is a private non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to create the largest nature reserve within the continental United States. APR wishes to have support of conservation practices; however, local landowners and neighboring communities have not responded positively to APR’s conservation efforts. Thus, APR seeks to determine ways to mend and improve relationships with local landowners and neighboring communities. The objective for this study is to identify ways in which to mend or mitigate a proportion of negative perceptions by local landowners using a systems thinking model approach. APR conducted a public perception survey to evaluate opinions of their current conservation practices. This data, along with socio-economic and management data from APR, will be used to populate a model to look at reinforcing and balancing feedback loops. We predict the model will be able to provide suggestions for how to rebuild relationships and have APR’s conservation practices better well received by local landowners and communities.

  • An Analysis of the Alive Animal Specially Herpetofauna Trade in Pakistan*
  • Hannan Nasib Hamid; Muhammad Rais
    Wildlife trade is a billion dollars’ industry at global scale and it is increasing day by day. Among wildlife amphibians and reptiles are generally among most traded animals in some regions. market surveys were done in 2017-19 in different pet markets of Karachi, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Peshawar and Multan. In September, 2017 to March, 2020 classified websites were surveyed after every 3 months for 2 hours to collect record of live reptile trade. The results from exploration of websites and market based surveys concluded that more than 200+ ads were posted for exotic animals on classified websites and thousands of exotic birds are available for sale in pet markets. In markets of Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Multan exotic birds like Platycercus icterotis, Melopsittacus undulatus, Psittacus erithacus, while online classified websites are selling reptiles like Centrochelys sulcata, Trachemys scripta elegans, Spalerosophis diadema, and mammals like members of family Cricetidae, Felis catus, Panthera leo. The trade of exotic animals in Pakistan is an alarming thing for policies makers and concern departments.

  • Madagascar’s Carnivore Problem- Understanding Socioecological Drives of Human-Wildlife Conflict*
  • Kimberly Rivera
    Human-wildlife conflict is a major concern as human communities continue to expand, increasing their interactions with native habitats and wildlife. One negative interaction is the depredation of livestock by carnivores and the subsequent retaliatory killing of the presumed predating species. This global phenomenon has not been studied and managed ubiquitously, therefore leaving underserved human and ecological communities at higher risk of conflict, such as those found in Madagascar. Limited studies conducted in Madagascar indicate there may be important independent variables which impact rates of depredation, but these findings are confounded by their reliance on recall survey data. To elucidate the validity of these findings, we use interviews and camera trap surveys to evaluate the perceived and realized rates of depredation on poultry. We evaluate how landcover metrics, such as the percent forest cover, human infrastructure (density of households), and the absence/presence of cats and dog may impact these rates. Habitat metrics and human infrastructure are calculated using Google Earth and ArcGIS while dog and cat presence are quantified through photographic data collected in the field. We hypothesize that realized and perceived depredation rates differ. We evaluate our hypotheses using generalized linear models; we expect that increasing forest cover and the absence of cats and dogs living near poultry coops increase the realized rate of depredation. We also hypothesize that increased infrastructure will decrease perceived and realized rates of depredation.

  • A Cross-Taxa Test of Hypotheses for Why Bats Are Killed by Wind Turbines
  • Erin F. Baerwald
    Wind turbines are a rapidly increasing means of generating electricity, and although wind energy is relatively environmentally friendly, it is not without ecological impacts. One concern is the large number of bats killed at some wind energy facilities. While there are many hypotheses that have been proposed to explain these fatalities, currently there are no definitive answers. We took a novel approach to evaluate the various hypotheses by using data on fatality rates of Nightjars (Order: Caprimulgiformes), a threatened avian Order that are ecologically similar to the bats killed most frequently at turbines across North America, the Lasiurine bats. We predicted that if the reason for collisions is general to nocturnal aerial-hawking insectivores, fatality rates at wind turbines should be similar across taxa. If fatality rates differ across taxa, then the reasons for fatalities are more specific to the Lasiurine bats. We used the Bird Studies Canada Wind Energy Bird and Bat Monitoring Database for data on fatality rates within Canada and the American Wind Wildlife Information Centre Database for data on fatality rates within the United States. These data indicate that fatalities of Nightjars at wind turbines are three orders of magnitude lower than for bats, even at the same sites. This lends support to the idea that the reason for high numbers of bat fatalities is related to being a bat (e.g. roost attraction, mating behaviour, and/or anatomy) and not to being a nocturnal aerial-hawking insectivore (i.e. foraging).

  • Coyote Response to Novel Objects in Urban and Rural Ecosystems*
  • Grayson Cahal; Shane McKenzie; Stanley Gehrt
    In recent years coyotes (Canis latrans) have expanded their range and appear to be highly adaptable to urban ecosystems. With coyotes living in proximity to humans, it is important to understand patterns of human-wildlife interactions and how wildlife behavior may be influenced by urbanization. Our objectives are to compare frequencies of bold-shy behavior between urban and rural sites, and to determine differences across multiple metropolitan areas. This research is part of a large collaborative study designed to evaluate the boldness behavior of coyotes across the country. During summer and autumn 2019, we set up treatment and control sites across urban and rural sites associated with Columbus, Ohio, and Chicago, Illinois. We used remote cameras at each site, and a novel object at treatment sites. The novel object used in this study is four wooded stakes one meter tall arranged into a 1 m2 with paracord string connecting the 4 corners. We recorded coyote visits at 8 of 28 Columbus sites and 17 of 25 Chicago sites. We are currently analyzing coyote videos for responses to novel objects, and comparing these responses between urban and rural sites, and across cities. Future analysis of the videos will examine the coyote behaviors to address the neophobic to neophilic response to novel object stimuli. Behaviors that are considered bold or exploratory will be assessed as neophilic, while shy, anxious individuals will be assessed as neophobic. Ultimately, our work will provide a better understanding of the behavior of an apex predator in urban ecosystems and assist us in managing coexistence between coyotes and humans.

  • Hunter Behavior and Harvest Success: The Effect of Hunter Movement and Site Selection on Observation Rate of White-Tailed Deer*
  • Alyssa Meier
    Hunting is the primary tool for population control for many ungulate species across the United States, including white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Previous research has focused primarily on the effects of hunting on prey behavior while neglecting the potential effects hunter behavior has on the probability of harvest success. Hunters make numerous active decisions while hunting that affect their probability of success, such as where to hunt on the landscape and hunting method (i.e. ground-blind, tree-stand, still hunting). Because wildlife managers rely on hunting for population control, it is important to understand and quantify hunter behavior to more confidently meet management goals. In this study, I will examine hunter movement patterns and site selection and assess how these parameters affect hunter observation rate of white-tailed deer. The information provided by my research will help educate hunters on becoming more effective and efficient, and inform wildlife managers on methods to more reliably meet harvest quotas.

  • Harvesting and Sharing of Wild Meat in Texas, United States of America
  • Shane Patrick Mahoney
    Recreational hunting participation in the US and Canada has decreased significantly over the last several decades, yet public support for these activities remains high in both countries. To date, there has been very little research to determine the reasons for this persistent trend. However, it has been theorized that this support is garnered through regular positive interactions and activities that connect hunters with the broader public. One such activity is the sharing of wild harvested meat. Situated within the larger Wild Harvest Initiative® this research project was undertaken to determine the extent of these sharing practices as well as hunters’ associated underlying motivations. Using Texas as a case study, this research employed a quantitative research approach in which a random sample of Texan hunters were sent an online survey questionnaire regarding their hunting and wild meat sharing habits. A total of 2,735 completed questionnaires were used in the final analysis. The survey revealed that nearly all successful hunters (97.7%) share their wild harvested meat; on average sharing 41.3% of their harvest. While the findings revealed interesting demographic differences in terms of motivations for sharing, respondents primarily reported being motivated to share because they possessed more than they could consume in their household and they wanted to help family and friends with food stocks. The findings of this survey clearly demonstrate that the benefits of wild recreationally harvested meat in Texas extend well beyond the harvesters themselves to positively impact many others. The magnitude of wild meat sharing in Texas and the motivations for these activities reflect a tradition that serves to build and strengthen community networks, lending credence to the theory that these activities help foster broad support for hunting activities within the US and Canada. Additional surveys planned for other jurisdictions will serve to expand and strengthen these findings.

  • The Experience of Chinese Ngos in Africa-China Animal Protection Collaboration:A Case Study of China House
  • Hongxiang Huang; Ruoqu Zhou; Yanran Lyn; Yimuxue ZHANG
    Along with the economic booms of the Belt and Road Initiative, China, as one of the largest African illegal wildlife markets, plays a controversial role on the global stage, especially in Africa. On this background, what is the relationship between animal protection and China-Africa relations? What role do Chinese NGOs play in Africa-China animal protection? How can Chinese NGOs influence IR in this way? This dissertation explores these questions by analyzing the case of China House. Founded in Kenya in 2014, China House has organized various social engagement activities related to animal protection in Africa, such as the China-Africa Wildlife Conservation Cooperation Conference in South Africa, which the Chinese Embassy has attended.
    This dissertation evaluates these activities’ effectiveness and influence on IR and makes a comparative study on non-Chinese NGOs in Africa. Adopted methods include literature research on unpublished internal reports and interviews with various stakeholders: China House’s staff and volunteers, Chinese communities and local communities in Africa.Based on the case study, this dissertation argues that: (1) As animal welfare and rights become a global issue, animal protection has become a critical factor in IR. China’s negative image of being involved in illegal wildlife trade does harm to China-Africa business and social cooperation. (2) Thanks to their deep understanding of the Chinese community in Africa, Chinese NGOs play a unique role in integrating the Chinese community into Africa’s animal protection activities. (3) The participation of Chinese NGOs in animal protection can change Africans’ perception of the Chinese and enhance the understanding between two sides, and therefore positively influence China-Africa relations.

  • The Ecology of Rehabilitated Sloths in Panamá*
  • Chelsea N. Morton; Clayton K. Nielsen; Andrew D. Carver; Nestor J. Correa; Yiscel S. Yanguez
    The field of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation continues to grow as human expansion increases the rate of deforestation in Latin America. Wild animals that are often rescued from becoming orphaned or injured are rehabilitated in captivity until considered suitable for release back into the wild. Sloths, (Bradypus spp. and Choloepus spp.) are a common species admitted to rescue centers throughout Latin America due to their poor dispersal abilities and vulnerability to anthropogenic impacts. Although post-release monitoring has been fundamental in measuring the success of wildlife rescue programs, few studies have assessed the long-term outcomes of releasing hand-reared sloths back into the wild. We are studying the post-release success of Hoffmann’s two-toed sloths (C. hoffmanni) in central Panamá during 2019-2020. Ten sloths rescued from the wild and raised in captivity have been radiomarked and placed in an outdoor 500-m2soft-release enclosure for 3 months, where behavioral observations are being conducted to quantify activity budgets. Sloths are then released in an adjacent national park and radiotracked for dispersal movements, habitat selection, and survival for a minimum of 12 months. Dispersal patterns are calculated from movement paths obtained via connecting GPS locations of individual sloths. Habitat preference is analyzed using a paired analysis approach where 7 microhabitat variables are measured at sloth radiolocations versus paired random locations. Understanding the adaptations of rehabilitated sloths will guide future assessments of the contributions made by individuals to sustain wild populations of a species with such low dispersal capacity and unknown population trends. Obtaining data from post-release monitoring will provide useful information to make improvements in current guidelines of sloth rehabilitation for rescue centers throughout Latin America.

  • GPS Collar Based Evaluation of Sika Deer Management in Protected Areas of Hokkaido, Japan
  • Kohei Kobayashi; Tsuyoshi Yoshida; Rika Akamatsu
    Although many Asian nations and regions are facing the decline of deer species, Japan is an only Asian country where deer populations has drastically increased. Overabundant Sika deer (Cervus nippon) in protected areas is an emblematic ecological phenomena of Japan; however, main policy and management schemes of deer overabundant are still based on intensive doe harvesting outside of protected areas. No previous study attempted to prove an effectiveness of deer management based on harvesting mortality in/out of protected areas. We analyzed 100 GPS collared female deer at 10 capture survey sites of Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japanese archipelago. We defined urban areas and wildlife refuges as protected area. We classified 100 deer into two population groups based on >50% or <50 % of GPS locations data in protected area, wherein groups were categorized “Protected Deer (PD) ” with > 50 % and “Hunted Deer (HD) ” with < 50%. The average ratio of protection area use by sika deer was 54%. We classified 62% deer as PD, and 38% as HD. We calculated harvesting mortality for each group. Harvesting mortality was 0% in PD, and 26.3% for HD. This result suggested that deer spending half a year in protected area was not affected by harvesting even the outside of protected area. We conclude that severe ecological and biodiversity impacts in protected areas of the study area are only possible to ameliorate through active managements of deer population inside the protected area.

  • Population Crash of An Endemic South African Cyprinid: The Role of Non-Native Fish, Drought and Other Environmental Factors
  • Cecilia Cerrilla; Jeremy Shelton; Bruce Paxton; Mandy Schumann; Cecile Reed
    South Africa’s Cape Fold Ecoregion (CFE) harbors exceptionally high freshwater fish endemism, yet the majority of these species are threatened with extinction. The Clanwilliam sandfish (Labeo seeberi), an endangered cyprinid, has declined across its range in the CFE and currently exists in only a handful of tributaries of the Doring River in severely fragmented populations. The last remaining recruiting sandfish population occurs in the Oorlogskloof River, making this tributary one of critical conservation value. I analyzed a six-year dataset comprising fish survey data from 38 sites along 25km of the Oorlogskloof River to characterise spatio-temporal variation in sandfish abundance and size structure and evaluate the relative influence of different environmental factors on sandfish population trends. The environmental factors considered included other fish in the system, especially three non-native fishes (banded tilapia Tilapia sparrmanii, smallmouth bass Micropterus dolomieu and bluegill sunfish Lepomis macrochirus), and various environmental factors. The results show that sandfish have experienced a 93% decline in the Oorlogskloof since 2013 and that the ongoing drought may be preventing recovery. They also suggest that banded tilapia do not adversely affect sandfish, while predation of juveniles by smallmouth bass and/or bluegill sunfish apparently reduces the abundance of sandfish, especially of juveniles, where these non-native fish are present. Management of the river’s sandfish population should focus on precautionary actions such as continued monitoring and clearing surrounding dams of smallmouth bass and bluegill sunfish in order to prevent accidental introduction of these species further upstream than where they are currently found.

  • Contrasting Effects of Native and Invasive Bivalves on Biofilm Production*
  • Brianna Gibbons; Kiersten Youngquist; Andrea Darracq; Wendell Haag
    One way freshwater mussels modify aquatic ecosystems is through biodeposition, which ultimately influences biofilm growth. Biofilms play an important role in nutrient cycling within aquatic ecosystems and provide a food resource to aquatic organisms. Of 300 known species of North American freshwater mussels, 202 are listed as species of concern. Many of these declines are linked to invasions of other bivalves into aquatic systems, such zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) and Asian clams (Corbicula fluminea). Decreases in freshwater mussels and increases in invasive bivalves globally may influence biofilms and ultimately nutrient cycling within aquatic ecosystems. The objective of our experiment was to determine if biofilm production is influenced by freshwater mussels or Asian clams. Our experiment consisted of a 2 x 3 factorial design with Asian clams or native mussels (Amblema plicata and Plectomerus dombeyanus) stocked into 0.6 m2 flow-through mesocosms at different densities (low, medium, or high). We placed four ceramic tiles within each tank and quantified the biofilm production on a single tile from each tank every two weeks. Biofilm production increased over time, but there was no effect of treatment through 6 weeks. However, by week 8 the native mussel treatments had 2.4 – 3.6 times more biofilm produced compared to the control. The Asian clam treatments did not differ from the control. Our results support previous studies demonstrating a relationship between native mussels and biofilm production. However, we did not observe a similar relationship between Asian clams and biofilm production. In the SE USA, Asian clams are often the dominant bivalve in aquatic systems where native mussels would have once been prevalent. Consequently, it is possible the loss of native mussels and invasion of Asian clams could have ecosystem level affects via reductions in biofilm production.

  • 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.

  • Mist Netting and Acoustic Inventory of Bats at Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Newington, New Hampshire, 2009-2019
  • Katlyn Hojnacki; Nancy Pau; Dave Yates; Laura Eaton
    With the discovery of white-nose syndrome in 2006, bats quickly emerged as a taxa of conservation concern throughout the northeastern United States. Prior to this time, little was known about the distribution and population of various bat species outside of their hibernation period. To determine the species composition at Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), biologists began mist netting in 2009, then later conducted acoustic surveys beginning in 2012. Great Bay NWR is an 1,100 acre property consisting of a diverse complex of habitats that abuts the Great Bay estuary in Newington, New Hampshire. Mist netting occurred for a total of 40 nights across six years between 2009 and 2015 using triple high nets deployed in multiple locations along trails. Northern long-eared (Myotis septentrionalis), eastern small-footed (Myotis leibii), big brown (Eptesicus fuscus), and eastern red (Lasiurus borealis) bats were consistently captured. One little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) was captured in 2009 and 2011. Acoustic monitoring of bats was conducted for six years between 2012 and 2019 as part of a regional inventory on National Wildlife Refuges. All eight species of bats known to occur in New Hampshire were detected including northern long-eared, little brown, and eastern small-footed bat. However, tri-colored bats (Perimyotis subflavus) were only detected in 2012. Both mist-netting and acoustic monitoring demonstrated reduced captures and detections of northern long-eared bat after 2012, consistent with the documented dramatic decline of this species across the landscape and suggesting that it is almost extirpated from the refuge. For little brown bat, acoustic detections were low (<50 detections) in 2012 and 2014 but dramatically increased in 2015 and 2016. Although acoustics cannot be used to indicate abundance, these results suggest that little brown numbers may be increasing at Great Bay similar to what is being reported at other locations in the northeast.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • White-Nose Syndrome Impacts on Bat Communities on Fort Campbell, Kentucky*
  • Sarah Zirkle; Catherine Haase; Gene Zirkle; Sarah Krueger; Trevor Walker
    White-nose syndrome (WNS), a devastating disease of hibernating bat species, has altered bat communities across North America. Long-term monitoring of local bat populations can be used to determine overall community impacts of WNS. Utilizing 20-years of mist net data we determined the effects of WNS on overall bat community diversity and species abundance on Fort Campbell Military Reservation, KY. Between 1998 and 2018, Fort Campbell conducted 2,172 net-nights of sampling to determine bat diversity yielding 4,230 captures. We predicted a decline in bat community diversity and cave-dwelling species abundance following the confirmation of WNS on Fort Campbell in 2011. Our study utilized catch per unit effort methods (bat captures per net night) since annual sample sizes differed over the 20-year period and averaged each species’ catch per unit effort for each sample year to test the hypothesis. Mist net survey efforts recorded 12 species from the installation with an average bat community comprising 7.6 species per year over the 20-year period. Bat diversity on Fort Campbell was dominated by three species, red bat (Lasiurus borealis), gray bat (Myotis grisescens), and the tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) with each species accounting for greater than 20 percent of the total captures. Species capture data support a decline following the confirmation of WNS on the installation. Given the tri-colored bats’ decline since 2011 and its petition for Federal ESA protection, we intended to continue further research on the species to learn roost site selection and summer home range of the species.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Isotopic Evidence of Dietary Variation in Extant White-Tailed Deer: A Model for Pleistocene Herbivores in Southeastern North America*
  • Taylor Malasek; Julia McManus; Charlie Bish; Jessica R. Patterson; Al J. Mead; Patrick Powers; Zachary Pilgrim; Erin Barding; Michael J. Bender; David B. Patterson
    Understanding the ecological factors that contributed to the late-Pleistocene large mammal extinction event (~10,000 years ago) has been particularly challenging due to the lack of a modern comparative framework. In this study, we create a dietary model for late-Pleistocene herbivores using enamel carbon (δ13C) and oxygen (δ18O) isotope values from extant white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). More specifically, we investigate the isotopic signature of enamel during the formation of m1, m2 and m3 as a means of considering annual variation in diet as well as variation across the life of the individual. The δ13C value of enamel can be used to distinguish between periods of ingesting C3 (trees and shrubs) versus C4 (grasses and sedges) vegetation, while variability in δ18O values can indicate seasonal changes in precipitation or temperature given the relationship between enamel δ18O values and ingested water. In this study, we present 128 serially-sampled (along the growth axis of the tooth) δ13C and δ18O values from 18 teeth associated with 6 individual white-tailed deer (all male, 2.5 years of age) collected from the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge (PNWR) in central Georgia. Our data indicate that white-tailed deer in this region shift their diet across seasons likely in relation to localized climatic conditions, as indicated by paired temperature and rainfall data from the PNWR. This study indicates that stable isotopes record subtle changes in diet and climate across the lifetime of white-tailed deer in southeastern North America. Therefore, these patterns, particularly degree of variability in δ13C and δ18O values, can be used to better understand similar patterns in late Pleistocene herbivores our team has collected in coastal Georgia.

