Institute for Wildlife Studies

Arcata, CA, United States

Institute for Wildlife Studies

Arcata, CA, United States
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Sanchez J.N.,Institute for Wildlife Studies | Sanchez J.N.,University of California at Davis | Hudgens B.R.,Institute for Wildlife Studies
Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2015

Many of the mechanisms underlying density-dependent regulation of populations, including contest competition and disease spread, depend on contact among neighboring animals. Understanding how variation in population density influences the frequency of contact among neighboring animals is therefore an important aspect to understanding the mechanisms underlying, and ecological consequences of, density-dependent regulation. However, contact rates are difficult to measure in the field and may be influenced by density through multiple pathways. This study explored how local density affects contact rates among Channel Island foxes (Urocyon littoralis) through two pathways: changes in home range size and changes in home range overlap. We tracked 40 radio-collared foxes at four sites on San Clemente Island, California. Fox densities at the four sites ranged from 2.8 ± 1.28 to 42.8 ± 9.43 foxes/km2. Higher fox densities were correlated with smaller home ranges (R2 = 0.526, F1,38 = 42.19, P < 0.001). Thirty foxes wore collars that also contained proximity loggers, which recorded the time and duration of occasions when collared foxes were within 5 m of one another. Contact rates between neighboring fox dyads were positively correlated with home range overlap (R2 = 0.341, P = 0.008), but not fox density (R2 = 0.012, P = 0.976). Individuals at high densities had more collared neighbors with overlapping home ranges (R2 = 0.123, P = 0.026) but not an increase in the amount of contact between individual neighbors. This study was the first time contact rates were directly measured and compared to density and home range overlap. Results suggest that foxes exhibit a threshold in their degree of tolerance for neighbors, overlap is a reliable index of the amount of direct contact between island foxes, and disease transmission rates will likely scale with fox density. © 2015 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Bridges A.S.,Institute for Wildlife Studies | Sanchez J.N.,University of California at Davis | Biteman D.S.,Institute for Wildlife Studies
Journal of Mammalogy | Year: 2015

Feral cats, Felis catus, inhabiting San Clemente Island, California, are both predators and competitors of multiple sympatric endemic species. To improve our understanding and management of these invasive predators, we used GPS-equipped radiocollars to track 11 (6F:5M) cats for a total of 3,108 days, resulting in 15,419 GPS locations. Average 100% minimum convex polygon, 95% kernel density, and 50% kernel density estimates were 229, 132, and 33 ha, respectively. The point estimate for average male home-range size was larger than the average for females, but there was substantial variation among individuals of both sexes. Overlap indices indicated similar usage areas during nocturnal and diurnal time periods. Sample size limited our ability to definitively detect habitat preference, but data suggested areas within 50 m of roads were avoided, and that thicker land cover was preferred over open grasslands. Three test collars deployed within active cat home ranges indicated GPS locations were precise, with 96% of locations having < 10-m error estimates, and that horizontal dilution of precision indices were not useful in screening data. Our results describe feral cat spatial ecology on a semiarid island and can be used to inform population estimation, control, and mitigation programs. © 2015 American Society of Mammalogists.

PubMed | Environment Canada, Vermont Center for Ecostudies, Audubon Washington, Institute for Wildlife Studies and University of Connecticut
Type: | Journal: Global change biology | Year: 2016

Sea-level rise will affect coastal species worldwide, but models that aim to predict these effects are typically based on simple measures of sea level that do not capture its inherent complexity, especially variation over timescales shorter than 1year. Coastal species might be most affected, however, by floods that exceed a critical threshold. The frequency and duration of such floods may be more important to population dynamics than mean measures of sea level. In particular, the potential for changes in the frequency and duration of flooding events to result in nonlinear population responses or biological thresholds merits further research, but may require that models incorporate greater resolution in sea level than is typically used. We created population simulations for a threatened songbird, the saltmarsh sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus), in a region where sea level is predictable with high accuracy and precision. We show that incorporating the timing of semidiurnal high tide events throughout the breeding season, including how this timing is affected by mean sea-level rise, predicts a reproductive threshold that is likely to cause a rapid demographic shift. This shift is likely to threaten the persistence of saltmarsh sparrows beyond 2060 and could cause extinction as soon as 2035. Neither extinction date nor the population trajectory was sensitive to the emissions scenarios underlying sea-level projections, as most of the population decline occurred before scenarios diverge. Our results suggest that the variation and complexity of climate-driven variables could be important for understanding the potential responses of coastal species to sea-level rise, especially for species that rely on coastal areas for reproduction.

