Urban Wildlife Management

Contributed Oral Presentations


Contributed paper sessions will be available on-demand for the duration of the conference, then again at the conclusion of the conference.


Drivers of Spotted Turtle Movement and Space Use in An Urbanized Landscape
Ellery Lassiter; Brett DeGregorio; Jinelle Sperry
Understanding the temporal and spatial scale at which wildlife move is vital for conservation and management. This is especially important for freshwater, semi-aquatic turtles, which often make long distance movements among a variety of habitats for mating, foraging, and overwintering purposes. Spotted turtles (Clemmys guttata), like many other semi-aquatic turtle species, are in decline, in part, due to their dynamic movement and habitat use, which makes them particularly vulnerable to habitat degradation and loss. We investigated the movement patterns of spotted turtles in a highly urbanized landscape in northern Virginia. We accumulated over 3800 radio-locations from 37 adult and 16 juvenile turtles across the active seasons (March-August) of 2017-2019. We calculated the number of inter-wetland movements, daily distance moved, and home range size for each turtle and used GLMM’s to explore the influence of sex, age, climatic, and wetland features on each movement metric. Juvenile turtles exhibited smaller daily movement and home range sizes than adult turtles. Turtle movement was associated with precipitation and wetland depth, and home range size had a positive relationship with wetland patch density. Because spotted turtles are equally dependent on aquatic and terrestrial habitats, and may make large movements between wetland patches, it is recommended that this species should be managed using a landscape conservation approach. Further, conservation of wetland matrices and the connectivity among them, rather than individual patches, is vital for this species and other sympatric semi-aquatic wildlife.
Analysis of White-Tailed Deer Movements with Baited Tick Treatments in Residential Areas
Patrick Roden-Reynolds; Andrew Li; Erika T. Machtinger; Jennifer M. Mullinax
Regions of the United States continue to experience an increase in zoonotic diseases, particularly Lyme disease. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are keystone hosts for adult ticks, one of the main contributors to zoonoses. Habitat fragmentation through increased urbanization is one of many factors prompting a dramatic increase in white-tailed deer in certain areas. Consequently, the rise in deer numbers within urban areas has placed the public at increased risk of contracting tick-borne diseases. This study evaluated deer movement during the implementation of acaricide-treated 4-poster feeder stations. The study objectives were to: 1) evaluate spatial and temporal movement patterns of deer in suburban areas; and 2) determine impacts of baited tick treatments on deer movements. A total of 50 deer across five suburban parks were fitted with GPS collars to analyze movement and behavior. The 4-Poster stations were deployed at three parks. We developed seasonal and annual home ranges using Autocorrelated Kernel Density Estimators and conducted visitation analysis at feeder stations using package recurse in program R. We found that deer are using residential areas outside of park boundaries regularly and sometimes primarily. Home range sizes vary widely across individuals and season. On average summer ranges were approximately half the size of winter ranges, and seasonal core ranges incorporated 50 to 120 residential properties respectively. Eighty-six percent of deer had at least one 4-poster feeder station present within their home range. The unusually heavy use of residential areas described in this study highlights the importance of the role of deer in the spread of zoonotic disease as they help transport and maintain tick populations close to residences. This information will be used to assess strategies to reduce ticks on public and private land, and managers should consider expanding tick and deer management activities beyond park properties to increase their effectiveness.
Death Trap Or Urban Paradise? A Meta-Analysis of Mammal Response to Urbanization
Morgan Morehart; Chris Lepczyk; Robert Gitzen
Novel conditions in urban areas provide unique opportunities for wildlife, allowing individuals of a species that live in a city to adapt to a different set of environmental conditions. Previous research has indicated differing natural history features between some urban and natural populations. While animals can benefit from abundant food resources or reduced competition in cities, they may also face new human-driven pressures such as pollution and chronic stress. As a result, urban areas could be playing the role of an ecological trap in which wildlife choose poor quality habitat in novel conditions. We expected natural history traits to reflect adaptations to this novel urban environment. We used meta-analysis to assess if mammal traits differed between urban and natural areas. We conducted a structured review that identified 38 papers, allowing for 46 effect sizes, of mammals. From these studies, we used standardized mean difference to compare home range, body mass, and survival, and an odds ratio to compare reproduction of urban and natural populations. Mammal body masses were significantly higher in cities, while home ranges were smaller in size, proximate indications of benefits to living in urban areas. However, survival was lower in cities, and animals in natural places were more likely to be reproductively active compared to those in urban areas. These measures of more ultimate effects indicate reduced fitness in urban areas. While mammals are larger and traveling smaller distances, potentially due to increased food resources, these benefits are a tradeoff for shorter lives with fewer reproductive events. Our results emphasize the importance of monitoring multiple life-history components, including demographic rates, for understanding and conserving urban populations.
