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Understanding Greater Everglades mammal communities adjacent to and within the ARM Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

photo of a deer
Project Investigator: Kristen Hart

Project Personnel: Robert McCleery

Project Start Date: 2014 End Date: 2014

Recent Funding: (FY14) USGS GE PES


Summary

Objectives of this project are to establish the baseline prevalence of mammals in areas within and adjacent to Loxahatchee NWR prior to the occurrence of pythons, and to establish a long-term small mammal monitoring protocol to determine the population dynamics of small mammals within Loxahatchee NWR.

Published and unpublished accounts suggest that populations of mammals including white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), opposums (Didelphis virginiana), round-tailed muskrat (Neofiber alleni), Everglades mink (Neovison vison evergladensis), and bobcat (Lynx rufus) have declined in ENP. There is mounting evidence that predation by the invasive Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) has contributed to these declines in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem (GEE). In a recently-completed project, we found that pythons were the dominant predator (77%) of released rabbits in ENP. Using marsh rabbits as a model, we found the probability of finding a marsh rabbit decreased to ≈ 0% with increased proximity to Flamingo, essentially 'ground zero' for the python invasion. Yet, marsh rabbit occurrence was ≈ 100% in all wetland habitat types > 120 km from Flamingo. In addition to rabbits, little is known about the response of small mammals in the GEE that appear to make up a large proportion of python diet, with rice rats (Oryzomys palustris), in particular, accounting for 16% of the gut contains of pythons examined from 2003-2007 (M. Cherkiss, USGS, pers. comm.). Thus, it is likely that pythons are having a drastic impact on the small mammal communities in the GEE.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), located in Palm Beach County, encompasses ≈ 60,000 ha of remnant wetlands in the northern portion of the GEE. The southern boundary of the refuge is approximately 150 km from Flamingo and no large constrictors have yet been detected there despite monitoring since 2009. As such, Loxahatchee may have mammal communities yet to be altered by pythons. Accordingly, there is an urgent need to rigorously quantify the mammal communities with Loxahatchee NWR and lands adjacent to the refuge on the southern boundary.

The specific objectives for this project are:

  1. Establish the baseline prevalence of mammals in areas within and adjacent to Loxahatchee NWR prior to the occurrence of pythons.
  2. Establish a long-term small mammal monitoring protocol to determine the population dynamics of small mammals within Loxahatchee NWR.

Work Plans

Publications

Abstracts

 

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Script last updated: 23 October 2018 @ 12:03 PM by THF. Record creator: KP. Record last updated by: KP.