Roughly half of adult foxes examined between 2001 and 2008 had tumors in their ears, with about two-thirds of those malignant, according to a UC Davis study published this month in the journal PLOS ONE. More than 98 percent of the foxes were also infected with ear mites. These mites appear to be a predisposing factor for ear tumors in the Santa Catalina Island fox. Luckily for the foxes, the story doesn't stop there. "We established a high prevalence of both tumors and ear mites, and hypothesized that there was something we could potentially do about it, which now appears to be significantly helping this population," said Winston Vickers, lead author of the prevalence study and an associate veterinarian with the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Working closely with researchers from the Institute for Wildlife Studies and Catalina Island Conservancy, the scientists conducted one of the few studies to estimate disease prevalence in an entire free-living wildlife population. A complementary study, also led by UC Davis and published in PLOS ONE today, found that treatments with acaracide, a chemical agent used to kill ear mites in dogs and cats, reduced the prevalence of ear mite infection dramatically, from 98 percent to 10 percent among treated foxes at the end of the six-month trial. Ear canal inflammation and other signs of developing ear tumors also dropped. "It's rare to have a success story," said the ear mite study's lead author, Megan Moriarty, a student with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine when the study began and currently a staff research associate at the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center. "It was interesting to see such striking results over a relatively short time period." Santa Catalina Island foxes are intensively managed by the Catalina Island Conservancy. In 2009, when the mite treatment study began, the Conservancy added acaracide to the variety of preventative treatments they administer to the foxes each year. The Conservancy confirms that, in the years since, the overall prevalence of ear mites has dramatically declined in the areas they normally catch and treat foxes, as have the rates of tissue masses in the ear canals, suggesting reduced tumor presence. "The annual prophylactic acaracide treatment has greatly improved the overall condition of the foxes' ear canals," said Julie King, the Conservancy's director of Conservation and Wildlife Management and co-author of both studies. "Within just a few months post treatment, the presence of wax, infection, inflammation, and pigmentation virtually disappear. We have also noted an apparent reduction in the number of tumors observed, despite the fact that the absence of wax and other obstructions has made them easier to detect." Conservancy biologists have also documented a cascade effect on the foxes' offspring, since most young foxes get the ear mites from their parents. "Prior to treatment in 2009, approximately 90 percent of all pups handled had ear mites, whereas by 2015, mites were detected in only 15 percent of new pups." King said. The studies pose new questions. For instance, the mite treatment certainly reduces the prevalence and severity of mite infection, as well as risk factors for tumor development, but what effect will it have on overall tumor and cancer rates for these foxes in the long term? Also, ear mites infect other Channel Island foxes, but those foxes don't develop ear canal tumors. So why are Santa Catalina Island foxes predisposed to these tumors and not other Channel Island foxes? Vickers and colleagues are preparing to research possible genetic reasons for this. "Catalina foxes have an over-exuberant tissue reaction to the same stimuli—the mites—and that appears to lead to the tumors," Vickers said. "That's why we gravitate toward genetics in addition to other factors." The Santa Catalina Island fox is one of six subspecies native to the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. Its population declined dramatically in 1999 when a distemper epidemic decimated up to 90 percent of the population, prompting the federal endangered species listing for the roughly 150 foxes remaining. The population has since rebounded to an estimated 1,717 foxes. Explore further: Once nearly extinct, wild foxes on Catalina Island making a comeback More information: T. Winston Vickers et al. Pathology and Epidemiology of Ceruminous Gland Tumors among Endangered Santa Catalina Island Foxes (Urocyon littoralis catalinae) in the Channel Islands, USA, PLOS ONE (2015). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143211 Moriarty ME, Vickers TW, Clifford DL, Garcelon DK, Gaffney PM, Lee KW, et al. (2015) Ear Mite Removal in the Santa Catalina Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis catalinae): Controlling Risk Factors for Cancer Development. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0144271. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144271

