Journal of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The Journal of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (ISSN 2330-5142) presents papers that cover all aspects of the management and conservation of inland, estuarine, and marine fisheries and wildlife. It aims to provide a forum where fisheries and wildlife managers can find innovative solutions to the problems facing our natural resources in the 21st century. The Journal welcomes manuscripts that cover scientific studies, case studies, and review articles on a wide range of topics of interest and use to fish and wildlife managers, with an emphasis on the southeastern United States.

 

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Resource selection by female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and their offspring during the fawning season can influence survival and recruitment. The selection process in females is thought to represent the balancing of often competing demands to minimize predation risk and maximize resource availability to support the energetic demands of lactation. We used a distance-based approach to examine selection of fawn-rearing areas and locations within fawning areas for 20 radio-instrumented female white-tailed deer on Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana. We also examined selection of vegetative attributes at parturition sites (n = 20) and fawn bed sites (n = 106). Females selected fawn-rearing areas nearer to agriculture than expected given their home ranges, but within their fawn-rearing areas, females were located farther from agriculture and reforestation than expected.

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations located at the mouth of the Mississippi River are of historical significance as they have been a major source for restocking in Louisiana since the 1960s. Apparent population declines of these deer since the 1990s led the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to initiate a study to gather demographic data on white-tailed deer on the 46,540-ha Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area (PALWMA). We captured and individually marked 57 deer on PALWMA from 2007 to 2012. We monitored travel corridors using un-baited trail cameras and recorded all sightings of marked and unmarked individuals until 2014. We collected 4,325 photographic observations of white-tailed deer with 340 (8%) resightings of individually marked deer. Estimated apparent annual survival for female and male white-tailed deer was 0.48 ± 0.07 and 0.78 ± 0.06, respectively.

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginanus) are the most sought after game species in Kentucky. Deer numbers in southeast Kentucky are relatively low compared to other areas of the state, even after a decade of restrictive doe harvest and prior population supplementation. We estimated survival and assessed cause-specific mortality of a representative deer population in this low-density area within or near the Redbird District of the Daniel Boone National Forest in southeastern Kentucky from January 2014-January 2017. Estimated annual survival for does averaged 0.89 and was relatively high compared to similar studies. Deer-vehicle collisions and poaching caused 13 of 18 (72%) deaths. We recommend longer-term studies at these and other sites in this area to better understand deer population dynamics and their relationship to important habitat components so as to inform regional management of this important game species.

Most state wildlife agencies collect harvest data to inform management decisions. However, these data are typically considered across relatively short time periods and are rarely revisited. We present a case study using historical records to investigate potential agents (i.e., harvest, predation, and forest change) influencing the declining white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) population in the north Georgia mountains. We used long-term black bear (Ursus americanus) and deer harvest data, and indices of forest stand conditions from 1979-2015 on eight Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in the north Georgia mountains. During 1979-2015, harvest of male and female deer declined by 85% and 97%, respectively. Over the same time period, mean yearling male deer body weight increased by 21%, mean antler diameter increased by 62%, and mean antler beam length increased by 92%.

Eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris; hereafter, turkeys) are widely recognized throughout the southeastern United States as a species of ecological, recreational, aesthetic, and economic importance. As a game species, male turkeys are most popularly hunted during spring, a timeframe coinciding with breeding and nesting activities. Given this period's biological importance, wildlife managers are challenged to avoid negative population effects from harvest while simultaneously providing quality hunting opportunities. Biological considerations associated with timing spring turkey seasons include potential effects on productivity from early and high male harvest and intentional or inadvertent illegal female harvest. Turkey hunters often request spring seasons timed to maximize exposure to gobbling activity, but these sociological considerations may conflict with biological objectives.

Management techniques to improve wildlife populations often can affect non-target species indirectly. Supplemental feeding for northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) has become a popular management technique to improve bobwhite recruitment and survival, but potential impacts on non-target species such as eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) are unknown. We deployed 111 global positioning systems on wild turkeys on the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Webb Wildlife Management Area Complex during 2014-2016 to evaluate if supplemental feeding for quail impacted wild turkey movement ecology. Turkeys which used areas where supplemental feeding had occurred maintained larger ranges before, during, and after hunting season. Ranges of individuals that used the treatment area in 2014 before feeding occurred were larger than individuals' ranges that overlapped the treatment area after feeding began, but differences were minimal (<16 ha).

The Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) had extensive bottomland hardwood forests but less than 25% of this area remains forested today. Impounded greentree reservoirs (GTRs), have been managed for wintering waterfowl since the 1930s, and provide a source of aquatic invertebrates and acorns for foraging ducks and other wildlife. However, few studies of invertebrate community-composition, diversity, and biomass have been conducted at regional scales. We collected samples of aquatic invertebrates from three hardwood bottomlands in the MAV and one in the Mississippi Interior Flatwoods region during winters 2008-09 and 2009-10. We compared community composition metrics of aquatic invertebrates between naturally flooded forests (NFF) and GTRs. Five families occurred more frequently in GTRs than NFFs (P < 0.01); these were Asellidae, Chironomidae, Cragonyctidae, Daphniidae, and Sphaeriidae.

Researchers have used playback as an effective survey tool for ornithological research and monitoring, but amateur use is controversial because of potential negative effects on birds. Despite limited peer-reviewed research on this technique, conservation organizations worldwide have limited or banned the use of playback. Some birders use “pishing” (vocal imitation of avian alarm calls) as an alternative to playback. We investigated the effects of simulated birder playback and pishing on the behavior of wintering birds in northern Louisiana. Four experimental treatments were performed at each of six sites: baseline (no birder), control (birder present—no sound), pishing (birder pished five times), and playback (birder played three pre-recorded bird songs). Our order of presentation of each experimental treatment was varied at each site to control for habituation of birds.

Watersnakes serve a variety of important roles in aquatic ecosystems with many species being of conservation interest. The northern water- snake (Nerodia sipedon) has some populations of concern, but is found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats throughout North America. Although previous studies have examined the diet of this typically piscivorous species, research has not addressed whether the northern watersnake is preferentially selecting particular fish as prey. In this study, we sampled snake stomach contents and used Chesson's alpha selection index (αi) to investigate whether northern watersnakes are eating fish families in proportion to their availability or are preferentially selecting or avoiding specific fish families. At the Sloughs Wildlife Management Area in western Kentucky, the northern watersnake fed on fish from six families in 2013 (n = 15) and 2014 (n = 36).

Population projection models are applied tools for considering the potential effects of land and population management alternatives. Incorporating spatially explicit processes and individual dynamics into these models can be important when assessing viability for relatively small populations in patchy habitats. We developed a spatially explicit, individual-based population simulation model (IBM) for gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) incorporating demographic rates from published studies throughout the range of the species. We then demonstrated this approach's utility for evaluating potential viability under projected forest management with and without tortoise population augmentation on two areas of state-managed property in southern Alabama. Under all scenarios, projected populations declined to local extinction within 100-200 years.

Longleaf pine (LLP, Pinus palustris) has been reduced to 3-5% of its original range, but may be particularly resilient to conditions associated with climate change including drought, severe storms, and increased prevalence of pests. Despite the critical role of LLP in building climate resilient ecosystems, little is known about how landscape managers in the region have considered climate change in planning efforts. We gathered 83 publicly accessible natural resource management plans from the southeastern United States that included management of LLP ecosystems between 1999 and 2016. We used document analysis to identify how plans addressed climate change threats on LLP, considered climate change in identification of LLP ecosystems, and linked climate change to planned conservation actions for LLP ecosystems.

In 2011, the Texas state legislature legalized hand fishing as a harvest method for cat fish in Texas. Although large cat fish (>600 mm total length [TL]) are expected to be vulnerable to this fishing method, little is known about hand fishers or their harvest practices. To help make informed management decisions and better understand how hand fishers compare to other Texas' cat fish anglers, we surveyed hand fishers to collect information on their demographics and fishing activities. Survey respondents (n = 118) were primarily preexisting cat fish fishermen who already utilized other gear types to fish for cat fish; only 5.6% of respondents exclusively hand shed. Despite expressing a willingness to use other gear types, 40% of respondents (n = 47) considered hand fishing their most important fishing activity. Respondents indicated they hand shed a median of 15 days annually, primarily during the spawning period.

Alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) exhibit many characteristics of a periodic life-history strategy, including extended longevity, late maturity, high fecundity, and variable recruitment success. Observations of alligator gar spawning events indicate that recruitment in inland waters may be linked to spring and summer flood pulses and the availability of floodplain spawning habitats. However, because data have mostly come from observation and not formal experimentation, it is unknown whether these data represent true requirements or if they simply reflect conditions that were easily observed. Therefore, we reviewed existing data regarding alligator gar spawning and early development to draft habitat suitability criteria related to recruitment success and then tested these criteria against historic annual recruitment variability (i.e., year-class strength) in the Trinity River and Choke Canyon Reservoir, Texas.