  • 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.

  • Variation in Available Habitat Impacts the Spatiotemporal Interactions of a Northern Wisconsin Carnivore Community
  • Mackenzie E. Rich; Thomas P. Rooney
    Interactions between carnivores play a crucial role in regulating lower trophic levels. It is therefore critical that we examine how carnivores interact with each other and how they shape entire ecosystems. To date, no study has examined the interactions of an entire carnivore community in the Great Lakes region. In order to examine interspecific interactions among Great Lakes carnivores, I used an occupancy modeling framework to generate habitat selection models and to quantify interactions between species. Using kernel density estimates, I determined temporal patterns of activity for each species and quantified interspecific activity overlap. To generate these models and analyze the patterns displayed, I deployed 25 cameras across 25 km2 of diverse northern Wisconsin forest which consists of coniferous, deciduous, and mixed composition stands, as well as multiple lakes and wetlands. Data for this research were collected from May 15th – August 6th, 2019. At our research location, the primary carnivore species include wolves, coyotes, bobcats, black bears, and red foxes. Wolves dominated interspecific interactions with coyotes and bobcats and were associated with greater forest cover. Coyotes avoided wolves temporally and bobcats avoided coyotes spatially. American black bears did not conform to any spatiotemporal patterns driven by wolf occurrence. Red foxes had a high temporal overlap with wolves and were significantly influenced by the occurrence of small mammals. By extensively modeling interspecific patterns spatially and temporally, and by quantifying interspecific interactions between carnivore species, I have established a standardized method to model carnivore interactions in the region. These methods can be applied in the future to inform carnivore management decisions such as targeted habitat conservation and limitations for hunting/trapping.

  • 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.

  • Seasonal Bat Monitoring in the Southern Cumberland Plateau, Tennessee
  • Amy Turner; Ken Smith; Kevin Fouts
    Previous work suggests that forest management affects bat activity for some species by altering forest structure. Therefore, it is critical to develop an bat habitat associations and responses to management throughout the year. Our study objectives were to 1) evaluate and compare bat activity and diversity among forest types, including managed and untreated upland areas of the Southern Cumberland Plateau and 2) compare seasonal bat activity and diversity. In 2019, we used acoustic recording of bat echolocation call sequences (Wildlife Acoustics SM4BAT ZC) to compare bat activity in forest types including closed canopy, managed, and cove habitat. We recorded 669479 calls, of these 43498 were No ID and 512639 were Noise, and we recorded a total of 12 species. In the summer and winter of 2019, acoustic monitors were placed in upland unmanaged, managed forest, and cove sites to monitor bat activity in these environments. Species with similar call characteristics were combined to minimize error and included: LABO/NYHU (eastern red bat [Lasiurus borealis] and evening bat [Nycticeius humeralis]), EPFU/LANO (big brown bat [Eptesicus fuscus] and silver-haired bat [Lasionycteris noctivagans], LACI- hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), PESU – tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus), CORA- Rafinesque’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii), and MYOT (Myotis spp.). In the summer of 2019 (June – August), we found significant differences for bat activity (mean bat passes per trap night) between managed (basal area 13-18 m2 ha) and unmanaged forest (basal area 22 – 28 m2 ha). EPFU/LANO had the highest mean activity in both site types (200 and 6.9 passes per night, respectively), and bat activity for all species groupings were significantly higher on the managed sites. During winter monitoring, mean bat passes counts were greater at lower elevation sites compared to two upland sites. Winter monitoring in the cove showed LABO/NYHU and MYOTIS (2.7 and 2.6, respectively).

  • The Effect of Sylvatic Plague on Genetic Diversity in the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog*
  • Samantha R. Ulrich; Rickey Jones; Clark D. Jones; Claire W. Varian-Ramos; Elizabeth K. Peterson
    Black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) are an important keystone ecosystem engineer. They support several species of conservation concern, including black-footed ferrets and swift foxes. Despite this, they have faced dramatic population declines as a consequence of anthropogenic stressors, such as fragmentation and sylvatic plague. In 2015, the sylvatic plague reduced populations of Black-tailed prairie dogs by more than 90% on the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot (PCD). This population decline resulted in massive colony fragmentation throughout PCD and many populations still continue to struggle to rebound. We hypothesize that this fragmentation has decreased either: 1) genetic variation within the impacted populations by restricting migration between colonies and/or increasing inbreeding; or 2) recruitment, potentially as a strategy to prevent inbreeding. To test this, we will evaluate the levels of genetic diversity in existing prairie dog colonies at PCD (colonies exposed to plague and colonies not exposed) using blood samples collected during capture-mark-release. In addition, long-term population monitoring via visual counts indicates there was no recruitment in 2019 compared to 2018, in isolated colonies exposed to the plague. We are currently in the process of collecting samples from each of the study populations and will present the results indicating inbreeding within colonies and migration between colonies at PCD. This research will be used to direct conservation management efforts at PCD to sustain populations of prairie dogs to support species of conservation concern.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Carnivore Dietary Response to Drought and Tree Mortality
  • Gerald B. Smith; Jonathan Pauli; Jody Tucker
    Shifts in primary producers within forest communities can have cascading effects on higher trophic levels, including carnivores. In the Sierra Nevada mountains, a high severity, multi-year drought (2012-2015), coupled with bark-beetle outbreaks, has resulted in widespread tree mortality that has dramatically altered the composition of forests. Fishers (Pekania pennanti) and Pacific martens (Martes caurina) – two carnivores of conservation concern – are associated with late-successional mixed forests throughout this region. It is currently unknown how these recent changes in forest conditions affect prey sources for fisher and marten. We predicted that tree mortality would simplify the available forage, and drive increased competition between these two similar species. To quantify these impacts, we identified hair samples (n = 128) collected from fishers and martens from 2006-2018 for analysis of stable isotope signatures. Results show variation in dietary inputs between locations, and limited dietary overlap between fishers and martens, in general. We have also identified temporal trends in dietary composition, niche dynamics, and competitive overlap for martens and fishers for the pre-drought (2006-2011), drought (2012-2015), and tree mortality (2016-present) periods.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • A Conservation and Economic Analysis of Birdwatchers Versus Non-Birdwatchers in Pennsylvania*
  • Ty Sharrow; Valorie Titus
    In recent years due to decreased hunting participation along with the growing need for conservation action, there is an increasing desire for supplemental funding from alternative sources towards environmental protection. Birdwatchers may serve as such a source. Before strategies for management and funding can be conceived, the economic impact that birders have, and what conservation attitudes they hold must be understood. Pennsylvania can serve as a case study to understand such a relationship. The results of this survey supports that Pennsylvania birders have a direct positive influence upon bird populations and existing conservation practices. It also shows the extent of how Pennsylvania birders engage in the economy concerning their outdoor recreational involvement.

  • Management of Native Wildlife and Habitat on Private Lands in Texas*
  • Cheyenne T. Holt; Thomas W. Schwertner; Heather Mathewson; Darrel Murray
    The majority of Texas lands are privately owned. This proves challenging for many aspects of conservation in the state. Landowners play a crucial role in the effort to protect native integrity of private Texas land. There are many private landowners interested in conservation, but don’t know how to properly manage for native wildlife and habitat. We are working with local landowners to improve the integrity of native wildlife and habitat on their property. We are also developing their land with the intention to create educational opportunities for other landowners. We will continuously assess and monitor existing biodiversity, restore ecosystem function, enhance native biodiversity, evaluate new management practices, and provide outreach, demonstration, education, and interpretation opportunities on their property. These goals will be achieved by conducting various surveys, developing a rotational burn plan, eradicating invasive plant species and seeding with native species, installing various bird boxes, and designing a website that will highlight these practices. We developed our goals and management practices into a 5-year management plan for the landowners. An interpretive plan will also be developed and will provide landowner outreach events, a public field day, an interactive and educational nature trail, as well as launching a website that highlights the management practices implemented on the property. We provided these local landowners with the opportunity to promote native wildlife on their land and benefit from the management practices we implemented. This project continues to present a unique opportunity to educate other private landowners with ways to benefit and support native wildlife and habitat on their properties. Projects and education opportunities such as this may be crucial for the future of successful conservation of private lands.

  • An Evaluation of Avian Use of Marsh Terraces in Gulf Coastal Wetlands*
  • Madelyn McFarland; Brian Davis; Michael Brasher; Mark Woodrey; Larry Reynolds; Fernando Vizcarra
    Louisiana’s coastal wetlands support millions of resident and migratory birds annually. However, Louisiana has experienced 90% of the total decline of coastal wetlands within the continental United States, accounting for most loss among all Gulf Coastal wetlands. Marsh terracing is one method used to combat coastal wetland loss. The restoration technique uses in situ sediment to construct segmented ridges in open water areas of coastal wetlands. An objective of marsh terracing is to improve marsh conditions and habitat for a diversity of species. Despite terraces being an increasingly useful component of coastal restoration efforts, previous research on their value as waterbird habitat is limited in spatial and temporal scale. Using both on-the-ground point count surveys and fixed-wing aerial surveys, our study evaluates avian use of marsh terraces across multiple paired sites (terraced and non-terraced) in coastal Louisiana. Avian monitoring efforts focus on two primary guilds of birds, breeding secretive marsh birds and wintering waterfowl. Results from the first field season indicate that: 1) terraced sites were used predominately by non-focal species such as red-winged blackbirds, 2) there was low use of terraced sites by focal species such as rails, 3) and there was generally low use of both terraced and non-terraced sites by wintering waterfowl, although species abundances varied in space and time. Field efforts are ongoing, and data collection will be completed by July 2020. Future analysis will examine relationship between avian use and habitat characteristics of study sties (e.g., submerged aquatic vegetation, diversity, and structure of emergent vegetation).

  • Methods for Evaluating Ecosystem Services Provided by Birds on Kenyan Coffee Farms*
  • Bailee R. Romaker
    Birds, Beans, and Bugs! This research project just finished its third and final field season in Kenyan coffee plantations. Birds were mist netted and captured to collect measurements and fecal samples. Our goal is to analyze the DNA of the fecal samples to see what insects the birds are consuming. We want to see if the birds are performing ecosystem services to the coffee and the coffee farmers through consuming pest insects. Birds are cheaper than pesticides and better for the environment, therefore, managing for birds might be a win-win for the managers and the ecosystem. I would like to present the methods of preparing and conducting field work, along with the process of PCR analysis that we are preparing to do once fecal samples return to the states.

  • Testing the Adaptive Significance of Song in Willow Flycatcher Subspecies
  • Sarah Gonzalez; Sean Mahoney
    In birds, song is an important characteristic that allows birds to recognize members of their own species. How differences in song characteristics arise and how they are maintained remain important questions in evolutionary ecology. Song may be shaped by the need to acquire mates (sexual selection), or by factors that affect survival of the individual (natural selection). In both cases, different environments may lead to different song characteristics. The Acoustic Adaptation Hypothesis (AAH) predicts that animals should optimize their signal given their environmental context. Under this hypothesis, higher frequency songs with shorter internote intervals (i.e. trills) should transmit more efficiently in open and more humid habitats because of reduced heat loss and overlapping sound waves. Individuals in a population that can optimize song transmission in their environment should have higher reproductive success and be able to pass those song traits onto their offspring. In the US, Willow Flycatchers (Empidonax traillii) occur across a broad ecological gradient and four subspecies are currently recognized. Previous studies have found differences in song but no study has assessed the adaptive significance of song variation within this group. We tested the AAH in Willow Flycatchers by relating song characteristics from 134 recordings including frequency and internote intervals to vegetation canopy cover and climate variables from the PRISM climate database. We found general support for the AAH: Although vegetation density was non-linearly related to song frequency and trills, we found a strong linear relationship between song characteristics and climate variables. Higher frequency songs with more trills were found in mesic areas and lower frequency songs with fewer trills were found in xeric areas. Our findings suggest that the Willow Flycatcher’s song is shaped by the climatic conditions at the site which may indicate that populations of Willow flycatchers occupying different habitats are diverging evolutionarily.

  • The Timing and Abundance of Hawk Migration along the Southern Shore of Lake Erie Over 15 Years
  • Auriel M.V. Fournier; Marck C. Shieldcastle
    Avian migration is a widely observed and appreciated phenomenon that is currently shifting for many species in response to climate change. Assessing how or if species are changing their migratory strategies is vital to understanding how those species might adapt to a warmer world, and the other factors, such as spring green up, or the breeding season of prey, that may also be shifting at a local or regional scale. We monitored hawks in northwestern Ohio on the shore of Lake Erie for 15 years to assess changes in the timing and abundance of several hawks species during spring migration. We observed over 150000 individuals and did not find any differences in timing for any species, when examining the 10th, 50th or 90th percentiles of the migratory window. We did find small increase in Bald Eagles, as well as small decreases in American Kestrels. As diurnal migrants, hawks face a different set of challenges during migration, and may be impacted differently by climate change as a result.

  • The Effects of Prescribed Fire in Gulf of Mexico Marshes: on Mottled Ducks and Black and Yellow Rails
  • Auriel M.V. Fournier; Chris Butler; Warren Conway; Robert J. Cooper; Jim Cox; Nicholas Enwright; Kristine Evans; Erik I. Johnson; James Lyons; J. Andrew Nyman; Robert Rohli; Mark Woodrey
    High marsh is a unique habitat type, imminently threatened by sea-level rise and characterized by a community of specialized emergent vegetation that tolerates irregular tidal inundation, as well as being the habitat of several birds of high conservation concern. Although extensive work has been devoted to understanding the role of fire in maintaining ecosystem functions in upland systems, little has been done on coastal wetlands or the response of birds to fire in high marsh wetlands. Without an understanding of how prescribed fire impacts high marsh ecosystems, including several high priority bird species within these ecosystems, natural resource managers are limited in their ability to manage and conserve the biodiversity of the Gulf Coast. Black rail, yellow rail, and mottled duck are birds of conservation concern for many organizations, including all five Gulf Coast states, the Gulf Coast Joint Venture, and the National Audubon Society. Collectively, models of occurrence, distribution, and abundance of these three species will enable assessments of their degree of sympatry and potential trade-offs or synergies from prescribed fire applications. We will monitor the avian response to prescribed fire applications in an adaptive management framework, where we will make predictions, monitor the avian response and use that new information to improve our models and our next set of predictions. Collectively, our research will allow us to reduce key uncertainties about the application of prescribed fire in high marsh across the northern Gulf of Mexico.

  • Managing Wildlife Openings to Benefit Game and Non-Game Bird Species in Central Appalachian Forests*
  • Hannah L. Clipp; Christopher T. Rota; Petra B. Wood
    In forested landscapes of the Central Appalachians, wildlife openings created and maintained by land managers provide habitat and food resources for disturbance-dependent, early-successional game species, such as wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus), and American woodcock (Scolopax minor). Though managers tend to focus on these three game birds, wildlife openings can also benefit a myriad of avian species and guilds, depending on local habitat features and landscape-level factors. Yet little effort has been made to investigate how to optimally manage wildlife openings to attract a full spectrum of avifauna throughout spring and summer and maximize richness across habitat guilds. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine the sympatric use of wildlife openings by game birds, breeding songbirds, and post-breeding songbirds in response to site- and landscape-level wildlife opening characteristics. Our objectives are to determine how local habitat attributes, opening size, management actions, and landscape context relate to (1) avian guild richness, (2) occupancy of specific game birds, breeding songbirds, and post-breeding songbirds, and (3) abundance of specific early-successional, edge-associated, and forest-interior breeding songbird species in wildlife openings. In April-August 2019-2020, we used species-specific and community-wide point count surveys, acoustic recorders, game cameras, and transect surveys to sample the avian communities of 115 wildlife openings within the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia. Data collection and statistical analyses are ongoing, but preliminary results from multi-species occupancy and n-mixture models have identified influential site and landscape variables and indicated their relationships with avian guild richness and focal species occupancy and abundance. Ultimately, these results will assist in the design and management of wildlife openings that simultaneously support target game bird populations and promote a diverse suite of songbirds.

  • Influence of Elevation on Canada Warbler Population Dynamics in the Central Appalachian Mountains*
  • Stephanie H. Augustine; Christopher T. Rota
    Canada Warblers (Cardellina canadensis) are a Nearctic-Neotropical migratory songbird that has exhibited apparent declines in abundance over recent decades. This species occupies a wide range of environmental conditions throughout their range but lack substantial data regarding elements driving variation in demography and the strength of population migratory connectivity. The aim of this research is to (1) determine the relationship between demography and environmental conditions along an elevation gradient and (2) ascertain migratory route and wintering locations of a population of Canada Warblers breeding in the central Appalachian Mountains. Our research takes place at six study sites spanning an approximate 130km north-south gradient within the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia, ranging in elevation from 526-1282m. We will estimate apparent survival with a three-year mark recapture study; in 2019 we marked 104 birds, which we will re-sight in 2020 and 2021. Beginning in 2020, we will assess reproductive success by monitoring nests using game cameras. We will model survival and reproductive rates as a function of elevation and additional environmental variables, which will elucidate the region-specific habitat-demography relationship. To determine migration strategies, we will deploy 33 adult male Canada Warblers with light-level geolocator tags in spring 2020 and retrieve tags from returned individuals in spring 2021. This study is the first we know of to track individual Canada Warblers throughout the year and will establish a baseline for full annual cycle modeling in the future. This presentation will include results from the first two field seasons of the project.

  • Evaluation of NRCS Cover Crop Practices as Avian Wintering, Stopover, and Nesting Habitat in Tennessee*
  • Brittany Panos
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service administers the winter cover crop program to provide financial incentives to agricultural producers to sow herbaceous plant seeds to protect agricultural fields from soil erosion during the non-growing season (late fall through spring). Landowner/producer sign-up for this program has increased to over 200,000 ha in 2019 in Tennessee. Although benefits related to soil retention and water quality improvements have been documented, potential benefits related to avian wildlife use remain largely unknown. We are providing an in-depth examination of the use of cover crop fields by birds during the stationary non-breeding period, during migration, and during the breeding season.. We are comparing the use of cover crop fields with no-till row-crop fields without cover crops. We selected a set of 80 fields with cover crops and 20 control fields without cover crops for evaluation across two counties in middle and two counties in western Tennessee. Avian use is monitored along two 100-m line transects in each field in a distance sampling framework every three weeks during the January-June sampling period. Supplemental drive netting with mist nets and banding is used to further quantify avian use. We are nest-searching during the breeding season for focal grassland species to document the role these fields may play in supporting breeding activity. Results and preliminary conclusions from the first field season will be summarized and presented.

  • Migratory Behavior in Dark-Eyed Juncos in Berkshire County, Massachusetts*
  • Hannah Wait; Dr. Daniel Shustack
    Junco hyemalis (Dark-eyed Junco) is a widespread songbird in North America and is observed year-round in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Questions remain regarding its migratory behavior. We used deuterium ratios from secondary flight feathers to assess migratory behavior of juncos found in western Massachusetts and to determine the breeding locations of sampled individuals. Male juncos (N=7) captured during the summer displayed deuterium ratios of -67 to -52 dD. Overwintering male juncos (N=3) had dD ratios between -115 and -105. Deuterium ratios in precipitation suggest male juncos overwintering in Berkshire County traveled from breeding grounds in northern Canada. Juncos captured during migration had dD values between the values of the summer breeders and overwintering males, suggesting that juncos from across the breeding range north of Berkshire County migrate through our study area. We continued sampling during the winter of 2019-2020 in order to fully describe isotopic values from overwintering juncos.