Newsome S.D.,University of New Mexico | Collins P.W.,Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History | Sharpe P.,Institute for Wildlife Studies
Condor | Year: 2015

Successful management of reintroduced populations requires recognizing that ecological conditions may have changed between extirpation and reintroduction. For example, characterizing dietary patterns of generalist apex predators in the past and present can help to define how their functional role may change as translocated populations grow. We identified prey remains collected from Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests and used carbon (λ13C) and nitrogen (λ15N) stable isotope analysis to quantify diet composition of the recently reintroduced Bald Eagle population on the Channel Islands off southern California, USA. We collected ≥6,000 prey items from recently occupied nests on Santa Catalina, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Anacapa islands in 2010 and 2011. Prey identification and stable isotope analysis yielded similar results and showed that eagles on Santa Catalina Island consumed a high proportion (~60%) of marine fish and a lower proportion (25-30%) of seabirds, while their counterparts on the Northern Channel Islands consumed equal proportions (~40-45%) of these prey types. Terrestrial resource use was low with the exception of eagles from one nest on Santa Catalina Island, where eagles primarily consumed ground squirrels and freshwater fish. We suggest that a combination of natural and anthropogenic factors is responsible for the interisland differences in Bald Eagle diet. Bald Eagle interactions with a robust recreational fishery off Santa Catalina Island may enhance access to fish species that are not available to eagles on the Northern Channel Islands, where the availability of breeding seabirds is far greater. The proportion of seabirds consumed by eagles on the Northern Channel Islands today is similar to that consumed by eagles from this region historically and prehistorically. This suggests that the restoration of breeding seabirds on the Channel Islands will benefit the long-term viability of eagle populations in the northern archipelago. © 2015 Cooper Ornithological Society.

Curtis J.A.,U.S. Geological Survey | Flint L.E.,U.S. Geological Survey | Flint A.L.,U.S. Geological Survey | Lundquist J.D.,University of Washington | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

We present a unique water-balance approach for modeling snowpack under historic, current and future climates throughout the Sierra Nevada Ecoregion. Our methodology uses a finer scale (270 m) than previous regional studies and incorporates cold-air pooling, an atmospheric process that sustains cooler temperatures in topographic depressions thereby mitigating snowmelt. Our results are intended to support management and conservation of snow-dependent species, which requires characterization of suitable habitat under current and future climates. We use the wolverine (Gulo gulo) as an example species and investigate potential habitat based on the depth and extent of spring snowpack within four National Park units with proposed wolverine reintroduction programs. Our estimates of change in spring snowpack conditions under current and future climates are consistent with recent studies that generally predict declining snowpack. However, model development at a finer scale and incorporation of cold-air pooling increased the persistence of April 1st snowpack. More specifically, incorporation of cold-air pooling into future climate projections increased April 1st snowpack by 6.5% when spatially averaged over the study region and the trajectory of declining April 1st snowpack reverses at mid-elevations where snow pack losses are mitigated by topographic shading and cold-air pooling. Under future climates with sustained or increased precipitation, our results indicate a high likelihood for the persistence of late spring snowpack at elevations above approximately 2,800 m and identify potential climate refugia sites for snow-dependent species at mid-elevations, where significant topographic shading and cold-air pooling potential exist.

