Date of Award

8-1-2011

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Zoology

First Advisor

Halbrook, Richard

Abstract

Mink (Mustela vison) are an important species because they occur at a high trophic level, they are considered a potential indicator species for environmental contaminants, and they are a popular target species among fur trappers. Despite the importance of mink, their ecology in North America is not well understood. I sampled 59 of 60 Hudson River tributaries with 2 scent stations randomly established along each tributary for 2 10-day monitoring periods to evaluate presence/absence of mink via remote camera photographs and tracks. When sampling was completed, I quantified microhabitat characteristics at 84 randomly selected scent stations. Statistical tests for microhabitat did not indicate a difference among variables selected for analysis between scent stations where mink visits were detected and those where mink visits were not detected. I also analyzed all scent stations for macrohabitat characteristics related to human disturbance, using 150 m circular buffers in ArcGIS 9.2. Although the percent cover of human disturbance was 7.0% greater at scent stations where mink were not detected, the difference was not significant and may therefore indicate that mink may have a tolerance for moderate human disturbances. I also evaluated the performances of 2 types of remote cameras (Moultrie Game Cameras: MGC I–40 and MGC 200) in detecting mink visits at scent stations as well as comparing remote camera detections of mink visits with observations of tracks. The MGC I–40 cameras detected a significantly greater number of mink visits (n = 50) compared to the MGC 200 cameras (n = 3). Detection of mink at scent stations was also significantly greater using the remote cameras compared with observations of mink tracks. Mink were also live–trapped and implanted with subcutaneous radiotransmitters. There were 13 mink captures (0.31 mink/100 trap–nights) with radiotransmitters being implanted in 12 (11 males and 1 female) mink. Overall 166 den sites were located with a mean of 15.9 den sites/mink. Microhabitat analysis of 33 used den sites and 33 unused potentially available den sites (UPADs) indicated that shoreline cover was significantly greater at used den sites. Macrohabitat analysis using 150 m circular buffers surrounding 76 used den sites and 76 unused potentially available sites (UPASs) indicated that human disturbance was 3.3% greater at the UPASs than at used den sites, but this difference was not significant. This may further suggest that mink may have a tolerance for moderate human disturbances. Den site structures most often used by mink included brushpiles or logjams (21.1%) and bank burrows (17.5%). The use of den site structures appeared to be largely based on shoreline cover and availability. The mean linear home range of male mink was 6.6 km (SE = 0.6, range 3.2 – 8.4 km), which was similar to the female's home range of 6.5 km. Ten mink home ranges encompassed portions of both the Hudson River and its tributaries accounting for a mean of 2.8 and 4.4 km, respectively. Mean daily movement distances of mink along shorelines was 659 m (SE = 42, range 0 – 3,087 m) and was significantly greater along tributaries than along the Hudson River.

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