  • Marsh Bird Community Assemblage and Vegetation Association in Emergent Wetlands in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley*
  • Gabrielle M. Hargrove; Douglas C. Osborne
    Marsh birds (Rallidae, Ardeidea) are a secretive taxon, historically difficult to study outside of breeding season, and thought to be in decline. Migration represents an understudied and little-known life cycle function that is critical to understand to reverse current downward population trends. Our study aims to document arrival-departure dates of migration and evaluate proximate factors that may influence site occupancy in emergent wetlands in eastern Arkansas. We deployed audio recording units (ARUs) over a three-month period during spring migration and fall migration of 2020. We placed recorders in emergent marsh habitat located on private land enrolled in the Wetland Reserve Program and on National Park Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers properties associated with the Arkansas River in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley. The recorders were programmed to record audio files at two and a half hour intervals surrounding sunrise and sunset. We will use cluster analysis in Kaleidoscope Pro Analysis Software to identify calls and model multi-species, multi-site occupancy. We expect higher probabilities of detection for marsh birds by using ARUs due to the greater length of time in the field. Current survey techniques are limited by availability of time, funds, and personnel and thus may have increased probability of not detecting the species when it is actually present. In Arkansas during 2018 King Rail (Rallus elegans) reproduction was documented for the first time since 2006. It highlights the need for extended forms of observer presence in the field to capture discrete activities. By providing long-term, repeated audio observations we can provide valuable insight into occupancy, migration, and behavior of marsh birds. This will help identify suitable habitat, inform habitat management decisions, identify areas of conservation need, and gather local-level data to benefit marsh bird communities.

  • Effects of Drought on the Avian Community on the Short Grass Prairie
  • Angeline C. Canney; Claire Ramos; Clark Jones
    Climate change affects organisms on every level, from the biosphere on down to the individual. In the Southwest, climate change is predicted to increase the frequency and severity of droughts. Precipitation in a dry environment can be the difference between organisms having a successful breeding season and an unsuccessful one. In 2018, southwestern Colorado endured an extremely dry spring in the short grass prairie, while in contrast, 2019, had above average precipitation. This allowed for a natural experiment to investigate the impacts of precipitation on avian communities in the shortgrass prairie. We conducted point counts at different areas in the same vicinity on the shortgrass prairie, to gain a snapshot of the avian biodiversity. We predicted that the drought year will show less diverse avian communities than the wet year. This research will allow us to build predictions for how climate change may impact avian communities in the shortgrass prairie going forward.

  • Possible Shared Parental Care in Lark Sparrows*
  • Diego Duran
    The Lark Sparrow (Condestes grammacus) is songbird that breeds in the southern grasslands of North America. These birds are considered to be monogamous, however anecdotal observations suggest two female Lark Sparrows sometimes feed at the same nest. This suggests that there may be cooperative breeding in this species, which has not previously been described. Here we conducted quantitative observations of parental care in Lark Sparrows to determine if cooperative breeding is common in this population. This research was conducted at the U.S Army Chemical Depot in Pueblo County in Southeastern Colorado. We mist netted the parents to the known nests, and the birds were banded with an aluminum numbered band and colored bands for identification purposes. The nests were also video taped for two hours just after sunrise to determine what adults were feeding at the nest. The results showed no evidence of Lark Sparrows cooperatively breeding (p=0.32). In the future we plan to determine parentage of the chicks and determine whether adults feeding at the nest share parentage, the territories of the Sparrows and the density of the Sparrows. It can be concluded that these birds are less territorial than previously suggested however they are a monogamous species in reference to the study.

  • Habitat Selection and Breeding Ecology of Bachman’s Sparrow in a Wiregrass-Free Ecosystem*
  • Mikayla R. Thistle; Jamie Dozier; Mark A. McAlister; Beth E. Ross
    Through much of its range, Bachman’s Sparrow (Peucaea aestivalis) uses the wiregrass (Aristida sp.) dominant understory typical of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) forest. The central South Carolina Coastal Plain, however, lies within the “wiregrass gap” where longleaf pine understories are absent of wiregrass and have greater shrub density. Habitat use of Bachman’s Sparrow in this unique region has yet to be studied and declining Bachman’s Sparrow populations necessitate a better understanding of habitat selection processes and population dynamics across regional habitat types. The goal of this ongoing study is to describe breeding season habitat use and breeding ecology of Bachman’s Sparrow in the unique wiregrass-free longleaf pine ecosystem of Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center and Santee Coastal Reserve, South Carolina, to inform best management practices for Bachman’s Sparrow. After the first of two planned seasons of data collection (April 1 – July 31, 2020 and 2021), we use N-mixture models in a preliminary analysis to estimate the effects of habitat management treatments (e.g., prescribed burning and stand thinning) and patch structure on Bachman’s Sparrow density. We identify vegetation and structural characteristics that Bachman’s Sparrows select for nest sites by comparing nest-site features to available locations within the home range. To determine if habitat selection in our study population is adaptive, we monitor nests and fledglings until independence, calculate daily survival rates using logistic exposure models, and relate nest-site and home range selection to reproductive success. Finally, we explain how our results will be used to inform region-specific management plans and restoration of degraded habitats, which also lack typical vegetation composition, to encourage Bachman’s Sparrow survival, recruitment, and nesting success.

  • Assessment of Ticks on Birds in Northern Berkshire County, Massachusetts*
  • Noah Henkenius
    Birds are important in the dispersal of ticks and the diseases they carry. During migration, birds can travel considerable distances over a few days. In North America, several tick species that parasitize birds will also feed on mammalian hosts, including humans. This creates a pathway for diseases carried by birds to be transmitted to human through a mutual common parasite. If birds can successfully carry exotic tick species during migration, they could assist their establishment in new regions, potentially leading to the introduction of unfamiliar diseases. In 2018 and 2019 during the migration and breeding season we used mist nets to sample songbirds for ticks in a mixed hardwood forest in northern Berkshire County, Massachusetts. After ticks were collected from birds, they were stored in microcentrifuge tubes with 70% ethanol for later identification using dichotomous keys. Our goals were to assess if ticks were prevalent on birds throughout the breeding season and to determine if birds could be introducing exotic tick species to the region. We hypothesize that exotic tick species would only be found on neotropical migrants, and native tick species will readily parasitize birds throughout the breeding season. Our results suggest immature stages of Ixodes scapularis are the most common ticks to parasitize birds in our study site. In 2018 we found that male birds had a slight tendency to have higher infestation rates (37.3%; 28/75) than females (29.5%; 13/44). Our results also suggest that ticks were prevalent on birds throughout the breeding season.

  • A Thirteen Year Study of Wintering Birds in Sandhill Wildlife Area, Wisconsin*
  • Mackenzie Leigh Whitney
    Many wintering bird species occupy the Sandhill Wildlife Area (SHWA) in Babcock, Wisconsin. The southwest corner of SHWA is composed of oak (Quercus spp.) and aspen (Populus spp.) ranging in age from 15 to 75 years. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s student chapter of The Wildlife Society has sponsored a student woodpecker research project from 2007-2020 at SHWA. Hairy (Picoides villosus), downy (P. pubescens), and red-bellied woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus), as well as white-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis), have been captured to investigate home range size during the winter months. These birds are trapped in a 31.5 hectare grid of wire tree traps and caught between January and March annually. These birds are then tagged with a United States Geological Survey (USGS) aluminum band. Home ranges were determined using the Minimum Convex Polygon estimator in ArcGIS. Recapturing these birds creates an opportunity to observe the fluctuations in individual home range size, weight, and fidelity over an extended period of time.

  • Quantifying Great Egret Habitat Selection to Inform Shellfish Aquaculture Placement
  • Scott Jennings; Nils Warnock; David Lumpkin; T. Emiko Condeso
    Where commercial activities like food production occur on publicly owned land and water, the agencies administering those areas must weigh economic benefits against potential negative impacts to wildlife and other natural resources. These management decisions can be improved with better understanding of how and when wildlife species use these areas, and the degree to which the commercial activity in question does or does not preclude wildlife also using the area. In Tomales Bay, CA, shellfish aquaculture harvest has grown nearly five-fold since 1990, and requests to increase the footprint of these operations are pending. Current aquaculture leases overlap with intertidal and shallow subtidal habitats that are important foraging habitat for a range of wading birds. We tracked 10 Great Egrets (Ardea alba) with GPS telemetry between 2017-2019. We used integrated step selection analysis to evaluate Great Egret selection for eelgrass beds, inter- and subtidal areas covered by existing aquaculture infrastructure, and other inter- and subtidal areas. There was considerable variation in habitat selection between individuals. Tidal marsh and tidal flat were generally selected for more strongly than subtidal habitats. Most egrets selected for eelgrass beds. There was some evidence for selection of aquaculture areas, but egrets appeared to use these areas less than adjacent habitats outside the footprint of the aquaculture infrastructure. We discuss how placement of new aquaculture facilities on Tomales Bay can minimize impacts on egrets.

  • Differential Timing of Migrating Northern Saw-Whet Owls Based on Age and Sex Groups*
  • Carter Freymiller; Michaela Meehl; Mandie Lang; Madison Fell; Cole Suckow
    The Northern saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadicus) (NSWO) is a mesopredator within upland ecosystems. NSWO’s migrate in fall from September until December, peaking around mid-October, and this species is relatively abundant in central Wisconsin during this time. Previous studies have found that juvenile diurnal birds of prey migrated significantly earlier than adults. This is due to adults attempting to remain on breeding territories for as long as possible, therefore delaying fall migration. We are interested in whether this trend also applies to nocturnal birds of prey. We hypothesized that we would see hatch-year birds migrate earlier in the season than adults and male birds migrate later than their female counterparts. This project is conducted in the fall, with mist nets, at Sandhill Wildlife Area, Wood Co., WI. We used all viable data from the duration of the project and performed 2-sample independent t-tests for the mean day of migration on each of the age & sex groups, as well as the hatch-year vs. adults and Male vs. Female sub data sets. We found a significant difference in these two groups, demonstrating that adult birds are likely to migrate earlier than hatch-year birds. The data demonstrating the difference in migration time in males vs. females showed us that males were likely to migrate earlier than females. Finally, we observed the same trend of adult birds migrating earlier than juvenile birds in the subset of female birds only.

  • Does Fragmentation Facilitate the Impact of Dogs on Native Carnivores?
  • Rumaan Malhotra; Jaime E. Jiménez; Nyeema C. Harris
    Habitat loss and the spread of invasive species are leading causes of global biodiversity loss. Both can alter interspecific interactions, and many invasive species are likely facilitated by habitat loss and fragmentation. In terrestrial systems, dogs are a widespread invasive species that harass and kill native carnivores and their prey species. Dogs preferentially use open spaces, and in forested system their penetration into native habitats is facilitated by the fragmentation process. We tested the hypothesis that fragmentation would increase the impacts of dogs on the spatial use of native carnivores, using a camera trap survey combined with occupancy modeling in Southern Chile. Our work took place in the transition between the contiguous forests of the Andean foothills and the completely deforested central valley, where the landscape is made up of patches of native forest of varying sizes amidst a matrix of pastures. We tested the impacts of dogs and metrics of fragmentation on three mesocarnivores – the culpeo (Lycalopex culpaeus), the chilla (Lycalopex griseus) and the guigna (Leopardus guigna). Using occupancy modeling, we found that factors differed for each native species. Results differed by taxon, with dog activity increasing detection rates for both canid species. Occupancy of the larger culpeo was driven by availability of small mammal prey and patch size. In contrast, the smaller chilla responded negatively to patch size, and had higher occupancy with higher distance to edge. The guigna did not respond to fragmentation or understory covariates. These results suggest that while dogs may impact the activity of native carnivores, their effects are not ubiquitous across the guild. While this shows a resilience of the native carnivore guild to a widespread invasive species, it likely either reflects the potential for increased contact or indicates that other mechanisms such as temporal partitioning are being used in avoidance.

  • Validating the Use of a Handheld Meter for Measuring a Plasma Metabolite, Triglyceride, in the Field
  • Christopher Roelandt; Jill Witt, PhD.; Amber Roth, PhD.
    Plasma metabolite concentration analyses have been shown to be effective in predicting change in body mass and are useful as a measurement of body condition in birds. One such plasma metabolite, triglyceride (TRIG), has been shown particularly capable of predicting when birds are either in a state of fattening or fasting. These predictions can be a useful tool for wildlife and land managers interested in assessing quality of habitat as measured by its ability to provide feeding resources to individual birds using that habitat. Plasma sample collection in a field setting can be challenging and methods aimed at reducing these challenges may help to expand their use in the field. I explored the use of a small handheld meter, CardioChek PA analyzer, for measuring TRIG concentrations as a means to reduce challenges that are associated with the use of plasma metabolites. Following the CardioChek PA manufacturer’s guidelines, I tested results of TRIG against results of the same sample completed in a laboratory analysis to determine the validity of using a handheld meter in the field. I found that the handheld meter was precise in its results but not able to accurately measure TRIG in the field, possibly due to the interactions with the extreme environmental conditions in the field. I recommend further research into the limitations of this handheld meter and developing methods to reduce the effects of light, temperature, and humidity in the field.

  • The Future of Wildlife Conservation Funding: What Do College Students Think?
  • Lincoln R. Larson; Victoria Vayer; Kangjae J. Lee; M. Nils Peterson
    Funding for wildlife conservation in America has historically been fueled by contributions from hunters and anglers. Today, revenue generated by hunting and fishing license sales and equipment purchases (via federal excise taxes) continues to represent a critical funding source for state wildlife agencies. But as the population of active sportsmen and women across the county declines, the sustainability of conservation funding is uncertain. Agencies are therefore asking an increasingly urgent question: where will (and where should) future conservation funding come from? To help answer this question, our study focused on a population that will define the future of conservation: college students. From 2018-2020, we surveyed over 15,000 students at major public universities across 22 states. We found that just over 50% of the students were aware that hunting and fishing were primary sources of conservation funding. Non-hunters, non-natural science majors, and students from urban areas were more likely to believe conservation funding came from public tax dollars or park entrance fees. When asked to evaluate nine potential conservation funding options, students showed the strongest support for companies that profit from natural resource extraction (e.g., oil, gas) contributing a portion of their annual revenue to conservation (more than 80% supporting, 58% strongly supporting). Licenses sales for hunting and fishing were the second most popular alternative (80% supporting). More than 60% of students were also likely to support other conservation funding sources including state lottery proceeds and state sales taxes. Taxes associated with non-consumptive outdoor recreation equipment were the least popular option. Natural science majors displayed stronger support for nearly all funding options, but we observed few other differences among subgroups of students. Results suggest that college students, regardless of their demographic background, are likely to support innovative approaches and expansion of the traditional model of funding for wildlife conservation.

  • The Short Straw: Insectivorous Bat Exposure to Microplastics*
  • Ashleigh B. Cable; Emma V. Willcox
    Bats in temperate North America are experiencing precipitous population declines due to habitat loss and degradation, wind turbine mortality, and disease. Environmental contaminants may affect fitness and elevate the impacts of other stressors to bats. Microplastics are emerging environmental contaminants and can be detrimental to wildlife health. These tiny plastic particles can be transferred from aquatic to terrestrial systems via emergent aquatic insects; thus, bioaccumulation of microplastics is a concern for aerial insectivores that prey on thousands of insects a night. Our objectives are to 1) determine the extent of microplastic exposure and accumulation in bats and 2) investigate pathways of microplastic exposure related to diet. Using bat carcasses collected from rabies and wind farm monitoring programs, we will use a chemical digestion method to isolate plastic particles from tissues and a dissecting microscope to describe the shape and size of these particles. We will then use a spectroscopy method to characterize the chemical properties of the particles. By testing a variety of tissue types from bat carcasses, we will determine the extent of microplastic accumulation in different internal tissues. By assessing plastics in guano collected when mist netting, we will also determine concentrations and types of plastic particles that successfully exit the body. To investigate diet as a pathway of exposure, we will also use guano pellets for genetic diet analysis to identify prey consumed. We will use the data we collect to investigate relationships between prey consumed and attributes of plastic particles (i.e., size, shape, concentration and chemical property). Our findings will improve understanding of bat exposure to microplastics, the potential for microplastics to affect bat fitness, and the need for remediation strategies to limit bat exposure to microplastics.

  • Reduced Organo-Somatic Indices in Biota Exposed to Lead-Contaminated Sediment Suggests Pathological Changes to the Spleen and Hepatopancreas
  • Michelle Seers; Katrina Knott
    Lead (Pb) is a pervasive heavy metal implicated in a wide spectrum of toxic effects including metabolic disturbances, impaired hematopoiesis and anemia in fish and wildlife. We hypothesized that organisms exposed to high doses of Pb would exhibit signs of organ cytotoxicity such as cellular necrosis and an elevated inflammatory response. To test this hypothesis, we examined the organo-somatic indices (OSI) of fish from three rivers in southeast Missouri (Big River, Flat River, Meramec River) that have been impacted by historic mining and contain a gradient of elevated in-stream sediment concentrations of Pb (50-1200 mg/kg dry weight). OSI of fish from the Castor River (sediment Pb < 20 mg/kg dry weight) were used as reference. Spleen and hepatopancreas OSI were calculated as (organ mass/total body mass) * 100 for three species of fish (Lepomis megalotis, Moxostoma erythrurum, and Ambloplites rupestris).
    OSI for the spleen (mean ± SD; 0.097 + 0.059 %) and hepatopancreas (0.652 + 0.155 %) of Lepomis megalotis from contaminated sites were lower than the reference site (0.134 + 0.046 % and 1.016 + 0.243 %, respectively) and hence indicative of necrosis. OSI for other species were limited to fewer sites and the relationship to Pb exposure was unclear. Variation due to site-specific Pb concentrations, fish age and duration of exposure should be considered. Tissue damage suspected by differences in OSI among sites will be confirmed with histopathological assessment. The relationships between OSI and Pb concentration in fish fillets and blood are currently under investigation.
    Decreasing OSI in response to Pb exposure could serve as an early indicator of mortality, poor body condition, and impaired reproduction in fish populations. Knowledge of the adverse effects of Pb on fish and wildlife should be considered in habitat management decisions and regulatory recommendations to effectively preserve sustainable populations.

  • Capture Myopathy Due to Chemical Immobilization in Spotted Deer: A Clinicopathological Investigation
  • Pravin Mishra; Md. Badol Ashraf; Nazmul Hoda; Md. Mahmudul Alam
    The present study has been conducted to investigate the stressful event after chemical immobilization of spotted deer (Axis axis) for translocation in different places of the country on personal demand. The animals were immobilized using intramuscular injection of ketamine HCI @ 6-8 mg/kg through dart gun. In some cases, Xylazine-Ketamine combination (1 mg/kg and 2.2 mg/kg IM respectively) was used. Post-capture body temperature, respiration and heart rate were recorded. Peripheral blood was aspirated from jugular vein for serum biochemical analysis. Data from 2013 to 2019 revealed 189 animals captured through darting and among them 48 animals died due to post-capture myopathy reflecting death rate of 25.3%. We have closely studied on 16 animals captured on different occasions. Data revealed rapid elevation of body temperature indicating development of post-capture hyperthermia. Serum enzyme analysis exhibited increased levels of ALT, AST, Bilirubin, Creatinine, BUN, LDH, CK, Troponin, Cholesterol, Triglyceride, HDL and LDL and were highly indicative of stress-linked muscle and organ damage. The macroscopic lesions consisted of muscular and cardiac degeneration, edema, hemorrhage and congestion in lung, adrenal gland and in kidney. Microscopically, there were loss of striation and fragmentation of skeletal muscle, formation of contraction band necrosis in myocardial fiber, degenerative changes in renal tubule and formation of central intraluminal eosinophilic casts. Immunohistochemical staining revealed the presence of myoglobin in the skeletal and cardiac muscle. All these pathological findings were indicative of capture myopathy in spotted deer. This report underlines that mortality from capture is a risk that must be considered during restocking programs.