Doak D.F.,University of Colorado at Boulder | Bakker V.J.,Montana State University | Vickers W.,Institute for Wildlife Studies
Conservation Biology | Year: 2013

Outbreaks of infectious disease represent serious threats to the viability of many vertebrate populations, but few studies have included quantitative evaluations of alternative approaches to the management of disease. The most prevalent management approach is monitoring for and rapid response to an epizootic. An alternative is vaccination of a subset of the free-living population (i.e., a "vaccinated core") such that some individuals are partially or fully immune in the event of an epizootic. We developed a simulation model describing epizootic dynamics, which we then embedded in a demographic simulation to assess these alternative approaches to managing rabies epizootics in the island fox (Urocyon littoralis), a species composed of only 6 small populations on the California Channel Islands. Although the monitor and respond approach was superior to the vaccinated-core approach for some transmission models and parameter values, this type of reactive management did not protect the population from rabies under many disease-transmission assumptions. In contrast, a logistically feasible program of prophylactic vaccination for part of the wild population yielded low extinction probabilities across all likely disease-transmission scenarios, even with recurrent disease introductions. Our use of a single metric of successful management-probability of extreme endangerment (i.e., quasi extinction)-to compare very different management approaches allowed an objective assessment of alternative strategies for controlling the threats posed by infectious disease outbreaks. © 2013 Society for Conservation Biology.

Hudgens B.R.,Institute for Wildlife Studies | Garcelon D.K.,Institute for Wildlife Studies
Oecologia | Year: 2011

Prey response to novel predators influences the impacts on prey populations of introduced predators, bio-control efforts, and predator range expansion. Predicting the impacts of novel predators on native prey requires an understanding of both predator avoidance strategies and their potential to reduce predation risk. We examine the response of island foxes (Urocyon littoralis) to invasion by golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos). Foxes reduced daytime activity and increased night time activity relative to eagle-naïve foxes. Individual foxes reverted toward diurnal tendencies following eagle removal efforts. We quantified the potential population impact of reduced diurnality by modeling island fox population dynamics. Our model predicted an annual population decline similar to what was observed following golden eagle invasion and predicted that the observed 11% reduction in daytime activity would not reduce predation risk sufficiently to reduce extinction risk. The limited effect of this behaviorally plastic predator avoidance strategy highlights the importance of linking behavioral change to population dynamics for predicting the impact of novel predators on resident prey populations. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.

Daniel K.,University of Guelph | Daniel K.,North Carolina State University | Brian H.,Institute for Wildlife Studies | Haddad N.M.,North Carolina State University | And 2 more authors.
Ecology | Year: 2010

Determining connectivity within complex landscapes is difficult if habitats that facilitate dispersal differ from habitats where animals normally are found or enter. We addressed the question of how landscape features affect dispersal by quantifying two critical aspects of animal movement behavior that determine dispersal rates across complex landscapes: conductivity of major habitat types and behavior at boundaries between habitat types. Our tests consisted of behavioral experiments and observational surveys of a wetland butterfly, Satyrodes appalachia. Displacement rates varied among habitats, with the longest moves and straightest paths leading to greater displacement rate in open habitat and shortest moves and most sinuous paths causing the slowest displacement rate in riparian forest habitat. We found a strong negative relationship between the probability of entering a habitat and the speed of moving through it. Recognizing this central conflict between entering and moving through habitat is important for assessing the connectivity of complex landscapes. © by the Ecological society of America.

Bridges A.S.,Institute for Wildlife Studies | Vaughan M.R.,Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University | Fox J.A.,Saint Louis University
Ursus | Year: 2011

Timing of parturition and, to a lesser extent, estrus, are rarely explored aspects of American black bear (Ursus americanus) reproductive ecology. The Cooperative Alleghany Bear Study was an intensive 10-year multi-faceted research project conducted on 2 study areas in western Virginia. We examined timing of estrus based on 430 observations of 326 lone (without cubs at the time of capture) female bears from late May-August, 1994-2002. We estimated parturition date for 383 cubs from 150 litters born from 1996-2003 to 99 individual females ranging from 3-24 years old. Bears were documented in estrus from late May through August with a peak during early July. Parturition dates ranged from late December to mid February with most births occurring in mid January. Three- and 4-year olds gave birth, on average, 12 days later than older bears. We suggest parturition date likely affects den exit date and perhaps cub survival, an area requiring further inquiry. © 2011 International Association for Bear Research and Management.

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