Date of Award
Master of Science
Throughout midwestern North American ecosystems, semi-aquatic mammals including beaver (Castor canadensis), mink (Neovision vision), muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), and river otter (Lontra canadensis) co-exist in wetlands. These species are ecologically important through their manipulation of habitats and interactions with other species present. The Lake County Forest Preserve District (Lake County, Illinois) is actively restoring forest preserves using several restoration practices and are interested in how these efforts may affect semi-aquatic mammal occupancy. We studied impacts of restoration practices and other environmental covariates on detection and occupancy of the 4 aforementioned focal species. Sign surveys were conducted during December-April in 2018-19 and 2019-20. Single species, multi-season models were run in RStudio using the package unmarked. Muskrat detection (p̂ = 0.60 ± 0.03) was positively affected by survey replicate, and negatively impacted by last precipitation amount and bank angle. Beaver detection (p̂ = 0.76 ± 0.03) was positively affected by survey replicate and previous 2-week precipitation amount, and negatively influenced by bank angle. Mink detection (p̂ = 0.26 ± 0.04) was positively impacted by survey replicate, and negatively affected by last precipitation amount and previous 2-week precipitation amount. River otter detection (p̂ = 0.10 ± 0.07) was not influenced by any covariates sampled. Muskrat had the highest occupancy (ψ ̂= 0.90 ± 0.05), followed by beaver (ψ ̂ = 0.57 ± 0.07), mink (ψ ̂ = 0.57 ± 0.10), and river otter (ψ ̂ = 0.28 ± 0.18). Both muskrat and river otter occupancy were not affected by any covariates sampled. Beaver occupancy was positively impacted by stream density and number of saplings. Mink occupancy was positively affected by stream density. No focal species’ occupancies were influenced by restoration practices. From these findings, I provide recommendations for future surveys and management for semi-aquatic furbearers in urban landscapes. Thank you to the Lake County Forest Preserve District for funding my research.
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