  • Surgically Implanting River Otters with Intra-Abdominal Radiotransmitters Using Reversible Non-Dea Scheduled Drugs
  • Tatiana E. Gettelman; Joseph M. Scimeca; Clayton K. Nielsen; Eric M. Schauber
    For radiotelemetry studies, river otters (Lontra canadensis) are often radiomarked with surgically implanted intra-abdominal transmitters as they are ill-suited for traditional radiocollars. However, availability of an approved surgery suite can be locally limited and transport of a river otter from the trapping location increases stress to the animal. Furthermore, constraints exist for using scheduled drugs in a field setting due to increasingly strict U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and university Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee regulations. To address these challenges, we developed a protocol for immobilization and field surgery of river otters with non-scheduled drugs. We surgically implanted 21 river otters with intra-abdominal radiotransmitters (42 g) in southern Illinois during November 2018-March 2020 and recorded 1 mortality during surgery and 1 probable capture myopathy mortality 4 days post-surgery. River otter weights were estimated and initial sedation was achieved with a combined intramuscular injection of dexmedetomidine (0.045-0.077 mg/kg) and nalbuphine (0.818-1.543 mg/kg) and maintained with isoflurane (1-4%) via a portable vaporizer. Surgery was performed while maintaining aseptic technique in a 3×3 m tent within 200 m of capture sites. Penicillin G benzathine (1 mL) and either meloxicam (0.5 mL) or carprofen (4 mg/kg) were administered prior to the first incision and oxygen was provided continuously during sedation. River otters were reversed with atipamezole (10 mg/mg dexmedetomidine given) immediately after surgery and released as soon as a full recovery was achieved, typically 0.5-1 hr post-surgery. No signs of infection or surgery site complications were detected, and all river otters were monitored until mortality or transmitter failure. This method for radiomarking river otters minimized stress and handling time without compromising animal health and provided a less restricted source of chemical immobilization.

  • Woodcock Conservation on Point- How to Most Effectively Manage Forests for Woodcock in Southern New England
  • Colby R. Slezak; Jennifer Kilburn; Tanner Steeves; Roger J. Masse; Scott R. McWilliams
    Intensive tracking of wildlife and the development of Resource Selection Function (RSF) models and detailed probability-of-use maps are used to help land managers decide how and where to best manage habitat for specific species or groups of wildlife. These RSF models for American woodcock (Scolopax minor) focus on the breeding period (spring and summer) and are based almost entirely on males due to ease of capture, even though females during this time are known to have different home range sizes and to select specific habitat characteristics when a variety of young forest types are available. The objectives of my research include (a) develop a volunteer-based pointing dog program in southern New England (like that long established in MI, WI, MN), (b) locate nests to determine nest-site selection by females in relation to singing males and habitat quality and nest survival, (c) catch and attach VHF transmitters to hens with broods to determine habitat use during brood-rearing and brood survival, and then (d) track females as well as males caught on singing grounds throughout the spring and summer to compare their RSFs. This project would produce the first American Woodcock (AMWO) Management Plan for Rhode Island and fill in the crucial gaps in our knowledge about the life history, population demographics and habitat use, and distribution and abundance of RI AMWO that are needed to produce and justify forest management activities and the creation of early successional habitat in certain areas of Rhode Island for the benefit of many species of game and non-game wildlife.

  • Breeding Season Home Range and Resource Use of Two Subspecies of Translocated Bobwhite
  • Elizabeth Brogan; John Palarski; Heather Mathewson; Bradley Kubecka; Dale Rollins
    The decline of the northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) has resulted in regional extirpation across its range. Within the Cross Timbers ecoregion of Texas, this decline is evident and remnant populations exist across a fragmented landscape. To reverse this decline, translocation has emerged as a possible solution to restock remnant populations in restored habitat. In some cases, individuals for translocation are translocated long distances and sourced from different subspecies. As a result, differences in natal environments may influence resource use on release sites. Woody cover is an important component of bobwhite habitat, but its use varies geographically. Furthermore, large movements post-release may influence survival. Our objectives were to 1) quantify home range size of two subspecies of translocated bobwhite, and 2) compare woody cover use for each subspecies. We hypothesize that bobwhite sourced from south Texas (C. v. texanus) will use a greater percentage of woody cover (fourth order selection) than bobwhite from west Texas (C. v. taylori) due to its greater abundance in that region. During March 2019 and 2020, we translocated 167 and 236 wild-trapped bobwhites, respectively, to a 1,011 ha area in central Texas. We fit 111 (n = 56 C. v. taylori; n = 55 C. v. texanus) and 110 (n = 46 C. v. taylori; n = 64 C. v. texanus) individuals with VHF transmitters in 2019 and 2020, respectively. We obtained GPS locations for all individuals 3-5 times per week immediately post-release. We will calculate kernel density estimates of home range and use generalized linear models to estimate woody vegetation use for each subspecies. Findings from this study will be used to aid managers who wish to translocate bobwhite of various subspecies.

  • Male Eastern Wild Turkey Survival in Delaware*
  • Drake A. Hardman; Angela Holland; Jacob M. Haus; Justyn R. Foth; Jacob L. Bowman
    Knowledge of the population dynamics for Eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) males provides managers with data to set harvest quotas. Although state agencies can estimate or track the number of birds harvested each year, the actual proportion of the population that is harvested remains unknown. Additionally, the amount of mortality experienced throughout the year outside of hunting season is unknown and could have an impact on harvest quotas. Our objective is to determine the survival rates of adult and juvenile wild turkeys throughout the year in Delaware. We captured 98 wild turkeys (65 juveniles, 33 adults) over two seasons on both public and private property in Delaware. We fitted all males with remote-download GPS transmitters and 2 rivet style leg bands (1 on each leg). Transmitters had an 8-hour mortality switch and we checked birds weekly to download location data. We will use a Kaplan-Meier procedure to estimate survival rates and compare survival between age classes using a log-rank test. We will compare estimated survival rates to harvest rates calculated from band returns to determine if it is a viable method for estimating harvest rates during the spring. Survival data will also allow us to determine if hunters are selectively harvesting birds based on age class, and if adults or juveniles are more susceptible to sources of mortality beyond hunting. This research will help managers better inform their harvest management, while ensuring that future generations can view and hunt wild turkeys.

  • Influence of Patch Characteristics on Northern Bobwhite Spatial Ecology in Southern Illinois*
  • Caleb S. Crawford; Michael W. Eichholz
    Across North America, prairie ecosystems have declined dramatically causing profound effects on grassland bird communities. As a result, northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) populations have been declining for several decades at a rate of 4.2% per year. Declining bobwhite populations across their range have been attributed to habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation. In Illinois specifically, intensified agricultural land use is the primary driver of observed declines in bobwhite abundance. We aim to study how different habitat patches with unique characteristics across the landscape influence bobwhite spatial ecology. The study site is Burning Star State Fish and Wildlife Area located in Jackson County, Illinois. We will trap bobwhites using baited funnel traps, targeted mist netting, and drift fences. Individual bobwhites captured will be banded and fitted with pendulum-style radio transmitters. Individual bobwhites will be tracked >4 times per week. Home range analyses will be limited to individuals with >25 independent locations. Survival analysis will be carried out using program MARK. Patch characteristics will include patch size, patch shape, habitat juxtaposition, amount of protective cover, and vegetation characteristics. Influence of patch characteristics will be compared to home range sizes and survival estimates of the radio collared bobwhites within habitat patches. Results will be important in informing habitat management of bobwhites in southern Illinois indicating requirements bobwhites need within their home range and to increase survival.

  • Nonbreeding Season Survival of Northern Bobwhites in Northeast Colorado*
  • Joseph M. Wolske; Adam C. Behney; Larkin A. Powell
    Northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) have experienced rangewide population declines and are listed as a Tier 2 species of conservation concern in Colorado. Recent harvest data from northeastern Colorado suggest fewer bobwhites, and managers aim to identify the vital rates by which population growth rate may be limited to guide management actions. Although many studies have suggested that bobwhite populations are most sensitive to changes in reproductive factors, recent work suggests that some populations can be sensitive to adult nonbreeding season survival. To augment a recent study that provided demographic data during the breeding season on our study site, we monitored bobwhites in northeastern Colorado from October 2019 to March 2020 to estimate nonbreeding season survival. We deployed necklace-style VHF radio transmitters on 98 bobwhites over a six-week period in September and October. We then assessed weekly survival status of all radio-marked birds during the nonbreeding season. We used known-fate models in program MARK to assess variation in seasonal and weekly survival with time trend, age, sex, and body mass at capture as covariates. Our best model estimated constant probability of survival (wi = 0.288). Nonbreeding season survival (26 weeks) in 2019-2020 was Ŝ = 0.235 (95 % CI = 0.165 – 0.323) with weekly survival of Ŝ = 0.946 (95% CI =0.932 – 0.957). Sex (βmale = -0.319, 95% CI: -0.814 – 0.177), age (βadult = -0.120, 95% CI: -0.613 – 0.373), and body mass (βmass = 0.806E-03, 95% CI: -0.015 – 0.016) did not influence survival. Our nonbreeding season survival estimate is the first for bobwhite in Colorado, and regional seasonal estimates from Kansas, Iowa, and Illinois range from 0.04 to 0.37. Our research aims to provide information on bobwhite demographics to land managers to assist them in management action decision making.

  • Examining Ruffed Grouse Drumming Log Position and Drumming Direction as it Relates to Home Range
  • Logan Cutler; Brady Roberts; Phillip Maguire; Catrina Johnson
    Ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) are an important game species throughout the Great Lakes region. Males perform a unique mating display called drumming, atop fallen logs to attract females and maintain their territory throughout the spring. Due to the cryptic nature of these dense woodland birds, they can be difficult to survey. One of the most common ways to do so is by using auditory drumming surveys, similar to point count surveys, during their mating season. Members of the UW-Stevens Point Ruffed Grouse Project have been conducting auditory drumming surveys in Northern Wisconsin since 2014. Information from these surveys were used to locate drumming logs. Mirror box traps were then placed on these logs to capture and collar male ruffed grouse. Home ranges were developed with triangulated telemetry locations and constructed in ArcGIS Pro. This study aims to examine the position of known drumming logs within these home ranges, and couple that with the orientation of drumming. With these two metrics, the breeding ecology of male ruffed grouse can be better understood, and more effective survey methods can be developed. Initial results show that most drumming logs were located within 10 meters of the edge of the home range. Additionally, most drumming faced out of the home range. Because of these results, ruffed grouse may use drumming logs as a territory marker, attracting outside females and discouraging other males from entering their territory.

  • The Effect of Urbanization on Roosting and Nesting Site Selection and Nesting Success of Black and Turkey Vultures in the Charlotte Metropolitan Area*
  • Hannah C. Partridge; Sara A. Gagne
    Land cover changes that result from increasing urbanization alter habitat types, structures, and resource availability on local and global scales. For vultures, urbanization may have both positive and negative impacts, with roadkill offering increased foraging opportunities and habitat loss and disturbance reducing roosting and nesting success. We examined how landscape and local features affect roosting and nesting success of black vultures (Coragyps atratus) and turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) in the Charlotte Metropolitan Area, predicting that roosting and nesting success will be greater at sites surrounded by higher road densities and more urban land use. We quantified the number of vultures at fifteen permanent roosting sites using monthly early-morning visual counts between November and March 2020 and measured nesting success at fifteen nests as clutch size, predated young, and the number of fledglings using biweekly visual checks between March and August 2020. At each roosting or nesting site, we quantified ground cover, surrounding vegetation, and canopy cover and measured land use and road density in surrounding landscapes. We tested for the effects of weather patterns and local and landscape features on roosting and nesting success using generalized linear models and multi-model inference. Roosting locations show great variability but are associated with little to no canopy cover (less than 25% cover) and high shrub presence (greater than 75% cover) at the base of the roost, perhaps to discourage disturbances such as human and predator activity. Consistently occupied roosts appear to be associated with low disturbance areas or hard to access structures while unstable roosts exhibit more disturbance potential. Final results of models examining the effects of local and landscape features on roosting and nesting success will be presented in order to better understand the associations of vultures within urban areas and to promote healthy relationships between humans and vultures.

  • Living Alongside Alligators: Investigating Human-Alligator Relationships in South Carolina Coastal Communities*
  • Colleen Goff; Alexis Greulich; Carissa Tice; Caitlyn Ward; Anjelika Kidd-Weaver; Catherine Bodinof Jachowski
    American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) are large, predatory reptiles that live in the southeastern United States. Where residential areas overlap alligator habitat, alligators and humans can become habituated to each other. While alligator attacks are rare, habituation increases the risk of injurious human-alligator interactions, especially when alligators associate humans with food. We sought to investigate trends in alligator behavior by evaluating the support for two hypotheses: 1) Alligators become less wary of humans as they grow. 2) Urbanization favors alligators that are less wary of humans. We conducted flight initiation distance (FID) surveys on alligators of various size classes in five residential communities of South Carolina. In this study, FID is defined as the minimal distance to an approaching human that an alligator will tolerate before fleeing. We used simple linear regression to assess the effects of urbanization level and alligator size class on alligator FID. The results failed to support our first hypothesis as flight distance did not vary by alligator size class. In support of our second hypothesis, flight distance decreased as the percentage of developed land use increased. These results suggest that, within our study areas, alligators living in more urban areas may be more habituated to humans than alligators living in less urban areas regardless of their size. These results will be used in future research to gain a better understanding of alligator behavior in residential areas and how to better manage urban alligator populations.

  • Investigating the Utility of Negative Conditioning for the Management of Alligators in Human-Dominated Landscapes*
  • Anjelika Kidd-Weaver; Catherine Bodinof Jachowski
    The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is a large, predatory reptile that is commonly sighted in residential landscapes throughout their range, especially in coastal island communities. Alligators in residential areas are often overly habituated to people, which leads to increasing concerns for negative human-alligator interactions. In this study, we are evaluating the efficacy of negative conditioning to increase alligator wariness of humans in human-dominated areas. We hypothesize that the alligator wariness towards humans will increase after experiencing capture-mark-release events. We are using a “before-after-control-impact” experimental design to compare alligator behavior between treatment (areas where capture-mark-release events occurred) and control areas (where alligators were not captured) at three study sites in coastal South Carolina. We assessed alligators’ wariness of humans in February 2020 (before treatment) and April (after treatment) using flight initiation distance (FID) surveys in which a human walked towards an alligator until it responded. We conducted treatment in March 2020, by capturing as many alligators as possible in areas assigned to the negative conditioning treatment. For alligators that were successfully captured, we restrained the alligator, recorded morphometric measurements, applied tags and permanent markers for later identification, and released the alligator at the site of capture. After data collection is completed in April, we will be assessing the difference in mean alligator FID of control and treatment areas in each study site. We predict mean alligator FID to be greater in treatment areas during “after” FID surveys compared to control areas and “before” surveys. In residential landscapes, capture-mark-release events are likely the closest to a near-death experience that alligators will ever experience. If our hypothesis is supported, communities could establish negative conditioning programs to manipulate alligator behavior and increase the safety of both residents and alligators in their communities.

  • Wiley Coyote: An Analysis of Boldness in Urban and Rural Environments*
  • Benjamin Scott Carr; Michel T. Kohl; Kaitlin Goode
    Coyotes (Canis latrans) are an intelligent, highly adaptive canine that are increasing their range throughout the US. This expansion has included both natural areas and urban landscapes. In the latter case, this has led to a dramatic increase in the frequency of coyote interactions with people. In some cases, these urban interactions can lead to significant public concerns. It has been hypothesized that the expansion of coyotes into urban landscapes may be due to their lack of fear established through the absence of human hunting that is normally encountered in more rural areas. Alternatively, it may be possible that coyotes found in urban landscapes may better adapt to new landscapes and objects. Thus, we have adopted an experimental protocol designed to evaluate behavioral differences between coyotes in rural and urban areas. This protocol assesses coyote behavior through 30 second recordings taken by game cameras at baited sites within rural (n = 30) and urban (n = 30) sites. Rural areas are distributed in areas surrounding Athens, GA, whereas urban sites are located within the Atlanta GA Metroplex. All sites are baited and left with an attractant for a three-week period. Half of all rural and urban sites include the construction of a novel object to test coyote behaviors in response to novel objects. We will evaluate both capture rate and general behaviors of coyotes as well as other species across study sites. We expect this information to provide a better understanding of urban coyote behavior, and thus, an increased capability to minimize conflict between humans and coyotes in an increasingly urbanized landscape.

  • Diet and Relative Abundance of Coyotes in the Urban Landscape of Washington, D.C.*
  • Justin Stacey; Scott Bates; Jennifer Mullinax
    In recent decades, coyotes, Canis latrans, have been newly dispersing to the East Coast of the United States. The presence of coyotes cause fear for both residents’ safety and safety of their pets, while also impacting the functioning of the ecosystem as a potential new top predator. In order to reduce this fear and measure any potential impacts, the Coyotes in D.C. Research Project by the University of Maryland, in conjunction with the National Park Service, is attempting to determine the relative abundance of coyotes in the Washington D.C. area. Although coyotes are known to be present in the greater metro D.C. area, little is known about the colonizing population and their diets or habits. To measure relative abundance and home ranges of this new population, we are collecting scat samples from Rock Creek Park(ROCR), one of the major parks in the D.C. area, along with several other surrounding locations. From November 2019 – August 2020, teams of volunteers surveyed six trails throughout ROCR suspected of having coyote activity and located 70 fecal samples. Citizen-science volunteers were instructed how to safely and properly collect and record all scat found on or near trails or search areas and place into a plastic bag with silica desiccant packages in order to reduce damage and contamination. Post-collection, the outer coating of scat samples was be scraped and sent to Towson University to genetically determine both individual ID and species of any prey consumed. At the University of Maryland, scat samples were further broken down and diet is being determined from remaining macro components. Information gleaned from our non-invasive scat sampling will lead to a relative abundance model for coyotes in the D.C. area while also providing a better understanding of coyote’s diets and habits in this newly habited landscape.

  • Measuring the Effects of Urbanization Compared to Human Behavior on Wildlife Species Occurence*
  • Brittney Palode; Dana J. Morin; Adam T. Rohnke; Kevin M. Hunt
    Urban features, altered habitat composition, and human behaviors can all impact wildlife occurrence and increase human-wildlife interactions, but the degree to which each are correlated or individually influence the occurrence of different species is still in question. Thus, it is not possible to know how changing human behavior or altering human-dominated landscapes might mitigate conflicts. To address this question, we are using camera traps at 60 sites within parks, cemeteries, golf courses, and green spaces in the Jackson, Mississippi metropolitan area over one month to record species occurrence. Following the Urban Wildlife Information Network (UWIN) protocol, two transects extend from the urban center of Jackson to outer suburban neighborhoods. At each camera site we are measuring habitat features and recording visual observations and proximity of potential food resources (natural and anthropogenic). In addition, we are surveying Animal Control and Nuisance Wildlife Control Officers to identify species and human behaviors that are commonly reported in human-wildlife conflict in Jackson. We are conducting human dimension surveys with residents and businesses within a 200m radius of each camera trap to quantify behaviors that may influence wildlife occurrence. We will extract landscape configuration covariates from existing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data to create covariates related to habitat configuration. We will use occupancy models and model selection criteria to compare the effects of landscape features, habitat configuration, and human behaviors on the occupancy of identified mammal species to assess how modifying human behaviors or urban landscapes could reduce human-wildlife conflict in Jackson. We expect to find that landscape configuration and urban features will most impact occurrence of specialist species, whereas generalists species and those that can avoid or tolerate humans will be most influenced by human behaviors that increase available resources.

  • White-Footed Mice Ecology and Impacts on Tick Treatment in Suburban, Maryland
  • Grace F. Hummell; Jennifer M. Mullinax
    White-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) are a known reservoir and host species for ticks and tick-borne diseases. Efficiency and effectiveness of baited tick treatment are important for controlling infectious disease transmission and spread via wildlife. Investigating mouse movements and home ranges can give insight regarding the use and efficiency of baited tick treatments. In three Howard County parks in Maryland, we used Sherman traps for live capture and Holohil BD-2XC Very High Frequency (VHF) collars for the tracking of mice. Parks were trapped 2-5 nights from April to October 2018-2019. There was a total of 110 telemetry nights and 136 mice tracked over the two years. Across all parks, there were 32,000 trapping events. Baited tick treatments (Select TCS Bait Box) were placed along the edge of the park property against 30 or more homeowner yards per park. In total, 166 bait boxes were deployed in the field. Home ranges and movements where calculate to determine the use of treatment. Mice total and core home range areas were calculated using Minimum Convex Polygons (MCP) and adaptive kernels. Within in home ranges, 33 bait boxes were found in total home ranges and 14 in the core home ranges. Home range centroid distance and distance from the edge of home range to bait boxes were also calculated as a measured parameter for future integrated pest management. Our findings indicate mice do use baited tick treatments, but density, territory, and placement of bait boxes all play a role in overall use in a population. We recommend placing bait boxes in a curvilinear transect or having treatments placed on the edge of properties as well as along the trails or the interior of the woods, thereby creating access to a larger portion of the mouse population in the area.

