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Human land-use effects on mammalian mesopredator occupancy of a northeastern Connecticut landscape

Citation

Zamuda, Kimberly; Duguid, Marlyse C.; Schmitz, Oswald (2022), Human land-use effects on mammalian mesopredator occupancy of a northeastern Connecticut landscape, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.7d7wm37xs

Abstract

Mammalian mesopredators—mid-sized carnivores—are ecologically, economically and socially important. With their adaptability to a variety of habitats and diets, loss of apex predators and forest regrowth, many of these species are increasing in number throughout the northeastern USA. However, currently the region is seeing extensive landscape alterations, with an increase in residential and industrial development especially at the expense of existing forest and small-scale farmland. We sought to understand how important an existing mosaic of working lands (timberland and farmland) in a forested landscape is to mesopredator species. We did this through studying mesopredator occupancy across three land uses (or habitat types): forest reserve (protected), timber harvest (shelterwood cuts) and field (both crop yielding and fallow) in and around a 3200-ha forest in northeastern Connecticut. We examined coyote (Canis latrans), bobcat (Lynx rufus), fisher (Pekania pennanti), and raccoon (Procyon lotor) occupancy using paired camera traps across juxtaposed reserve, shelterwood and field units from April 2018 to March 2019. We created a priori habitat variable models for each species and season, as well as analyzed the impact of habitat types on each species. Throughout the year bobcats positively associated with foliage height diversity, and had the highest use of shelterwoods and lowest of fields. Land use utilization varied seasonally for coyotes and raccoons, with higher use of fields than reserves and shelterwoods for half the year and no difference between land uses the other half. Both species were not strongly associated with any particular habitat variables. Reserve forest was moderately to highly used by all species for at least half the year, and highly use year-round by fisher. Our findings reveal that a mosaic of intact forest and working lands, timber harvest and agriculture can support mesopredator diversity.

Methods

Mesopredator mammal presence absence data was collected from 50 paired Bushnell Trophy Cam HD camera traps in the Yale Myers Forest from April 2018 through February 2019. Within each season, we sampled on three replicate sets of 21 survey days. For analysis, the 21 survey days were condensed down to 7 survey days, with every three days grouped together into a single survey, consistent with other protocols (Cove et al., 2017). For illustration, a presence (1)/absence (0) sequence of 100-000-001 (9 surveys) was reduced to 1-0-1 (3 surveys). The raw presence absence data is provided. For habitat variables, at each camera trap location we measured canopy cover, foliage height diversity, volume of coarse woody debris, and snag density. All other habitat variables were extracted at 1km buffer radius from each camera trap site, and the data was pulled from the National Land Cover, Yale Myers Forest and National Elevation Databases. For further methodological description see associated paper.

Usage Notes

Presence Absence mesopredator data by species and season. This file contains presence (1) and absence (0) data for each mesopredator species per site across four seasons. The species included are coyote, bobcat, racoon and fisher. mesopredator_presence_absence_data.xlsx

Habitat Variables. This file contains habitat variables data associated with each site. The sites in this file are the same as in the Presence absence data file.

A ReadMe file for the dataset is attached for further description of all files.

Funding

Yale University