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Effects of culling on mesopredator population dynamics.


ABSTRACT: Anthropogenic changes in land use and the extirpation of apex predators have facilitated explosive growth of mesopredator populations. Consequently, many species have been subjected to extensive control throughout portions of their range due to their integral role as generalist predators and reservoirs of zoonotic disease. Yet, few studies have monitored the effects of landscape composition or configuration on the demographic or behavioral response of mesopredators to population manipulation. During 2007 we removed 382 raccoons (Procyon lotor) from 30 forest patches throughout a fragmented agricultural ecosystem to test hypotheses regarding the effects of habitat isolation on population recovery and role of range expansion and dispersal in patch colonization of mesopredators in heterogeneous landscapes. Patches were allowed to recolonize naturally and demographic restructuring of patches was monitored from 2008-2010 using mark-recapture. An additional 25 control patches were monitored as a baseline measure of demography. After 3 years only 40% of experimental patches had returned to pre-removal densities. This stagnant recovery was driven by low colonization rates of females, resulting in little to no within-patch recruitment. Colonizing raccoons were predominantly young males, suggesting that dispersal, rather than range expansion, was the primary mechanism driving population recovery. Contrary to our prediction, neither landscape connectivity nor measured local habitat attributes influenced colonization rates, likely due to the high dispersal capability of raccoons and limited role of range expansion in patch colonization. Although culling is commonly used to control local populations of many mesopredators, we demonstrate that such practices create severe disruptions in population demography that may be counterproductive to disease management in fragmented landscapes due to an influx of dispersing males into depopulated areas. However, given the slow repopulation rates observed in our study, localized depopulation may be effective at reducing negative ecological impacts of mesopredators in fragmented landscapes at limited spatial and temporal scales.

SUBMITTER: Beasley JC 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC3604110 | BioStudies | 2013-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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