  • True Metabolizable Energy of Targeted and Unfavorable Seed Species in Waterfowl Management*
  • Matthew R. Williams; Heath M. Hagy; Joseph D. Lancaster; Joshua M. Osborn; Aaron P. Yetter; Auriel M.V. Fournier; Christopher N. Jacques
    True Metabolizable Energy (TME) is a measure of the assimilable energy (kcal) a food item provides a consumer and can be useful for wildlife managers to decide which plants to encourage/discourage when managing wetlands for waterfowl. The current availability of TME estimates limit the understanding of the impacts habitat management decisions have on the energetic carrying capacity of wetlands. Furthermore, TME values for specific food taxa may differ among waterfowl species and such differences are important for determining appropriate management strategies. Prior TME research prioritized food items most commonly found in waterfowl diets and mostly focused on a single waterfowl species, leaving a gap in information on moist-soil seeds considered undesirable or invasive by wetland managers. Therefore, we will estimate TME values of several moist-soil seeds considered by waterfowl managers as desirable (e.g. Polygonum lapathifolium, Cyperus erythrorhizos and Leptochloa panicoides) and several considered to be undesirable (e.g., Sesbania herbacea, Polygonum hydropiperoides, Sida spinosa) within wild-caught mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), northern pintail (A. acuta), green-winged teal (A. crecca) and blue-winged teal (Spatula discors). From December 2019 to March 2020, we completed 7 feeding trials using 4 seed and 3 duck species during the non-breeding period. Each 48-hour trial included 24 hours of fasting to clear the birds’ digestive tracts, precision feeding a known mass of a single food item, followed by a 24-hour period of excreta collection. Individual ducks were used in multiple trials with different seed species but were given a >14-day respite between trials. Our results will be used to support conservation planning models to refine waterfowl objectives stepped down from the North American Waterfowl Management Plan to better inform waterfowl conservation planners and wetland managers throughout the Mississippi Flyway of the United States.

  • Mallard Response to a Gradient of Experimental Disturbance on Waterfowl Refuges during Winter*
  • Abigail G. Blake-Bradshaw; Nicholas M. Masto; Cory J. Highway; Daniel L. Combs; Jamie C. Feddersen; Heath M. Hagy; Bradley S. Cohen
    Winter is an energetically and physically stressful time for animals and may be especially demanding for hunted species such as waterfowl. Waterfowl refuges are important management tools which provide forage and sanctuary for waterfowl during winter. Refuges are essential because anthropogenic disturbance from recreational activities may displace waterfowl from preferred foraging areas, reduce daily foraging time, and modify diurnal behavior. Waterfowl increase refuge use during hunting periods likely due to limited disturbance and provision of food resources. However, increased refuge use may result in pressure from the public and other stakeholders to offer access to refuges for hunting or other activities (e.g., birding, photography). Despite seasonal closures of refuges to the public, empirical evidence quantifying waterfowl responses to a gradient of disturbance regimes and subsequent implications on individual fitness is lacking and may have greater population-level consequences than is currently understood. To determine the impact of disturbance on waterfowl movements, space use, and site fidelity, we will assess mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) responses to a gradient of experimentally induced disturbance on state and federal refuges in west Tennessee. During winter 2019-2020, we captured 120 mallards on refuges and fitted them with GPS/GSM solar rechargeable transmitters. We simulated distinct disturbance treatments which represent activities that potentially occur on waterfowl refuges including 1) waterfowl surveys from a vehicle, 2) bird watching while walking, and 3) hunting in planted corn or wooded areas. We will assess mallard behaviors before and after experiencing disturbance. Specifically, we will examine shifts in mallard resource selection and determine whether changes in selection are associated with survival. This research will provide insight into direct and indirect effects of disturbance on wintering waterfowl and further inform acceptable levels of disturbance for state and federal refuges to better meet the needs of waterfowl and people.

  • Depletion Rates of Flooded, Unharvested Corn in Western Tennessee*
  • Cory J. Highway; Abigail G. Blake-Bradshaw; Nicholas M. Masto; Jamie C. Feddersen; Heath M. Hagy; Daniel L. Combs; Bradley S. Cohen
    Management of wintering areas for non-breeding waterfowl necessitates provision of forage to meet the energetic demands associated with recovering from autumn migration, maintaining body condition during winter, and preparing for spring migration. Wetland managers are often tasked with providing energy-rich foods and making them available for waterfowl during the winter. Some waterfowl species such as the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), readily forage on available agricultural seeds to meet their energy requirements. Thus, calorie-dense agricultural seeds readily consumed by waterfowl such as corn (Zea mays), grain sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), millet (Echinochloa spp.), and soybeans (Glycine max), are often planted by wetland managers to supplement waterfowl diets and meet energetic demands of wintering waterfowl. In western Tennessee, flooding unharvested corn is a popular management tool used by hunters and wildlife managers to attract and provide energy for waterfowl. However, the degree of utilization and depletion of flooded, unharvested corn by waterfowl during winter is relatively unknown. We measured corn depletion by repeatedly surveying 30 flooded, unharvested corn fields at two-week intervals throughout the winter (October-February), to estimate and determine the factors influencing depletion of flooded, unharvested corn. We will develop a model for depletion of flooded, unharvested corn to help estimate carrying capacity for waterfowl and better understand the movements of mallards in relation to food resources in the region. Likewise, our estimates of factors influencing depletion rate of flooded, unharvested corn will allow wetland managers to plan spatial and temporal distribution of this resource to ensure availability across the wintering period.

  • Environmental and Anthropgenic Drivers of Mallard Resource Selection during the Non-Breeding Period*
  • Nicholas M. Masto; Abby Blake-Bradshaw; Cory Highway; Jamie C. Feddersen; Heath M. Hagy; Dan L. Combs; Bradley S. Cohen
    Effective conservation of highly mobile species requires understanding the exogenous and endogenous factors governing habitat selection at multiple spatiotemporal scales. For waterfowl, much research has focused on habitat requirements on the breeding grounds. Holistic approaches have more recently come to vogue wherein migratory and winter habitats also are recognized as important components to waterfowl survival, reproduction, and recruitment (i.e., cross-seasonal effects). However, these life-history stages and their potential influence on population dynamics remain understudied. Further, waterfowl encounter stressful environmental and anthropogenic conditions during non-breeding periods which may alter behavioral patterns and subsequent fitness. Thus, quantifying variation in movement, spatiotemporal resource selection, and other factors mediating these behaviors during non-breeding periods will inform managers of behavioral trade-offs made by waterfowl and optimal management strategies during vulnerable periods of their annual cycle. New GPS tracking technology allows researchers to monitor avian movement at great spatial extents which should provide more complete portrayals of life-history strategies during non-breeding periods (i.e., autumn-spring migration). Thus, we will 1) compare winter and migration strategies of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) within and among years using GPS-GSM solar rechargeable transmitters (n = 360) and 2) investigate their decision-making relative to energetic, environmental, and anthropogenic covariates across non-breeding periods. During the first year of our study, we deployed 120 transmitters between November 2019-January 2020. Mallards used state and federal waterfowl sanctuaries extensively during winter. Currently, 65% of individuals have begun migration with average departure on 14 March 2020. In general, stopover duration was short and concentrated within the Upper Mississippi River floodplain and Illinois River Valley. We will quantify movements, range sizes, and resource selection during migration and assess regional and site-specific philopatric behavior. We expect results to provide a thorough depiction of non-breeding mallard ecology at spatial scales relevant to resource management agencies.

  • Body Condition of Late-Winter Female Mallards in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley*
  • Katharine N. Cody
    Body condition is often used by ecologists to assess the health of an organism or population and to make inferences about the survival and breeding success of a species. Indices derived from morphological measurements or direct measures of total carcass lipids are used to evaluate body condition. However, these indices are often not applicable across populations or different species. Our study aimed to create a non-lethal index of body condition for late-winter female Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley using morphometric measurements and total carcass lipids. During the 2019-2020 hunting season, we collected nine measurements found in published indices of body condition from 27 randomly collected female mallards. To create our index, we evaluated these measurements against total lipid content, derived from sample carcasses using proximate analysis, in a backwards stepwise regression. We determined that a model containing girth, body length, total tarsus, and flattened wing measurements was most effective in predicting total grams of lipids for female Mallards in Arkansas (R2 = 0.61). This model was then applied to female Mallards (n = 432) captured during February banding operations across Arkansas and Mississippi. On average, total lipid content of late-winter female Mallards was 14.32% (37.25g) less than that of early-winter females (Oct-Dec). The condition of Mallards on the wintering grounds may have substantial cross-over effects on breeding propensity or success; having a better understanding of this impact is crucial for future science-based harvest and habitat management decisions.

  • Interior Population Trumpeter Swan Migration Ecology and Conservation*
  • David W. Wolfson; Randall Knapik; John Fieberg; David Andersen
    Interior Population (IP) trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) currently breed throughout most of the western Great Lakes region and have recently increased dramatically in abundance and distribution following multiple reintroduction efforts starting in the 1960s. However, beyond rough estimates of population trends and distribution, there is relatively little recent information about their ecology, migratory patterns, and genetic structure, hindering conservation decision-making. To address current information needs, we are marking trumpeter swans with GPS-GSM transmitters to evaluate annual movement and habitat-selection patterns, migration pathways, and whether individuals perform molt migrations. We are also collecting blood samples from all captured swans to quantify lead concentrations in swans across the IP breeding range and perform genomic analyses using ddRAD-seq, a high throughput sequencing technique. We banded 19 adult trumpeter swans in Minnesota (n = 7) and Michigan (n = 12) during the summer of 2019 and plan to deploy another 86 GPS-GSM collars during 2020 in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and Manitoba. Visualizations of collared swan movements and annual reports are available at Our project will help guide management of trumpeter swans throughout the IP by providing information about migration, year-round movements, and habitat selection while using blood to evaluate potential sub-lethal effects of lead ingestion, measure genetic diversity, gene flow, and genetic differentiation from source populations to reintroduced trumpeter swans within the IP.

  • Using Citizen Science Data to Validate Habitat Suitability Assumptions in Waterfowl Conservation Planning
  • Drew N. Fowler; Jessica A. Jaworski; Matthew D. Palumbo
    Determining the spatial distribution and density of a species is an important component of conservation planning. Further, understanding the landscape habitat characteristics that influence species occurrence and density aide in more informative modeling to guide planners. In the case where empirical species occurrence data are lacking, distribution models are based on assumptions of site occupancy provided that certain habitat features are available at a location. In these cases, the accuracy of spatial distribution is dependent on the ability of pre-specified habitat features to correctly predict species occupancy. For species that are seasonally present in a landscape, like migratory waterfowl, predicting spatially explicit occupancy using habitat features has historically been challenging because of limited spatially extent of available data. Our goal was to use citizen science collected data (eBird) to model Ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris) spatial distribution and occupancy in Wisconsin during spring migration and the summer breeding period to validate existing assumptions of habitat suitability characteristics established by the Upper Mississippi River / Great Lakes Joint Venture (UMRGL JV). We followed established best practices for using eBird data and filtered observations from complete checklists across Wisconsin from March through April (spring) and May through August 15th (summer) of 2009-2019. We established a 2.5 km by 2.5 km buffer around each unique checklist location and calculated the proportion of the landscape of each distinct land cover type using National Wetland Inventory polygons and a state specific landcover database (WISCLAND 2). We used landscape covariates as well as variables to describe observer effort to model encounter rate and site occupancy during the two distinct seasons. Lastly, we compare our models to distribution and abundance models of Ring-necked ducks recently derived in the Wisconsin Waterfowl Habitat Conservation Strategy that relied on habitat suitability assumptions established by conservation planners.

  • Mallard Body Condition and Duck Energy Days: Are They Related*
  • John T. Veon; Brett A. DeGregorio; David G. Krementz
    Long-distance migrations exert enormous stresses upon wildlife. Individuals attempting such feats without adequate resources may not survive. North American waterfowl face the unique challenge of needing to maintain their body mass during an environmentally difficult time. We are currently analyzing body mass trends in relation to land management from mallards sampled throughout the Lower Mississippi Valley of Arkansas over the next two duck seasons (2019-2020 and 2020-2021). I am working with hunters, hunting clubs, and plucking stations to sample hunter-killed mallards. For each bird, I measure the wing length (mm) using an ornithological ruler, measure the body mass using a digital scale, and sex and age the birds by observing morphological features in plumage. I plan to calculate a Body Condition Index (BCI) by using the residuals from a mass by wing length linear regression. Because previous research suggests that mallards forage up to 30 km in one day, I will use GIS to delineate a circular buffer with a 30 km radius around where each mallard was harvested and calculate the proportion of each buffer comprised of land managed for waterfowl, natural areas, and anthropogenically modified land. I will use a multiple regression analysis to explore correlations between mallard body mass and BCI with various land cover proportions. We hypothesize that mallards harvested within or near waterfowl management areas will have a higher BCI than those harvested far from managed land. Although field collection is currently underway, I plan to present the findings from the 2019-2020 Arkansas duck season.

  • An Assessment of Factors Influencing Nest Survival of Emperor Geese on Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska*
  • Jordan Thompson; Benjamin Sedinger; Bryan Daniels
    Emperor geese (Anser canagicus) are a unique marine species endemic to coastal Alaska and Russia. Following significant population declines, both subsistence and sport harvest of emperor geese in Alaska were closed in the mid 1980’s. After a gradual population increase spanning 30 years, subsistence and limited sport harvest were reopened in 2017. To ensure the population remains at a harvestable level, it is important to understand drivers of variability in vital rates that may limit their population growth rate, including reproduction. Nest survival is an important component of reproduction in waterfowl and is primarily driven by predation in emperor geese. A variety of factors may influence nest survival of emperor geese by increasing or decreasing vulnerability of their nests to predation. The objectives of this study are to estimate nest survival rates of emperor geese on Kigigak Island within Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, evaluate factors that influence their nest survival, and compare contemporary nest survival estimates to historic estimates to examine potential long-term shifts in nest survival. To address these objectives, emperor goose nests on Kigigak Island have been monitored from 2017-2019 and will be monitored in 2021. We will use these data to develop models to estimate daily nest survival rates and evaluate the influence of nesting phenology, nest site characteristics, climate, and observer visits on daily nest survival. Preliminary results will be reported. Results from this study will help elucidate factors driving variability in nest survival rates of emperor geese and identify management actions to increase population growth rates and maintain the population at a harvestable level.

  • Occupancy of Semi-Aquatic Mammals in An Urban Landscape
  • Devin M. Hoffer
    Throughout midwestern North American ecosystems, semi-aquatic mammals including beaver (Castor canadensis), mink (Neovision vision), muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), and river otter (Lontra canadensis) co-exist in wetlands. These species are ecologically important through their manipulation of habitats and interactions with other species. The Lake County (Illinois) Forest Preserve District is actively restoring forest preserves using several restoration practices and is interested in how these efforts may affect semi-aquatic mammal occupancy. However, research on this topic is uncommon in the literature. We studied impacts of restoration practices (i.e., prescribed burns, chemical and mechanical invasive species removal, and reforestation) on occupancy of the 4 aforementioned focal species. Sign surveys (i.e. tracks, scat, evidence of foraging, lodging) were conducted during December-April 2018-2020 to quantify occupancy at 49 sites. River otter were detected at 10% of our sites, but detections were too few for modeling. Muskrat occupancy (0.90) was not influenced by any habitat variables measured. Beavers (occupancy=0.53) occupied wider channels with less submerged vegetation because these areas flood more, thereby providing additional aquatic habitat. Mink (occupancy=0.43) utilized wider rivers more than ponds, likely due to a greater amount of aquatic and terrestrial prey found in the former. Occupancy rates for mink were greater when (1) stream density was high, likely due to increased prey densities, and (2) road presence was low, because of increased edge habitat to safely hunt prey while minimizing vehicle-related mortality. Although no species were affected by restoration practices, wildlife managers can use the information from our study to focus future restoration efforts on forest preserves where semi-aquatic mammal occupancy was low.

  • Mapping Wetland Inundation Extent in Illinois*
  • John O’Connell; Michael Eichholz; Abigail Blake-Bradshaw; Heath Hagy
    Managing wetlands to meet habitat requirements for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, and marshbirds requires reliable estimates of temporal and spatial variation in the extent of wetland inundation, but the commonly used National Wetland Inventory (NWI) is temporally static. One approach that could allow us to model estimates of wetland inundation relative to NWI spatial classifications is to utilize ground surveys and readily available GIS data. We surveyed ~6,000 ha of NWI wetlands across Illinois for inundation by surface water in each of three years (2015-2017). The extent of wetland inundation varied greatly across sites, within survey periods, and among survey periods, but in general, a substantial portion of the wetlands were not inundated. Average overall inundation was highest during the shorebird northward migration and marshbird nesting season (59.2 ± 5.3% s.e.; May-June), lower during the waterfowl northward migration (50.1 ± 1.5%; mid-February-April), and lowest during the shorebird southward migration (41.3 ± 2.1%; August-September). The proportional coverage of NWI areas classified as mud (i.e. saturated soils) was lower during shorebird northward migration than during their southward migration (1.2 and 1.9%, respectively). These results underscore the potential for substantial overestimation of availability for the focal species when availability is based on the NWI alone, and emphasize the need for spatiotemporally explicit estimators. We are currently using the survey data to develop and test multiple machine-learning algorithms for their efficacy in predicting inundation of NWI wetlands with the goal of mapping estimated inundation statewide at monthly time steps. The resulting models will be useful for estimating the maximum amount of wetland habitat within NWI wetlands in Illinois that is available for focal bird groups during the periods when they need those habitats.

  • Investigating the Impacts of Anthropogenic Landscapes on Nest Predation in Bog Turtle Wetlands
  • Michael T. Holden; Nicholas M. Caruso; Emmanuel A. Frimpong; Carola A. Haas
    Bog Turtles (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) are a small, endangered species facing a range of threats. At some sites within parts of their range, only older adult turtles have been captured with no evidence of recruitment for at least a decade, indicative of a decline in population. Low recruitment could be due to a number of factors, such as high rates of egg predation by anthropogenically-subsidized mesopredators. Mesopredators have been found to persist in higher than normal densities in relation to human activity due to food subsidies such as bird seed, cat food, and refuse material. Additionally, these animals are known to depredate a wide variety of nests. Therefore, we hypothesized that as density of development increases, nests would be predated faster and more often. In order to test our hypotheses, we deployed artificial G. muhlenebergii nests in two counties in southwest Virginia across a developmental gradient, in 20 wetlands which contained apparently suitable habitat but were not known to be occupied. The results of our study indicate that there is a large amount of variation in the timing of predation events, the proportion of nests predated between wetlands, and the species of predators across study sites. We found that rates and timing of predation events were influenced by anthropogenic density as a function of proximity to roads and density of humans in the surrounding area. These results indicate that wetland nest predation may be anthropogenically influenced, which could be important for managers whose goals include the protection of nests and increased recruitment.

  • How Do Wetland Birds Respond to Habitat Variables Associated with Wetland Restoration? An Evaluation of Wetland Reserve Program Easements in Western Kentucky and Tennessee*
  • David Hicks; Jon Podoliak; Lisa Webb
    The Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) enrolls private lands in conservation easements and seeks to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program. Restoration activities on WRP sites often focus on improving wildlife habitat that supports hunted species such as migratory waterfowl but it is uncertain how restoration methods affect non-game waterbird communities (Charadriiformes, Gruiformes, Ciconiiformes, and Podicipediformes). As waterfowl hunter numbers decline, conservation focused on providing the greatest wetland functions and values may need to focus on non-game species as well. Our objective was to assess how waterfowl and non-game waterbird richness and abundance are related to the water depth, vegetative cover, and vegetation species composition on WRP easements in western Tennessee and Kentucky. We sampled avian communities and habitat variables in four distinct habitat types; remnant forests, tree plantings, natural woody regeneration, and constructed shallow water areas (SWA), on 37 study sites to assess seasonal responses of avifauna to habitat variables. Data from the first two sampling rounds (collected in October 2019 and February 2020) indicate that mean waterfowl richness on sites was 1.36 (±1.45) and mean waterbird richness was 0.26 (±.059). Mean abundances of waterfowl and waterbirds were 10.44 (±16.07) and 0.40 (±0.93) respectively. Water depth was positively associated with both waterfowl species richness (F = 9.109, R2 =.114, P=.004) and abundance (F = 1.977, R2=.02, P = .17). Waterbird abundance was positively associated with percent submersed plant cover (F = 4.44, R2 = .08, P = .04) while waterbird richness was negatively associated with percent vegetative coverage (F = 1.959, R2 = .015, P = .167). Data collection is ongoing and planned through spring 2021. Evaluation of wetland bird responses to habitat variables on WRP easements may serve to inform future wetland restoration activities.