Mesocarnivore Landscape Use along a Gradient of Urban, Rural, and Forest Cover
Jordan T. Rodriguez; Damon B. Lesmeister; Taal Levi
Mesocarnivores fill a vital role in ecosystems through effects on community health and structure. Anthropogenic-altered landscapes can benefit some species, and adversely affect others. For some carnivores, prey availability increases with urbanization, but landscape use can be complicated by interactions among carnivores as well as differing human tolerance of some species. We used 47 camera traps to survey during April 2018 to February 2019 (11,914 trap nights) in and around Corvallis, Oregon to quantify how carnivore landscape use varies across a gradient from urban to rural. Species identified include bobcat (Lynx rufus; n = 134), cougars (Puma concolor; n = 30), coyotes (Canis latrans; n = 171), gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus; n = 471), opossums (Didelphis virginiana; n = 1680), raccoons (Procyon lotor; n = 1964), and striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis; n = 415). We found that smaller bodied species were more common in urban environments than their larger bodied counterparts; we only detected cougars in forested areas. Raccoons, opossums, and to a lesser degree gray foxes appear to take advantage of the benefits that can come with urban and rural living. Larger bodied mesopredators, like coyotes and bobcats, had a presence in the urban areas but both species showed a negative relationship with urban cover. Striped skunks were an exception as we observed their use to be much more restricted to forested areas. Our temporal results indicated greater mesopredator activity during nocturnal hours with the proportion of daylight detections increasing with body size. Although these species coexist as a community in human dominated landscapes the effects of urbanization were not equal across species, generally falling into categories of human exploiters, adapters, or avoiders. Our findings can be used to inform management and conservation practices that work equitably for both humans and the greater ecological community.
Behavioral Adaptations of Urban Caracals Increase Foraging Opportunities and Mortality
Laurel EK Serieys; Gabriella Leighton; Matthew Rogan; Justine Smith; Justin Suraci; Justin O’Riain; Chris Wilmers; Jacqueline Bishop
As the urban-wildland interface expands, natural populations are increasingly challenged by human activities that disrupt landscape connectivity, and population dynamics and persistence. Yet the habitat modification may also offer increased resource abundance for generalist species. Understanding the strategies that adaptable species employ to persist in human-modified landscapes, and the tradeoffs they experience in capitalizing on resources at the urban edge, is critical to management strategies that promote population persistence in human-impacted landscapes. We investigated the spatial ecology of and threats to caracals (Caracal caracal) in a dynamic landscape isolated by dense City of Cape Town urbanization in South Africa. Between 2014-2016, we GPS-collared 26 individuals from three subpopulations (urban adult, urban disperser, rural adult).We assessed movement-explicit habitat selection using step selection functions, foraging-explicit habitat selection using resource selection functions, and contributors to mortality. Despite the study area encompassing only 320 km2 of available wildlife habitat, adult males had an average home range of 74 km2 (female = 20 km2). We observed varying habitat selection patterns across our three subpopulations. While moving and foraging, urban caracals selected for proximity to the urban edge, although dispersers selected habitat closer to the urban edge than adults. Yet urban caracals avoided urban areas themselves. Rural caracals did not select for proximity to the urban edge while moving and they predominantly foraged along coastline away from urban areas. Urban caracals selected for vineyards and eucalyptus stands, while rural caracals avoided both. Numerous anthropogenic sources of mortality were detected for both urban and rural caracals, including vehicles, poaching, pesticides, and lethal management practices. However, we detected more mortality events in urban caracals than rural caracals. These findings are guiding land acquisition by the City of Cape Town and local management strategies of South Africa National Parks.
