Abstract Title

An Inquiry into the Effect of Recreational Traffic on Mammal Populations in the Southern Idaho Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area

Additional Funding Sources

The project described was supported by the Pacific Northwest Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation through the National Science Foundation under Award No. HRD-1410465.

Abstract

Recreational use in regions of southern Idaho’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands may affect the habitat suitability for various mammal populations in those areas. Mammal populations may be affected by recreational shooters both directly, through direct interference and recreational harvest, and indirectly, through habitat modification and changes in interactions between the various species. These effects, if present, can be addressed through management of human recreators. We surveyed the populations of Piute ground squirrels (Urocitellus mollis), as well as coyotes (Canis latrans) and American badgers (Taxidea taxus), both of which are predators of the Piute ground squirrel. We conducted these observations at 10 sites with varying degrees of recreational traffic in order to compare the density of mammal populations between sites. In areas of high recreational traffic, the mean number of ground squirrels detected during conducted surveys was higher than it was in low traffic areas. Conversely, the number of American Badgers detected at high traffic sites was lower than the number detected at high recreation sites. It is possible that the presence of less predators at high recreation sites allows for the presence of more ground squirrels at those locations. Further studies are necessary to address other factors, such as habitat type and road density and whether or not they have an effect on mammal population density. If the imbalance of populations at those sites is due to the increased recreational traffic, regulations should be considered that protect those predator species.

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An Inquiry into the Effect of Recreational Traffic on Mammal Populations in the Southern Idaho Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area

Recreational use in regions of southern Idaho’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands may affect the habitat suitability for various mammal populations in those areas. Mammal populations may be affected by recreational shooters both directly, through direct interference and recreational harvest, and indirectly, through habitat modification and changes in interactions between the various species. These effects, if present, can be addressed through management of human recreators. We surveyed the populations of Piute ground squirrels (Urocitellus mollis), as well as coyotes (Canis latrans) and American badgers (Taxidea taxus), both of which are predators of the Piute ground squirrel. We conducted these observations at 10 sites with varying degrees of recreational traffic in order to compare the density of mammal populations between sites. In areas of high recreational traffic, the mean number of ground squirrels detected during conducted surveys was higher than it was in low traffic areas. Conversely, the number of American Badgers detected at high traffic sites was lower than the number detected at high recreation sites. It is possible that the presence of less predators at high recreation sites allows for the presence of more ground squirrels at those locations. Further studies are necessary to address other factors, such as habitat type and road density and whether or not they have an effect on mammal population density. If the imbalance of populations at those sites is due to the increased recreational traffic, regulations should be considered that protect those predator species.