  • Carnivore Dynamics Within the Scavenging Community Across the Central Appalachian Mountains, Virginia*
  • Darby McPhail; Robert Alonso; David McNitt; Brogan Holcombe; David Lugo; Marcella J. Kelly
    Scavenging on carrion by wildlife has ecosystem level effects, both abiotically through nutrient cycling processes and biotically through impacting population dynamics, yet there are relatively few studies on scavenging ecology, even for large predators. For example, we lack information on which predator species facultatively scavenge, and on predator behavior at carcasses. As part of the Virginia Appalachian Carnivore Study, we investigated scavenging behavior and dynamics of the three largest predators (Lynx rufus, Ursus americanus, and Canis latrans) in the Central Appalachian Mountains. From 2017 to 2020, we set up remote cameras at 60 sites directed towards deer (Odocoileus viginianus) carcasses that we obtained from vehicle collisions. Carcass sites were distributed opportunistically across all seasons a minimum of 10 km apart to avoid multiple carcasses within a single animal’s home range in one particular season. We analyzed species presence, latency to detection of the carcass, order of scavenging, time spent foraging, and examined dominance amongst guild members both when bears are present and absent (i.e. during hibernation). We found that all three top predators, and multiple small predators, found and scavenged on carcasses. From May- December, black bears were most frequently the first to find the carcasses when found by all three species, bobcats remained in the carcass vicinity the longest, while coyotes found more of the carcasses but appeared to exhibit brief yet frequent visits. From January-April, bobcats and coyotes were equally the first to find carcasses, but took longer to find them, and exhibited similar eating strategies as shown from May-December. We also found multiple carnivores feeding simultaneously with the exception of bears, which always fed alone. This preliminary analysis will aid in future research on mammalian predator scavenging ecology within multifaceted carnivore communities.

  • Development of a Cost-Effective, Versatile Feral Pig Trap
  • Anthony DeNicola
    Feral pigs (Sus scrofa) have become a serious threat to ecological systems and pose risks to agricultural activities and livestock health throughout the world. The successful control of any invasive species requires a removal method that places a very high percentage of the target population at risk. The continued proliferation of feral pig populations within the United States shows that current control efforts and methods have failed in this regard. Current feral pig trapping strategies focus heavily on “smart” corral traps constructed from materials such as welded fence panels and steel tubing. While these traps are effective, they have significant limitations that prohibit their ability to provide landscape-scale control. These limitations include; 1) high up-front purchase prices, 2) substantial labor costs for setup, trap management, and relocation, 3) challenging transportation logistics (i.e., trucks and trailers), and 4) impractical siting needs (i.e., must be situated on relatively even terrain, and require access to a cellular network). Therefore, it is unlikely that this trap configuration will be widely distributed and gain enough market penetration to endanger a high enough percentage of pigs across their range to effect meaningful control. A new trapping strategy is needed that fits the following criteria; 1) simplified, 2) adaptable, 3) efficient, and 4) cost-effective. Our objectives were to 1) increase feral pig trapping capacity of landowners by increasing the number of pig traps on the landscape and in areas where current smart traps are technologically limited, 2) decrease the labor and equipment required to tend traps, and 3) reduced trap costs. We have developed a feral pig trapping system that fits all of the above criteria.

  • Holey Voley: Cover Crop Modification and the Impact on Vole and Small Mammal Population Dynamics
  • Jena Nierman; Matthew Springer; John Cox; Wendy Leuenberger; Allison G. Davis
    Crop damage by wildlife is an ongoing issue in all types of agricultural fields. Rodents, specifically voles, cause a significant amount of damage within these systems. Cover crops are an agricultural practice that has increased in occurrence and acreage over the last several decades due to soil erosion prevention, soil improvement, and wildlife habitat benefits they provide. Vole populations have flourished within cover crops due to the quality of habitat provided in a transitional period of the year when traditional habitat quality is low. This creation of habitat has translated to issues with crop loss and establishment issues for grain producers across the Midwest. Currently, there are no effective or approved rodenticides to control vole population within agricultural fields which means an integrated management system will be needed to achieve some level of control. During the 2019 and 2020 growing seasons, we tested the impacts of various cover crop termination timings on small mammal population dynamics. Specifically, within 4 fields during each year, we estimated the response of small mammal population parameters within 1-acre treatment grids to 3 different cover crop herbicide treatments relative to soybean planting date (4 weeks, 2 weeks, and just prior to planting) with the goal of decreasing suitable habitat prior to planting. Results from the first field seasons showed similar survival rates for Peromyscus spp. across the monitored pre-and post-planting seasons. During pre-planting season Peromyscus had a monthly survival rate of 0.8 and 0.9 post-planting. Fields without voles also lacked any soybean damage despite having large populations of Peromyscus spp., providing evidence that this is a vole related problem. Outcomes of this project could provide farmers a management solution for a growing vole damage issue while maintaining the benefits of cover crops within the agricultural system. Results from both seasons will be presented.

  • Quantifying Wild Pig Damage at Different Crop Growth Stages with Remote Sensing Techniques
  • Lori Massey; Bethany Friesenhahn; Randy W. DeYoung; Humberto L. Perotto-Baldivieso; Justin Fischer; Nathan P. Snow; Kurt C. VerCauteren
    Feral Swine (Sus scrofa) were first introduced into Texas as livestock over 300 years ago by Spanish explorers. Later, other captive and wild stocks, including “Russian boars” were introduced for trophy and recreational purposes. Over time, swine were released or escaped fenced properties and became feral, leading to a rapid spread and population growth. Feral swine are presently classified as an exotic, invasive species because they cause major damage to properties, cropland, livestock, and native species and ecosystems. All told, feral swine cost the U.S. around $1.5 billion each year in damage and control costs. In this study, we compared different methods for monitoring feral swine damage in corn fields. From April 1-August 28, 2019, we flew 5 drone missions at an altitude of 100 m, and captured imagery during different stages of corn growth: planting/seed stage, vegetative stage, blister stage, milk stage, and harvest. To verify damage detected through drone flights, we ground-truthed sites by walking transects and recorded damage using a sub-meter GPS unit. Finally, we evaluated a machine-learning algorithm that uses multiple layers to progressively extract higher-level features from remotely sensed imagery. We will compare damage detected via drone imagery and ground transects to the outputs of machine learning. Our objective is to find a practical means for the detection and monitoring of crop damage at a larger scale, with the ultimate goal of patterning damage temporally to assist in more efficient control efforts to protect crops.

  • Emerging Viral Diseases in At-Risk Populations of Felids and Ungulates*
  • Natalie R. Payne; Melanie Culver; Koenraad Van Doorslaer
    Introduction: Sonoran felids (bobcats (Lynx rufus), pumas (Puma concolor), jaguars (Panthera onca), and ocelots (Leopardus pardalis)) and ungulates, including the Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis), may be threatened by the emergence of new viruses associated with climate change and habitat encroachment. The ocelot, jaguar, and pronghorn are endangered in the region and likely to be at increased risk of susceptibility to emerging diseases due to decreased genetic variation. Additionally, individuals from the recovering Florida panther population have recently been observed presenting with a neuromuscular disorder (feline leukomyelopathy) of unknown cause. Objectives: The objectives of this study are to integrate population genomics and viromics for the Florida panther and five Sonoran species: puma, bobcat, ocelot, jaguar, and pronghorn. Additionally, novel viruses and viruses most likely to pose threats to population viability from disease outbreaks will be identified. Identification of potential viral etiologic agents of feline leukomyelopathy will also be attempted. Methods: Population structure and connectivity, genetic diversity, and inbreeding will be determined through ddRAD-Seq, and viromes will be characterized using a metagenomic approach. Paired samples (scat with buccal swabs or muscle tissue) will be used to assess the reliability of using scat samples to identify viruses for which species of interest, rather than prey items, are the hosts. Results: Viromic and phylogenetic analyses of viral DNA sequences from puma and bobcat scats from Mexico suggest the presence of a novel circovirus in these populations. Conclusions: The novel circovirus may represent the first known feline circovirus, although further comparisons between sample types are required to resolve if the viral host is felid. Circoviruses are known to cause life-threatening illness in other mammals, so these results may have important implications for Sonoran felid health. These findings may inform management decisions to supplement populations by translocation and take preventative measures, such as vaccine administration.

  • Interspecific Oral Rabies Vaccine Bait Competition in the Southeast United States
  • Wesley Cole Dixon
    The epizootic of rabies in raccoons (Procyon lotor) and its public health impacts during the 1980’s in the Eastern U.S. sparked an interest in controlling the disease at the landscape scale with oral rabies vaccination (ORV). By 2005, the USDA had implemented a cooperative raccoon rabies control program using ORV to establish a strategic vaccination zone targeting raccoons to prevent the spread of raccoon rabies west of the Appalachians. This program successfully contained the spread of the epizootic and the current management objective is to eliminate raccoon rabies from the United States. However, consumption of vaccine baits by non-target species can reduce bait availability for raccoons reducing the number of animals vaccinated and the effectiveness of the ORV program. Previous studies in the Midwest have revealed that Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) are a major bait competitor in agricultural landscapes. Additional information on interspecific ORV bait competition in the Southeastern United States is warranted to improve science-based decision making relative to vaccine bait distribution. To characterize the community of species competing with raccoons for ORV baits, we constructed twelve grids each containing twelve motion-sensing cameras during August to December 2019 in two forest types along the Savannah River near Aiken, South Carolina. The cameras were baited with placebo ORV baits and images were analyzed to identify all species consuming baits. Based on 21,600 camera nights of data, our results revealed a diverse community of bait competitors including wild pig (Sus scrofa), grey fox (Urocyan cineroargenteus), coyote (Canis latrans) and Virginia opossum. More unexpectedly was the impact of invertebrates on bait consumption. Specifically, we found in some bottomland hardwood grids fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) were responsible for over 90% of baits consumed. We discuss the implications of non-target bait competition on rabies control and elimination of raccoon rabies in the Southeastern US.

  • Examining Relationships between Testosterone and Parasite Loads in Southern Flying Squirrels*
  • Katherine Rexroad; Dr. Christopher Jacques; Seán Jenkins
    Male biased parasitism is attributed to differences in body size, space use, or hormone levels. Hormone levels may influence parasite loads, and impact long-term fitness of wildlife. Unique aspects of flying squirrel ecology in our study region, such as, female biased size dimorphism and lack of intersexual differences in space use, makes them good model organisms to study the effects of hormones on immunity. Therefore, we predicted that immunosuppressive effects of testosterone may contribute to increased parasite loads in male SFS. During spring 2019, we captured and collected fecal samples from 32 SFS in western Illinois. We quantified testosterone using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Parasites were counted and identified using a fecal sedimentation technique and microscopy. Thirty-one of 32 SFS were infected with ≥1 species of endoparasites, including coccidia (n=28), Strongyloides robustus (n= 21), and pinworms (n=11). Our analyses revealed no differences in parasite loads (W = 114, P> 0.9) between male (x̄= 60, SE = 35) and female (x̄ = 62, SE = 23) SFS. Similarly, we did not find a relationship between testosterone levels and parasite loads (F (1,15)= 0.39, P = 0.54, R2 = 0.04). To date, our results do not directly support the hypothesis that testosterone is immunosuppressive in SFS inhabiting fragmented Midwestern landscapes, though previous investigations suggest potential associations between space use and parasite infection in relation to habitat fragmentation. Thus, continued testing of potential effects of testosterone on SFS parasite loads may provide greater insight into the synergistic interactions of hormones and endoparasites of SFS, which may aid in future conservation of SFS in fragmented habitats.

  • Pathogens in Domestic Dogs of the Matsigenkas Communities of the Manu National Park, Peru
  • Miryam Jeanette Quevedo Urday; Jesus Christian Onofre Lescano Gomez
    Manu National Park (MNP) is an Amazonian Protected Natural Area located in Madre de Dios region, Peru. Park buffer zones have intermixtures among humans, domestic animals, and wildlife, a rich environment for exchanging pathogens. This study aimed to assess the exposure of domestic dogs to the following zoonotic agents: Leptospira spp., Dirofilaria immitis, Ehrlichia canis, and Anaplasma phagocitophylum. Samples were collected from all dogs (N=26) kept at three Matsigenka native communities within MNP. Microagglutination test (MAT) was used for detecting antibodies against nine serogroups of Leptospira spp., whereas all other agents were diagnosed using a commercial ELISA test. Seropositive frequency (and 95% CI) was calculated for each agent. Moreover, association between seropositive frequency and the community of origin was evaluated using the Fisher Exact test (α=0.05). Antibodies against at least one of the assessed Leptospira serogroups were detected in 92.3% (24/26; 95%CI 75.9 – 97.9%). All evaluated serogroups (9/9) were found in at least one sample. Tayakome and Yomibato communities presented the highest frequencies (100%) of antibodies against Leptospira spp. The most frequently detected serogroups were Canicola (65.4%), Tarassovi (61.5%), and Georgia (53.8%). A significant association (p<0.05) was found between the frequency of seropositive dogs and the community. D. immitis antigen was detected in 53.8% (14/26; 95% CI 35.5 – 71.3%) of evaluated samples. Frequencies of seropositive dogs were 83%, 40%, and 22% for the communities of Tayakome, Maizal, and Yomibato, respectively. A significant association (p<0.05) between seropositivity and the community was observed. These results suggest native communities living at MNP might be exposed to some infectious agents which should be considered within public health programs focused on this population.

  • Fad Diets: Does Forage Quality Affect the Ability of Bighorn Sheep to Tolerate Pathogens?*
  • Brittany Lyn Wagler; Rachel Smiley; Hank Edwards; Gregory Anderson; Daryl Lutz; Alyson Courtemanch; Gary Fralick; Doug McWhirter; Tony W. Mong; Corey Class; Leah Yandow; Patrick Hnilicka; Cynthia Downs; Kevin Monteith
    Wildlife diseases are a conservation concern across the globe, whether it be chronic wasting disease in cervids, chytrid fungus in amphibians, or pneumonia in mountain sheep. Since the 1900s, many wild sheep populations have experienced extirpations and massive dieoffs, largely because of the spread of bacterial pathogens associated with pneumonia. The frequency and intensity of dieoffs, however, are inconsistent across populations and therefore, likely are dependent upon ecological or environmental conditions—the understanding of which could yield management alternatives to help reduce the frequency of outbreaks. An animal’s immune system is its greatest defense against disease, however vigorous immune function comes at a high cost. There is an increasing body of literature that examines the energetic tradeoffs of immune response and reproduction across taxa and the amplitude of these tradeoffs likely are dependent on available resources. We hypothesize that available resource quality affects disease susceptibility by mediating the tradeoffs associated with immune function and reproduction. In our ongoing research, we are comparing two populations of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) in northwest Wyoming that are undergoing divergent population dynamics, although they are infected with the same bacterial pathogens. The Whiskey herd is struggling to recover from a pneumonia outbreak and appears to be nutritionally limited on their summer range, while the Jackson herd has recovered from two recent outbreaks and appears to have a more robust summer range, warranting further investigation into summer habitat quality. We plan to measure forage quality and quantity, diet composition, reproduction, infection status, and immune function of ewes through a longitudinal study from 2019 – 2021. Identifying how disease and environmental factors interact to influence population dynamics may hold promise to improving our understanding of pneumonia, and developing options for mountain sheep conservation in the presence of disease.

  • Sounders of Alarm: The Role of Feral Swine in the Eco-Epidemiology of Tick-Borne Diseases in the Southeastern United States
  • Brent Clayton Newman
    Feral swine (Sus scrofa) occur in 38 US states with an estimated population size of at least 6 million individuals. As an invasive alien species, they pose a significant threat to native ecological communities, agriculture, and veterinary public health. However, their role as hosts for hematophagous arthropods and circulating of arboviral diseases in the United States is not well understood. Therefore, we collected ticks (Ixodidae) from 54 hunter-killed feral swine from May through August 2016-2019 in the William B. Bankhead National Forest, Alabama, US. Our objectives were to identify tick-feral swine host association(s) and determine presence of tick-borne pathogens in ticks obtained from feral swine via molecular assays. A total of 885 ticks representing three species were collected: 626 adult (268 female and 358 male), 141 nymph Lone star (Amblyomma americanum), 101 adult (35 female and 66 male) American dog (Dermacentor variabilis), and 17 adult (7 female and 10 male) Gulf Coast (Amblyomma maculatum) ticks. Pathogen testing of ticks confirmed the presence of Ehrlichia chaffeensis in ~12% and 7% of adult and nymph lone star ticks, respectively, and ~6% and 17% of adult American dog and Gulf Coast ticks, respectively. Rickettsia species was detected from all 3 species at both nymph and adult life stage. All ticks were RT-PCR negative for Heartland Virus. Our results indicate that invasive feral swine not only support three endemic tick species but also may serve as reservoir and/or amplifying host for multiple tick-borne pathogens of veterinary public health concern in the southeastern United States.

  • Is High Prevalence Attributed to Seasonal Variance or Is This the New Normal
  • Matthew T. Milholland
    Lyme Borreliosis (LB) became a reportable zoonosis in 1979. Since that time, LB has become the most dominant vector-borne disease in the United States. Each year over 30,000 cases are reported. Knowing the influence of pathogen persistence across seasons can be influential estimating prevalence. Prevalence is often described as the proportion of infected samples within the context of the assemblage. This can be problematic when dissimilar sample sizes over-inflate true prevalence. We conducted a meta-analysis of 10 papers with LB surveillance focused in Maryland. We then compared our recent field surveys. Using Bayesian approaches, we quantified changes is landscape prevalence over time. This relationship is like incidence, which is the number of infections over time. Our data suggest an increasing trend in Lyme incidence over time, where LB in host populations is in persistent circulation throughout much of the year.

  • Impact of Gastrointestinal Parasites on Gut-Hormone-Immune Relationships in Wild Howler Monkeys*
  • Kathryn M. Benavidez; Michael D. Wasserman
    Humans and nonhuman animals are hosts to a wide range of microorganisms which correspond to aspects of physiology, ancestry, and ontogeny. Highly diverse gut microbial communities provide physiological benefits, such as aiding in digestion and reduced risk of gastrointestinal disorders. Research within microbial endocrinology has unveiled direct interactions between gut microbes and the neuroendocrine system, and these interactions correlate closely with parasite susceptibility. Thus, I plan to test the following two hypotheses: [H1] howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) will have specific hormone-immune profiles associated with gut microbial community composition and [H2] howler monkeys will have gut microbe-hormone-immune profiles that correspond to the presence of gastrointestinal parasites. Objectives for testing these hypotheses include to: [1] use genetic methods to measure helminth diversity and microbial diversity in feces, and [2] use immunoassays to measure glucocorticoids and immunoglobulin A (IgA) in feces. Overall, I expect that howler monkeys with higher parasites loads will have increased glucocorticoids, decreased IgA, and decreased microbial diversity. I previously collected samples from wild howler monkeys at Barro Colorado Island, Panama. I followed a randomly chosen howler group each day for six days a week and collected fecal samples (n = 88). Upon collecting samples, I determined the sex and age-class of the individual. To measure microbial diversity, I extracted RNA and performed high throughput sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. Next, I extracted DNA and plan to use this material to identify the presence of helminth species. Enzyme immunoassays will be used to measure IgA levels and glucocorticoids. To my knowledge, this is the first research to investigate the gut-endocrine-immune interactions in wild primates. Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach that integrates frameworks and toolsets from primatology, microbial ecology, endocrinology, and parasitology offers novel insights for understanding primate biology and conservation.

