, Volume 167, Issue 4, pp 1005-1016
Date: 26 Jun 2011

Effects of prescribed fire, supplemental feeding, and mammalian predator exclusion on hispid cotton rat populations

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Abstract

Predation and food resources can strongly affect small mammal population dynamics directly by altering vital rates or indirectly by influencing behaviors. Fire may also strongly influence population dynamics of species inhabiting fire-adapted habitats because fire can alter food and cover availability. We used capture–mark–recapture and radio-telemetry studies to experimentally examine how supplemental feeding, mammalian predator exclusion, and prescribed fire affected survival, abundance, and reproduction of hispid cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus) in southwestern Georgia, USA. Prescribed fire reduced survival, abundance, and rates of transitions to reproductive states. Food supplementation increased survival, transitions to reproductive states, and abundance, but was not sufficient to prevent post-fire declines in any of these parameters. Mammalian predator exclusion did not strongly affect any of the considered parameters. Our results show that fire strongly influenced cotton rat populations in our study site, primarily by reducing cover and increasing predation risk from non-mammalian predators.

Communicated by Peter Banks.