The Biodiversity Importance of Archaeological Landscapes
Omar Attum
Archeological landscapes are important places because they protect areas of historical importance, shape cultural and national identify, are recreational spaces, and vital sources of tourism revenue. Archaeological landscapes have the potential to assist in wildlife conservation as most biodiversity exists outside of nature preserves. The objective of this study was to compare the biodiversity (bird and reptile richness) of an archaeological site to the biodiversity of a nature preserve (treatment control for biodiversity value) and a modern olive grove (treatment control for poor biodiversity value). Our results suggest that archaeological landscapes have potential biodiversity value as our archaeological site supported similar bird and reptile richness as the natural site, with both sites having higher species richness than the modern olive tree farm. The biodiversity value of the archaeological site was a result of high potential food availability and containing a habitat mosaic of areas with relatively low tree density and open areas with exposed, tall, rocky ruins. Bird richness had a positive relationship with percent green ground vegetation cover (an indicator for potential food availability) and reptile richness had a negative relationship with tree density. The ruins and high food availability of the archaeological site also supported higher densities of saxaphilic lizard species as the density of these species increased as mean maximum rock height and percent green ground vegetation cover increased. Promoting the biodiversity value of archaeological sites provides another justification for the protection and visitor appreciation for archaeological sites as places of historical, cultural and biodiversity importance.
Assessing Urban Habitats for Wildlife, Biodiversity, and Ecosystemservices: District of Columbia
Annette L. Spivy; Jennifer Mullinax
The District of Columbia’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Sustainable DC Plan call for actions that “provide strong corridors and ecosystems for wildlife and ensure the resilience of natural and human systems within the District “. Without biodiversity-conservation constraints on the built environment, further land development will likely threaten conservation priority areas for species of greatest conservation need (SGCN). Accordingly, the objective of this project was to develop a spatially-explicit habitat suitability model, using Mahalanobis distance (D2) statistic, for a focal SGCN group to determine where current high quality, well-connected habitats exist, or could most easily be justified and acquired, within the District of Columbia. Habitat suitability predictions were based on wildlife survey data, provided by the Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE) and habitat variables created in ArcGIS. These habitat variables were developed by classifying urban greenspace based on ecological features rather than a human-derived construct such as land use because land use is not a sufficient predictor of species distributions within metropolitan areas. While, the results of this analysis will assist DC managers and decision-makers in managing and conserving the District’s diverse wildlife populations and their habitats, this habitat model will serve as an input to a larger research project where we are modeling and mapping ecosystem services in the District to estimate levels and economic values of ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation and the market value of commodities provided by the landscape.
Estimating Feral Cat Densities Using Distance Sampling in an Urban Environment
Alexis Hand
Estimating feral cat population densities in urban environments can be difficult due to limited public space and human interference. The purpose of this study was to use distance sampling in a citywide landscape to determine population size and areas of high abundance to inform trap-neuter-release management. Line transect distance sampling was used to estimate density of the feral cat population in Windsor, Ontario from June to July 2014. Transects were randomly placed along local roads and public spaces (parks, open fields, parking lots, etc.). Density was estimated at about 13.3 (95% CI 9.7-18.1) cats per km2 , and an estimated population size of 1,858 cats (95% CI 1,361-2,537) cats with the highest relative density occurring in West and Central Windsor. Urban wildlife managers could utilize these methods to monitor feral cat populations and evaluate the effectiveness of trap-neuter-release programs.
Tracking Free-Roaming House Cat Distributions with Cattracker: Community Science with a Free Smartphone App
Jason D. Luscier
There is ample evidence for the negative effects of free-roaming house cats (Felis catus) on wildlife globally; however, research on house cat population levels and distributions can be difficult given that cats can be difficult to trap. Ultimately, we need more information regarding effects of cats on food web dynamics and community structures so as to better inform management of native wildlife. One of the most effective ways to gather fine-scale data regarding cat distributions over expansive geographic areas is to rely on community-based science (i.e., citizen science) data. In urban settings, community engagement in data collection can be extremely useful for understanding distributional patterns. CatTracker is a free smartphone app for reporting sightings of free-roaming housecats anywhere in the world. Observers record location, date, and time of a sighting as well as the number of cats and behaviors observed. Currently this app is being used in 35 states and in 22 countries around the world. I’ve used these community-based data to model cat distributions in Syracuse, NY. With increased use, data gathered with CatTracker can be used by conservationists and cat advocates alike to inform management programs. Community-based science with CatTracker is an excellent way to amass detection data and to increase awareness in the hopes of finding solutions to this conservation challenge.


Location: Virtual Date: Time: -