  • Does Water Availability to Coyotes Shift Dietary Preferences in the West Desert of Utah?
  • Ashley E. Hodge; Eric M. Gese; Bryan M. Kluever
    Historically, the kit fox (Vulpes macrotis) was the most abundant carnivore in the West Desert of Utah. At present, the coyote (Canis latrans) has become the area’s most dominant predator. Positive correlations between kit fox density and prey abundance have been revealed, as well as coyotes being the predominant source of mortality for kit foxes. However, the impact of this mortality on kit fox density remains unclear. The U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground (DPG), Utah, has been a principal study site examining if the addition of artificial water sources may be a contributing factor to the observed influx of coyotes. Kit foxes have adapted to arid desert conditions by meeting energy requirements through preformed water (i.e., water from ingested prey). Coyotes reportedly need free-standing water, but in its absence they must triple their wet prey biomass consumption. Based on energy requirements, in theory, one could remove water sources thereby forcing the coyotes out of the area and releasing intraguild competition, thus assisting in kit fox population recovery. In 2012, researchers removed several DPG water resources, yet coyote home ranges and survival remained unaffected. Using a before-after control-impact (BACI) design, we examined ≥2,000 coyote scats for any potential dietary shifts towards higher mass prey using scats collected between 2010 and 2013 during the water manipulation. Based on previous literature, we originally predicted that coyotes in the water removal areas would increase jackrabbit in their diet to compensate for the lack of free drinking water. However, results do not support this prediction and suggest that coyotes can live in the absence of water without changing their energy requirements. This project will contribute to an extensive portfolio of long-term carnivore research in the West Desert, Utah.

  • Seasonal Migration and Habitat Selection of Mule Deer Across the Navajo Nation*
  • Hannah Manninen; Clayton Nielsen; Jessica Fort; Jeffrey Cole; Guillaume Bastille-Rousseau
    Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) populations have been declining throughout their range in the western United States since the 1980s. Habitat loss, overgrazing, disease, and predation contribute to the decline of mule deer populations. Navajo Nation, the largest sovereign tribe in the United States, encompassing 71,000 square km in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, has experienced a 53% decline in their mule deer population over the past decade. Lack of information on mule deer ecology on Navajo Nation led to the creation of the Navajo Mule Deer Project, with the Nation beginning to collar mule deer in February 2018. We are using GPS collar data from >80 mule deer to analyze long-distance movements, stopover sites, population-level migration routes, and arrival and departure dates of spring and fall migrations. Movements are being analyzed using net-squared displacement to determine if individuals are migrants, residents, nomadic, or dispersers. We are using Brownian Bridge Movement Models to determine stopover locations and population-level migration routes. Stopover sites will be classified as the highest 25% quartile in the utilization distribution. Population-level migration routes are being determined by combining utilization distributions and classifying the top 25% as high-use corridors. We are using normalized difference vegetation index data to determine if forage quality differs between stopover sites and movement corridors. Daily movements and habitat selection also will be analyzed. Our project will deliver valuable information to researchers and managers so more informed decisions can be made to recover mule deer populations, such as restoring habitat and conserving corridors.

  • Estimating Suburban White-Tailed Deer Density and Home Ranges
  • Cara J. Yocom-Russell; Solny Adalsteinsson; Beth Biro; Robin Verble
    White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are economically and ecologically important components of deciduous hardwood forest ecosystems. As such, considerable efforts are focused on understanding their movements, habitat requirements, and life histories. The closer wildlife reside to urban landscapes, the more limited in resource quality, availability, and distribution they can become. Suburban wildlife can present a unique balance between habituation to infrastructure and access to natural areas. In suburban areas, wildlife corridors create habitat space and connectivity for large animals and can help maintain populations. We examined male white-tailed deer population density, home range size, and body condition at Tyson Research Center near Eureka, Missouri, part of the Henry Shaw Ozark Corridor, a 24 mile stretch of interconnected conservation and natural areas that border Interstate 44 from St. Louis to Eureka, Missouri. In Fall 2018 and Fall 2019, 23 game cameras were stratified in 100-acre plots across 2000 acres of Tyson Research Center to record deer activity and occurrence. Using the data collected, individual male white-tailed deer were identified. We estimated the population density of white-tailed deer across both years of the study. Using a minimum convex polygon, we estimated the home range of each male. We compared home range size and habitat among body conditions, and when possible, among years. We found that in this natural wildlife corridor, white-tailed deer males differed in habitat and home range size by body condition. These data are important for creating long-term wildlife and habitat management strategies.

  • Estimating Population Abundance and Growth of Elk in North Carolina Using Spatially Explicit Capture-Recapture Methods*
  • Jessica L. Braunstein; Joseph D. Clark; Justin M. McVey
    The once-abundant eastern subspecies of elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) previously occupied the Carolinas but was extirpated by the mid-1800s as a result of habitat loss and overexploitation. In an effort to restore elk to their previous range, 52 elk were reintroduced into Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM) in North Carolina during 2001 and 2002. Since their reintroduction, elk numbers have increased and their range has extended beyond GRSM boundaries. Our research objectives include estimating population abundance, survival, recruitment, and growth of elk in North Carolina and developing a reproducible and cost-effective sampling protocol that can be implemented by state wildlife managers for future population monitoring. We are using a spatially explicit capture-recapture (SECR) framework based on fecal DNA to estimate elk population abundance and growth in the region. We walk a series of straight-line transects throughout the region and collect elk pellets encountered along these transects. We conducted simulations using pilot data and developed a sampling design of 410 total transects with the number of transects decreasing with increasing elk density and transect length increasing in low density areas. The final design included a total of 280 500-m x 2-m transects and 130 1500-m x 2-m transects. We have completed one winter field season in January-March of 2020 and recorded over 600 pellet groups. We will conduct sampling over 2 more winter field seasons (2021 and 2022), and fecal DNA from pellet samples will be used to identify individual elk. These data, combined with spatial and home-range data, will be incorporated into SECR models to estimate elk densities across the region which can then be used to obtain an abundance estimate. Furthermore, the multi-year dataset will be used to estimate population growth, recruitment, and survival using open spatially explicit capture-recapture models.

  • Space Use in Free-Ranging Canids: Are Gonadal Hormones Required for Territory Maintenance?
  • Eric M. Gese; Patricia A. Terletzky
    Fertility control among carnivores has been used to reduce depredations on livestock and wild neonates, for population control, to modify behavior, to inhibit genetic introgression, and to reduce human-wildlife conflicts. Fertility can be accomplished via surgical or chemical sterilization, endocrine perturbation, and immunocontraception. While there is considerable knowledge concerning the techniques used to sterilize carnivores, there is little information concerning how the presence or absence of gonadal hormones influences space use. We examined territorial fidelity, home-range size and overlap, and survival rates of free-ranging coyotes (Canis latrans) with gonadal hormones present (tubal ligated females, vasectomized males) versus gonadal hormones absent (spayed females, neutered males). We examined home range data from 169 sterilized coyotes (83 females, 86 males) monitored in eastern North Carolina. Across sexes and hormonal treatment, there were no differences in home-range size and percent home-range overlap of coyotes with gonadal hormones present (tubal ligation, vasectomy) versus gonadal hormones absent (spay, neuter). There was no difference among average annual home-range fidelity rates between females with gonadal hormones present (0.90 ± 0.16) versus absent (0.86 ± 0.25). Similarly, average annual home-range fidelity rates for males was not different between males with gonadal hormones present (0.82 ± 0.19) versus absent (0.90 ± 0.20). We estimated annual survival rates for 179 sterilized coyotes monitored for 135,263 radio-days. There was no difference among survival rates between females with gonadal hormones present (0.80 ± 0.15) versus absent (0.79 ± 0.16). Annual survival rates of males were also not different between males with gonadal hormones present (0.75 ± 0.13) versus absent (0.85 ± 0.15). The absence of gonadal hormones did not appear to influence home-range size, overlap, and fidelity, as well as survival rates of free-ranging coyotes.

  • Environmental and Landscape Variables Influencing Occupancy of Coyote and Fisher in Western Maryland*
  • Berna Yalcinkaya; Kevin Lamp; Angela Holland; Kyle Mccarthy; Greg Shriver; Harry Spiker; Jacob L. Bowman
    Species diversity of mesocarnivores is greater than larger carnivores in the order Carnivora and mesocarnivores have more diversity in their ecology and behavior. Mesocarnivores are also indicators of environmental change. Determining the status and ecological effects of mesocarnivores is crucial for wildlife managers when making conservation and harvest-related decisions. To better understand the ecology of mesocarnivores, biologists need to know which environmental and landscape variables affect the occurrence of these species. We are investigating relationships between coyote (Canis latrans) and fisher (Pekania pennanti) occupancy and environmental/landscape variables in western Maryland. To get occurrence data of these species, we set camera traps using a 5 x 8 trapping grid of 40 cells (2.34 km x 2.34 km or 5.5 km²) covering 220 km2. We used this camera trapping design at Potomac-Garrett State Forest (7,689 ha), Savage River State Forest (22,033 ha), and Green Ridge State Forest (18,615 ha) in western Maryland during January-March 2019 and 2020. We will calculate environmental and landscape variables that we hypothesized would influence presence of fisher and coyote in the grid cells using geographic information system (GIS) and FRAGSTATS. We will model occupancy of coyote and fisher using these variables. Our findings will allow determination of environmental and landscape variables most suitable for these species and inform management and restoration of habitats to keep these species’ populations in balance at large scales.

  • Grazing Effects of Bison on Native Plant and Arthropod Communities*
  • Molly Koeck; Heather Mathewson; Adam Mitchell; Donald Beard
    ABSTRACT Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD) manages a remnant herd of Southern Plains Bison (Bison bison) at Caprock Canyons State Park (CCSP) in Briscoe County, Texas. Today the bison population in CCSP is approximately 250 individuals. In summer 2018, CCSP officials established 20, 3×3-m2 grazing enclosures at random locations but with consideration of accessibility of the bison to the area. The enclosures are used to restrict bison grazing, creating a control area for vegetation and arthropods to persist without disturbance from bison. The impact of bison grazing on the biotic and abiotic processes can be evaluated through the use of these enclosures. Our goal is to identify the effects of bison grazing at CCSP on native plant and arthropod communities. We will use a paired design that compares communities in ungrazed enclosures to adjacent grazed enclosures. We will ensure that enclosures have similar soil and topography. At both grazed and ungrazed areas, we will survey vegetation characteristics (plant diversity, litter depth, Daubenmire cover classes, and height) as well as collect samples for analysis of nutritive quality for bison. We will also measure arthropod characteristics (diversity, abundance, and occupancy) within the same area using pitfall traps and bee bowls to target detritivores and pollinators, respectively. The results of this study be used to produce a TPWD management plan for CCSP that improves plant and arthropod diversity on landscapes grazed by bison

  • Developing a Sampling Framework for Elk Sightability in Eastern Kentucky*
  • Calvin C. Ellis; Michel T. Kohl; Michael J. Chamberlain; Kyle Sams; Gabriel Jenkins; John Hast; Jonathan L. Fusaro
    Elk (Cervus canadensis) were reintroduced to eastern Kentucky in 1999 after being completely removed from the eastern United States due to over-harvesting and habitat degradation. Today, they number approximately thirteen-thousand individuals, representing the largest elk herd east of the Mississippi. They are found throughout eastern Kentucky which is composed of a variety of habitats including conifer and hardwood forests, agricultural fields, and grasslands. Elk are known to select areas composed primarily of forest with hard mast production throughout the winter to maintain a sustainable food source. In addition, strip mining was historically popular throughout eastern Kentucky, but many mines have become inactive since leading to forest succession. Thus, the large proportion of forests on the landscape which elk inhabit make surveying for elk difficult. Thus, we are attempting to develop a framework for estimating elk abundance in eastern Kentucky. To first do this, we are using a previously developed resource selection analyses of elk GPS data to identify high use areas. Given this information, we will identify viewing locations from roads and high elevation to sight elk in these selected areas. This modeling process is designed to serve as the basis for a new field effort that better estimates elk abundance in Kentucky using remote game cameras and field observations. Further sampling will need to be conducted using this model in order to examine how other factors, such as time of day, affect elk sightability.

  • Population Estimates and Abundance of Birds in the Loky Manambato Region of Madagascar*
  • Giovanni T. Walters; Brandon P. Semel; Dehlan Estes; Dean F. Stauffer; Aylett Lipford; Angelo Andrianiaina; Tamby Ranaivoson; Faramalal Vololonirina; Ando N. Rakotonanahary; Dimbisoa Rasolomanana; Sarah M. Karpanty
    Madagascar, 1 of the world’s 8 biodiversity hotspots, is home to 223 native bird species. These birds have been minimally studied, and knowledge of population abundance and densities is lacking. With ongoing habitat fragmentation and climate change, knowing baseline population sizes is necessary to understand future anthropogenic impacts. The diversity of forest types within Madagascar’s Loky-Manambato Protected Area offered a unique opportunity to study a diversity of birds (152 species) typically found in disparate forested areas across the island. Our research provides the first density and abundance data for the birds of the Loky-Manambato Protected Area, determines the species composition of bird communities in a wide variety of forest fragments, and examines the relationship of forest types and disturbance to species densities and composition. We conducted line transect surveys along 28 transects (1-3 km long, total effort = 1,358 km) in 9 forest fragments and in forest/grassland matrix from 2016-2018 and determined densities using the program Distance. Relationships between bird densities and environmental factors were determined using ordination methods and generalized linear models in R. Environmental factors examined include average NDVI values for the wet and dry seasons, sampling year, forest fragment ID, canopy height, canopy cover, vegetation stratification, tree density, tree basal area, tree crown volume, 4 vegetation diversity indices, and 4 disturbance measures. We ranked resulting models for individual species using AICc values. A majority of the bird species were not tolerant to disturbances, but common cisticola (Cisticola cherina), Madagascar kestrel (Falco newtoni), Namaqua dove (Oena capensis), and Madagascar manikin (Lepidopygia nana) abundances all indicated a moderate-high level of tolerance for habitat that had been browsed heavily or burned. This study provides baseline population data for monitoring efforts in the region and provides and improves our understanding of Madagascar’s avian ecology.

  • Occupancy, Abundance, and Population Genetics of Bobcats in Western Maryland*
  • Kevin J. Lamp; Berna Yalcinkaya; Angela Holland; Jacob M. Haus; Kyle McCarthy; Greg Shriver; Harry Spiker; Lisette P. Waits; Jacob L. Bowman
    Monitoring bobcat (Lynx rufus) distribution, abundance, and genetics are essential for their continued conservation. In Maryland, little is known about bobcat demographics but confirmed sightings east of historical bobcat range have managers interested in learning more about the species’ status. We aimed to estimate bobcat occupancy and abundance in western Maryland using two noninvasive sampling methods: camera trapping and genetic sampling. On 3 study areas, we overlaid a 5 × 8 grid network of 40 cells, each cell 5.5km2 in size. In January – March 2019 and 2020, we placed 1 camera in each cell and visited cameras weekly to collect photo data and re-bait the sites. We used a single season site occupancy model to estimate bobcat occupancy within our camera grid for each year. Additionally, we used a repeated count model to estimate bobcat abundance. To collect fecal samples, we surveyed transects consisting of hiking trails, closed roads, lightly used roads, and off-road vehicle trails from May – August 2019 and 2020. We used mitochondrial DNA to identify species and microsatellite loci to identify individual bobcats for use in spatially explicit capture recapture models. Camera trapping from 2019 resulted in 126 detections in 41 of 120 cells over 6,360 trap-nights. The 2020 camera trapping data is currently being analyzed. In 2019 we completed 5 surveys of 555km of transect, collecting 816 fecal samples for species and individual DNA analysis. Species identification yielded 243 bobcat samples and individual identification is still in progress. We will continue fecal sampling during May – August 2020. This research will not only address the lack of knowledge surrounding bobcats in Maryland, but it will offer state managers multiple options to monitor bobcat distribution and demographics into the future.

  • Population Genetic Structure of Bobcats in South Dakota Using Harvested Samples to Inform Management*
  • Stuart C. Fetherston; Chad Lehman; Lisette P. Waits; Jennifer R. Adams; Robert C. Lonsinger
    A primary objective of state wildlife management agencies is to establish sustainable harvest levels for game species. An important component of sustainable management practices is the identification of appropriate management units for monitoring and establishing defensible harvest levels. Across their range, bobcats (Lynx rufus) are an ecologically and economically important species. In South Dakota, bobcat harvest was restricted to west of the Missouri River between 1977 and 2011. Since then, bobcat harvest has been permitted in select counties east of the Missouri River, but this harvest has been restricted (i.e., shorter season, bag limit of 1) relative to western South Dakota (i.e., longer season, no bag limit). Despite their importance, little is known about the genetic structure of bobcat populations in South Dakota. Our study is using tissue sampled from n = 1,162 bobcats harvested across the state, from 2013 to 2018, to infer population genetic structure and inform management. We are using 19 microsatellite loci and a sex identification marker to assign individuals to genetically distinct populations using program STRUCTURE. We will calculate standard measures of population genetic diversity (e.g., allelic richness, heterozygosity, inbreeding coefficient) and population differentiation (e.g., FST). Our results will provide additional information about bobcat populations in the state and inform harvest management of the species. Additionally, our results will be extended to investigate landscape connectivity for bobcats.

  • Southeastern Fox Squirrel Occupancy and Habitat Associations of the Piedmont and Coastal Plain Regions of Virginia*
  • Marissa H. Guill; W. Mark Ford; Jesse De La Cruz; Marc Puckett; Scott D. Klopfer; Brandon Martin
    In Virginia, fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) populations are still present in the Delmarva Peninsula and west of the Piedmont into the Appalachians. However east of the Appalachians, particularly in the lower Piedmont and Coastal Plain, fox squirrels are rare and patchily distributed, especially the Southeastern subspecies Sciurus niger niger. Regionally, formerly suitable habitat has been subjected to fragmentation and degradation of mixed pine-hardwood forests and bottomland hardwoods by conversion to agriculture and plantation forestry, as well as decades of fire suppression. From fall 2019 to the present, we have conducted continual camera-trapping and nest box grid surveys for fox squirrels on the Big Woods/Piney Grove complex in the Coastal Plain and Fort Pickett in the lower Piedmont – two areas in Southeastern Virginia believed to contain the largest and most intact pine savanna and mixed-pine hardwood forest patches. To date, our observations indicate a low level of site occupancy and daily detection probability of southeastern fox squirrels at the Big Woods/Piney Grove complex, ᴪ = 0.23, ρ = 0.06 across pine savanna, pine plantations, mixed pine-hardwood and bottomland habitats whereas over numerous surveys, fox squirrels appear to be absent from Fort Pickett. Results from our pilot survey will be used to conduct future focal live-trapping to catch and radio-collar fox squirrels for home range and habitat use analyses at Big Woods/Piney Grove complex. Continued documentation of absence at Fort Pickett may lead to potential re-introduction efforts.

  • Detection of White-Tailed Deer Using Thermal Imagery from Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Surveys*
  • Jesse Exum; Aaron M. Foley; Randy W. DeYoung; David G. Hewitt; Jeremy Baumgardt
    Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) paired with thermal and optical cameras are being increasingly used in the field of wildlife research and management. Wildlife surveys are one application for UAVs and it is important to understand the factors that influence animal detection. In South Texas, the Tamaulipan Thornscrub region is known for its dense brush and high temperatures; both factors influence detection of large game animals during helicopter surveys. Prior to conducting UAV surveys, we captured white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on a 405 ha study site in South Texas and fit satellite radio-collars to 4 males and 4 females; radio-collars recorded locations every 5 minutes. We conducted 7 repeated surveys via fixed-width transects during February – April 2020. Surveys were flown using a DJI Matrice 210 quadcopter at a height of 37 m above ground level and 24 km/hr outfitted with a Zenmuse XT2 dual thermal and optical video camera. Heat signatures were detected in the thermal imagery, then deer were identified via optical imagery. We collected temperature, humidity, cloud cover, and deer activity data throughout each survey. Additionally, we quantified percent woody cover via an unsupervised classification for the entire study area, as well as individual locations of the collared deer. Understanding how these variables influence detection of white-tailed deer during UAV surveys will establish a baseline to be used for development of a viable UAV survey protocol. Analysis is in progress and results will be discussed.

  • Habitat Utilization-Availability of Nilgai in South Texas*
  • Megan Granger; Clay Hilton; Scott Henke; Tyler Campbell
    Nilgai antelope (Boselaphus tragocamelus) are bovids that are endemic to India and portions of Pakistan and Nepal. They were introduced into South Texas in the 1930’s and now have a free-roaming population of approximately 33,000 individuals. Past studies suggest that nilgai in Texas prefer sparse forest and coastal prairie habitats. Nilgai have a broad diet consisting of 66% grasses, 25% herbaceous species, and 15% browse. Further studies of nilgai habitat use and avoidance is needed to effectively manage the populations in South Texas. Using data collected from aerial nilgai surveys in 2017-2020 on the East Foundation’s El Sauz Ranch, we will use the Neu et al. (1974) method to analyze utilization-availability data. A chi-squared test will be used to test the hypothesis that nilgai utilize each habitat type in exact proportion to its occurrence within the study area. This method uses a Bonferroni statistic which will allow us to estimate whether observations of nilgai occurs more or less frequently than expected given the amount of each habitat type available on the property. The results will give us a better understanding of which habitat types nilgai prefer and which they avoid. With nilgai populations continuing to increase and expand, insight into their habitat utilization will be essential in the management of the species in Texas.

  • Carnivore Responses to Human Disturbance in Harenna Forest, Ethiopia*
  • Phillys N. Gichuru; Marcella J. Kelly; Matt Thornton; Chrystina Parks
    Bale Mountains National Park (BMNP), containing Harenna forest, is the largest and most biologically diverse protected area. It supports approximately 26% of mammals and 57% of bird species endemic to Ethiopia. The area also supports economy for ~100,000 people who depend on wild coffee planted in the forest, livestock grazing, and subsistence crop farming. However, there is no current data on mammalian wildlife status or responses to human disturbance. We report on the first camera-trapping study in BMNP, providing insight into species distributions and wildlife-human relationships. We also use occupancy modeling to quantify six carnivores’ responses to humans. We deployed 50 cameras stations, 0.5-2.0 km apart, from December 2015-September 2016. Preliminary analysis showed positive correlation in trap-rates between spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) and humans and human-related animals (cows, dogs, donkeys, goats). We are analyzing occupancy/detection for each species and using 2-species, co-occurrence analyses for carnivore pairs and between carnivores and humans or human-related animals. Results will reveal landscape/habitat features influencing carnivore occupancy and will quantify potential interaction between target species by estimating species interaction factors (SIFs). We also will determine whether the SIF is mediated by habitat such as distance to forest edge and whether carnivore occupancy is higher at stations with and without domestic species and humans. We anticipate dwarf mongoose(Helogale parvula, common genet (Genetta genetta), honey-badger (Mellivora capensis), spotted hyena(Crocuta crocuta) and white-tailed mongoose (Ichneumia albicauda) will co-occur with humans. These species are opportunistic foragers and can take advantage of anthropogenic food that is increasingly available on the landscape due to habitat modification, leading to reduction in natural prey abundance. In contrast, we expect leopards (Panthera pardus)prefer closer proximity to water, grass and tree cover, and will avoid humans. Our study provides a baseline of information from which to build conservation plans for biodiversity of the area.

  • Evaluating Methods for Detecting Pangolins in Central and West Africa to Inform Conservation Actions*
  • Ichu G. Ichu; Dana J. Morin; Daniel W.S. Challender; Stephen F. Spears
    Tropical pangolins in Central and West Africa, and their parts (mainly scales), are trafficked in high volumes, increasingly to Asia. There is an urgent conservation need to mitigate this threat by protecting population strongholds in the region. However, little is known about the local distribution of the three species, including the white-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis), black-bellied pangolin (P. tetradactyla), and giant pangolin (Smutsia gigantea), which is needed to inform pangolin conservation efforts. Confirming species presence throughout their suspected ranges using standard field sampling methods is challenging and will likely require specific methods and protocols for each species. Our main objective is to identify efficient, rapid assessment methods to document pangolin occurrence at potential strongholds in Central and West Africa. To accomplish this objective, we will first evaluate the effectiveness of three sampling methods: camera-traps, eDNA, and semi-structured interviews, which have demonstrated variable success in detecting the three tropical African pangolin species. We will implement this study at Campo Ma’an National Park (CMNP), Cameroon, where each species is known to occur. We will use the accuracy and detection rates estimated for each method and species to identify an optimal standardized protocol for rapid assessment surveys in protected areas. This protocol will guide future monitoring efforts throughout Central and West Africa to inform conservation actions to protect pangolin populations.

  • Lagomorph Populations in Southeastern Colorado*
  • Noah D. Huth
    Lagomorph populations across the United States are facing the consequences of habitat loss and fragmentation. The various species of cottontail and jack rabbit are of significant importance to predator species and the diversity of several vegetative species. Habitat fragmentation has increased tremendously over the last century, and prey species that require dense cover are increasingly susceptible to extinction. Both abundant foraging opportunities and escape cover from predators are necessary habitat attributes for lagomorphs. We are investigating the lagomorph population abundance and diversity and quality of vegetation throughout Southeastern Colorado. We are developing models to identify links between vegetation and lagomorph densities. We are conducting lagomorph counts with multiple surveying techniques, and these may include vehicle spotlight counts, line-transects, and pellet counts. We are determining population ranges and utilized multiple analytic methods to investigate habitat selection across the second and third order spatial scales. This research will provide key insights into the population dynamics of lagomorph communities, and furthermore, it will strengthen our understanding of biotic and abiotic resources required for a healthy lagomorph population.

  • Survival and Recruitment Rates of Repatriated Southern Fox Squirrel Population
  • John Huang; John Holloway; Jayme Waldron; Shane Welch
    Life history theory provides a framework for conservation biologists to examine how specific population parameters (e.g., survival, fecundity, and recruitment) interact with environmental perturbations (e.g., habitat loss and fragmentation) to drive population declines that ultimately result in a species imperilment. The objective of this study was to estimate survival and recruitment of a repatriated population of the southern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger niger) on a South Carolina sea island. Long-term studies assessing survival and recruitment of repatriated populations are scarce. Our study population was established in 2016 and 2017 from five donor populations. We used radio-telemetry and a capture-mark-recapture (CMR) study design to monitor our population for over 4 years. We expected that our estimates of survival and recruitment would support the hypothesis that southern fox squirrels exhibit a slow life history relative to the eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), an un-imperiled, syntopic congener. Specifically, we expected to find evidence of differential survival among age cohorts, with high adult survival and low pup and juvenile survival. We used Bayesian analysis to estimate the mean annual survival (0.561, [95%Credible Interval:0.153 – 0.884]), capture probability (0.567, [0.187 – 0.954]), annual local recruitment post-translocation (0.183, [0.080 – 0.327]). Southern fox squirrels exhibited traits of a slow life history (e.g., low recruitment rate). To better inform conservation of the southern fox squirrel, more information is needed on their survival and recruitment rates.

  • Reproductive Rates, Kitten Survival, and Den Site Selection of Bobcats in the Black Hills, South Dakota*
  • Erin Morrison; Christopher Rota; Chad Lehman; Brady Neiles
    The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is an important furbearer in South Dakota. However, management of bobcats can be difficult because of their elusive nature and lack of demographic information. Matrix projection models can be used by managers to determine how population growth rates may vary in response to management actions, but gaps in key demographic rates remain. In particular, there is a lack of information regarding reproduction, kitten survival, and cause specific mortality of kittens. Additionally, kitten survival relies on sufficient breeding habitat and conserving this habitat is fundamental to maintaining a stable population over time. This study will provide the remaining vital rates necessary to build a bobcat population model, estimate population growth rate, and elucidate what environmental characteristics are associated with bobcat den site selection. My objectives for this study are to: (1) Obtain estimates of reproductive rates for bobcats in the Black Hills, South Dakota; (2) obtain estimates of annual survival rates and cause specific mortality for bobcat kittens; and (3) determine resource selection of den sites. I will locate dens of VHF collared adult female bobcats using ground triangulation. Once dens are located, I will obtain estimates of reproductive rates by directly observing the number of kittens in the dens. To evaluate kitten survival, I will fit bobcat kittens with VHF telemetry collars. I will then locate kittens weekly. If there is a mortality, I will investigate the mortality and determine species specific predation using DNA sequencing. Once kittens depart dens, I will evaluate den site selection by comparing environmental variables at den sites to environmental variables at random sites within a female bobcat’s home range. At each den site I will measure a range of environmental variables including terrain ruggedness, vertical cover, and distance to roads.

  • Evaluating Density and Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Five Sympatric Ungulates*
  • Jennifer Foca; Mark Boyce
    Factors influencing ungulate distributions include population densities, interspecific interactions, seasonality, and changes in human use. Management strategies that alter population densities (i.e. culling, translocations) influence space use and interactions, but most studies fail to account for the variation of ungulate densities across the landscape. We are evaluating spatial covariance in ungulate densities in Elk Island National Park (EINP) and Cooking Lake -Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area (BPRA) using trail cameras and aerial census data. EINP is home to plains bison (Bison bison), wood bison (B. bison athabascae), elk (Cervus elaphus), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), white-tailed deer (O. virginianus), and moose (Alces alces). Due to the fenced perimeter, wildlife movement is restricted and predation is limited. Active population management is necessary to prevent populations of elk and bison from becoming hyperabundant. BPRA has different management strategies compared to EINP and bison are not present. These adjacent areas provide a unique opportunity to evaluate density estimation methods for trail cameras and compare ungulate spatial dynamics under alternative management strategies. Aerial counts have been used in EINP for many years, but data on deer are limited and demographic data for all species are insubstantial. Trail cameras offer a cost effective, safer alternative to aerial surveys. We are using trail camera data to (i) estimate densities of each ungulate species, (ii) calculate demographic ratios, and (iii) evaluate spatial variation in density during and after bison removals.

  • Resource Selection, Habitat Suitability and Connectivity for a Recovering Bobcat Population in Ohio
  • Madeline Kenyon; Ryan Brown; Marissa Dyck; Maddy Back; Viorel Popescu
    Species distributions and resource selection are shaped by biotic and abiotic factors as well as anthropogenic disturbance. Bobcats (Lynx rufus) have seen a spectacular resurgence in the US Midwest after a century of absence. However, much of the US Midwest is dominated by agriculture, urbanized areas and dense road network, which pose interesting questions regarding space use, habitat selection and habitat connectivity. In this study, we took a two-pronged approach to evaluate 2nd and 3rd order habitat selection and connectivity and potential dispersal pathways for bobcats in Ohio. To model 2nd order selection (habitat suitability), we used bobcat presences collected by citizen science data between 1990 and 2018, through a multitude of methods: trail camera, incidental trapping, or observations. We used logistic regression to model habitat suitability using presences and random pseudo-absences and found that at the population level bobcats avoided agricultural lands and selected for areas with higher proportion of forest and open natural habitat and avoided agricultural land. For the 3rd order habitat selection, we used a GPS telemetry dataset (2012-2015, points collected every 12 hours) of 20 bobcats in SE Ohio. We created 95% kernel density home ranges, and for each individual bobcat, we created random points within the home range boundary equal to the number of occurrences. We implemented Resource Selection Functions with weighted distributions with bobcat as a blocking factor and found that bobcats selected for areas with lower road density, higher canopy cover, and farther from high traffic roads, but were often found near low traffic roads. Our results show that the bobcat population may remain limited to the forested regions of Ohio due to their preference of forest and avoidance of agriculture. Across the Midwest, areas dominated by an intensive agricultural matrix present challenges for bobcat population persistence and expansion.

  • Survival of Headstarted Eastern Hellbenders Released in Ohio Streams
  • Noah Skinner; Matt Kaunert; Helena Littler; Andrew Travers; Ryan Brown; Julia Golias; Christine Hanson; Greg Lipps; Viorel Popescu
    The Eastern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus a. alleganiensis) represents an ancient lineage of long-lived (>25 years), large-bodied (up to 2.5 ft.), stream-obligate salamander endemic to the Eastern United States. Eastern hellbender populations have recently undergone rapid, enigmatic declines throughout their range; mechanisms driving declines are poorly understood, but often speculated to be associated with land use change, high sedimentation rates, degraded water quality, introduction of non-native predators, illegal collection and novel pathogens. Eastern Hellbenders are Endangered in Ohio, and state management agencies are implementing various conservation strategies such as headstarting and artificial nest box placement to augment population and breeding habitat. The goal of this study was to evaluate the survival of headstarted hellbenders released in Ohio streams. In August 2018, captive-reared sub-adult Hellbenders tagged with 12.5 mm PIT tags (2-3 year old, n = 205) were released across eight sites within three tributaries of the Ohio River in southeastern Ohio. We used amplified PIT-tag readers (BioMark HPR Plus) to monitor reintroduced Hellbenders during repeated surveys (5-9 repeats per site) in August-October 2018 and June-October 2019. Using CJS capture-recapture methods for the 2018 data, we estimated that apparent survival in the short term (up to 3 months post-release) was high (0.66 – 0.93) depending on the release site. We repeated surveys in 2019, and estimated abundance of animals persisting 3 sites with sufficient recaptures using POPAN methods. We found that 32 (95%CI 26-41) individuals persisted at the release sites for 1 year post-release (0.16; 0.13-0.20 of released animals), and there were differences between sites (one site had 0.35 survival). These results indicate that headstarting can be a successful conservation strategy for Eastern Hellbenders. We recommend careful consideration of release sites, and periodic augmentation with successive releases to build populations at sites where animals are successful.

  • A Modest Survey of the Harris Mud Crab at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in Sherman, Texas*
  • Courtney Anderson; Pat Stephen-Williams
    As the conservation industry loses funding across agencies, such as the USFWS, professionals will need to come up with creative ways to involve non-position funded sources for invasive species control. This study focused on using trained volunteers (Master Naturalists), by a biological professional, in the collection of the invasive mud crab by two methods, trapping and visual survey. The purpose of this study is to add to the literature in the USFWS about certain attributes of R. harrisii at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. The objectives were to determine a population presence or absence, discover effectiveness of trap methods versus visual surveys with volunteers, and establish a citizen science protocol for future monitoring of Rhithropanopeus harrisii in Lake Texoma, specific Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in Sherman, TX. Results will be used to validate that citizen science projects aimed at reducing invasive species can be equally as effective as biology professionals in the field can. This study will produce a template for other biological professionals to use in training volunteers for similar invasive species removal projects.

  • Defining and Measuring Success of Aversive Conditioning and Hazing Programs for Bears: A Review*
  • Claire Edwards; Sarah Heemskerk; John Paczkowski; Colleen St. Clair
    Human population growth and increasing urbanization are leading to rising human-bear conflict across landscapes where human developments and bear ranges overlap. In many areas, societal tolerance for bears is also increasing, supporting the use of non-lethal techniques for managing human-bear conflict, particularly in threatened populations. Aversive conditioning (hereafter AC) and hazing are behavioural management tools that apply negative stimuli to wild bears with the goal of increasing wariness, decreasing undesired behaviour, and reducing human-caused bear mortality. Although AC and hazing are widely used in North America to mitigate human-bear conflict, there is limited synthesis of the past literature or established metrics with which to design or evaluate the success of these programs. We comprehensively compiled data from 39 research papers on the use of AC and hazing on bears from peer reviewed (n=12) and grey literature sources (n=27). We found that 81% of papers reported success of behavioural management programs with 83% showing short-term (within the same season as management) reduction of conflict behaviour over multi-year reduction or cessation of conflict behaviour (17%). Additionally, behavioural management was more likely to be successful when conducted on lower conflict (habituated vs. food conditioned) bears. We will synthesize and present data on biological, behavioural and management factors that correlate with success of AC and hazing programs. We will synthesize established measures for evaluating that success, and outline methods to increase efficacy of assessment of future programs. Investigating historical trends in behavioural management of human-bear conflict and identifying rigorous and repeatable measures of success for AC and hazing programs can help set reasonable measurements of success for both existing and new programs, advancing non-lethal management practices throughout ranges where bears and people share space.

  • Assessing Wild Turkey Occupancy Using Autonomous Recording Units and Package Monitor*
  • Janelle Ostroski; Jay Cantrell; Charles Ruth; Beth Ross
    Wild turkey is a highly popular game species harvested primarily during the reproductive season, which has driven substantial efforts to understand patterns of springtime habitat use. Gobbling activity and associated habitat selection has been increasingly assessed through ARU deployment, yet post hoc processing of audio data has been time-intensive particularly due to false detection rates and streamlining this process would benefit future research. Gobbling activity has been studied in the South Carolina coastal plain, but data for the upstate is lacking. Our goals are to assess spring gobbler occupancy patterns using ARU data from 2019-2021 in conjunction with an alternative acoustic template finder monitoR. In 2019, we deployed 38 ARUs throughout upstate SC and collected daily 3-hour recordings from March 1 to May 30. We are using monitoR to automatically scan recordings for gobbles and incorporate detection data into single-season occupancy models using a suite of habitat covariates (e.g., distance to water, burn age of stand). We expect MonitoR to return fewer false positives than comparable software which will allow for more precise estimates of detection and spatio-temporal trends in habitat use. Our results can hopefully help direct habitat management decisions and be leveraged by upstate hunters to optimize outing quality and harvest success.

  • The Role of Habitat Diversity in Structuring Avian Communities on Wetland Reserve Program Easements in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley*
  • Jon Podoliak; David Hicks; Lisa Webb
    Bottomland hardwood (BLH) forests were once the dominant ecosystem in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV), however conversion for agricultural purposes reduced the area of BLH forest across the MAV by 75%. Due to wetland loss and subsequent effects on biotic communities and water quality, the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) was initiated in 1990 to restore marginal agricultural lands to wetlands. The purpose of our project is to evaluate the effectiveness of WRP restoration projects at providing habitat for wetland dependent taxa in the MAV. We sampled avifauna and vegetation at 20 WRP easements in western Tennessee and Kentucky in fall 2019 and winter 2020. Sampling will continue in Spring 2020 and an additional 20 sites will be sampled during 2020-21. We classified habitats on easements into four categories: remnant forest, planted forest, naturally regenerated forest, and shallow water area (SWA). Preliminary data indicate avian species richness was greater at sites with more habitat types (Rho = 0.49, p = 0.001, R2 = 0.2). Across seasons, total species richness on-easement ranged from 4 to 16 species. Combined avian species richness from both sampling periods was significantly different among habitat types (F= 7.124, p = 0.00102), and specifically remnant forest communities had greater species richness compared to planted forest communities (p = 0.00008). Additionally, easements that contained remnant forest habitat had significantly greater species richness (F= 8.671, p = 0.005) and diversity (F= 5.521, p = 0.02) than those lacking remnant forest. We observed slight positive relationships between percent canopy cover and both avian species richness and diversity. Our results suggest the importance of well-developed, forested communities to increasing bird species use of restored BLH forests in the MAV. Providing data on the response of biotic communities to WRP restoration can aid in guiding future restoration efforts to ensure that project goals are met.

  • Mapping a Landscape of Risk for White-Tailed Deer in a Multi-Carnivore System*
  • Robert S. Alonso; Dana J. Morin; David C. McNitt; Michael J. Cherry; Marcella J. Kelly
    The western mountains of Virginia have experienced a relatively recent coyote colonization, the restoration of bobcat and bear populations, and a decrease in the white-tailed deer population. Previous carnivore diet research in the region indicated that white-tailed deer were the most commonly shared diet item among these three carnivores with a coyote-bobcat dietary niche overlap of 0.73, coyote-bear overlap at 0.69, and bobcat-bear overlap at 0.47. However, this previous work could not distinguish between predation and scavenging events. All three of these predators have been documented as effective fawn predators, and to a lesser degree, adult deer predators, as well as efficient scavengers of white-tailed deer carrion. As such, it is apparent that white-tailed deer are likely an important diet item for these carnivores. Although we have not assessed direct effects of predation on deer populations in our multi-carnivore system, ecological theory behind the “landscape of fear” suggests that the mere presence of carnivores on the landscape could have non-consumptive effects on deer population dynamics via changes in behavior. These effects may vary through space and time depending on perceived risk across the landscape. To better understand the spatial processes behind predation, scavenging, and general ranging patterns of the deer predators in our study system, we deployed GPS collars on 10 bobcats (2017-2019), 29 coyotes (2011 – 2013; 2017-2020), and 28 black bears (2016-2019). As a first look of an on-going analysis, we utilize our GPS data to map carnivore landscape use and infer potential areas of risk for white-tailed deer. Our preliminary results suggest that deer must navigate a temporally dynamic landscape of predation risk that is mediated by variation in activity patterns and resource selection of carnivores. Seeking safer conditions may have nutritional consequences for deer as areas with greater forage quality also have relatively high predation risk.


    Location: Virtual Date: Time: -