Coastal rivers can support quality largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) fishing, but recruitment failure and habitat availability can influence population size and structure because of the dynamic nature of these systems. Stocking success in coastal river systems has been rarely evaluated. is study examined stocking success of oxytetracycline (OTC) marked F1 intergrade Florida (M.s. oridanus) and northern (M.s. salmoides) fingerling largemouth bass in the tidal Chickahominy River, Virginia. Fish were stocked at a density of 62 fish ha-1 in spring 2006 (mean TL = 54 mm) and 2007 (mean TL=51 mm). We used standardized long-term electro fishing and creel surveys to assess individual cohorts and temporal population trends among various size groups. We determined percent contribution by analyzing otoliths for OTC to differentiate between stocked and wild large- mouth bass.

Fisheries management problems are generally complex because they are socio-ecological systems encumbered by issues of scale, stakeholder conflict, and structural uncertainty with respect to the influence of management on the resource. Consequently, agencies that manage fisheries actively seek employees that can demonstrate problem-solving skills and communicate to a diverse set of stakeholders. To enhance development of critical thinking skills, problem-based learning was incorporated into an undergraduate introductory fisheries class using a structured decision making (SDM) framework. Student teams identified a problem of local, regional, or national significance, then defined the problem's scope and scale and identified decision makers and stakeholders, multiple conflicting objectives, and alternative actions designed to meet objectives.

Urban fisheries provide unique angling opportunities for people from traditionally underrepresented demographics. Lake Raleigh is a 38-ha impoundment located on the North Carolina State University campus in Raleigh. Like many urban fisheries, little is known about angler use and satisfaction or how angling catch rate is related to fish availability in Lake Raleigh. We characterized the recreational fishery and fish assemblage with con- current creel and boat electro fishing surveys over the course of one year. In total, 245 anglers were interviewed on 68 survey days. On average, anglers spent 1.7 h fishing per trip and caught 0.385 fish h-1. A large proportion of anglers (43.9%) targeted multiple species, whereas 36.5% targeted largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), 10.0% targeted panfish (i.e., sun shes [Lepomis spp.] and crappies [Pomoxis spp.]), and 9.6% targeted cat fish (Ameiurus spp. and Ictalurus spp.).

Published reports indicate night electrofishing may be superior to day sampling to estimate density and diversity of collected shes in some aquatic habitats. However, because shallow, highly turbid waters characteristic of river floodplains present fish detection, navigation, and safety concerns during night electrofishing, many southeastern floodplain sampling programs have focused on day electrofishing. We used paired day and night samples of shes collected by transect (200 m distance for eight minutes) and point electro fishing (1 minute at four points spaced 25 m apart) to assess potential day electro fishing bias at four sites in the Atchafalaya River floodplain during fall and winter 2013. Analyses compared day and night estimates of overall catch-per-unit e ort (CPUE) of bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), and black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), as well as species richness and assemblage evenness by electrofishing method.

The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) conducted a tagging study from April 2011 to May 2012 to study growth of wild brown trout (Salmo trutta) in the Lake Lanier Tailwater section of the Chattahoochee River. Sampling occurred monthly at four sites and fish were tagged with VI- Alpha tags on nine occasions between April 2011 and March 2012 for subsequent recapture. Follow-up samples in June and December 2012 confirmed a lack of movement between sites by any tagged brown trout that was seen in the previous samples. Growth increments between tagging and recapture events were calculated and used to estimate average length at age. More than 80% of brown trout collected measured between 17.5 and 27.5 cm TL. Brown trout appeared to initially grow rapidly, likely reaching quality size (23 cm total length [TL]) within two years. Growth rapidly slowed, however, as fish approached 30 cm.

Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) are a commercially-exploited species harvested primarily for their roe. e objectives of this study were to describe population characteristics of paddlefish in the lower Mississippi River (LMR) of Arkansas and use population-simulation so ware to deter- mine the length limit required to prevent recruitment over fishing by maintaining spawning potential ratios (SPR) over 30%. Paddlefish (n = 534) were collected from the LMR in cooperation with commercial fishers during the 2008-2011 commercial seasons. Lengths ranged 150-1095 mm eye-fork length and ages, 2-24 years. Total annual mortality was estimated from catch curves at 28%, and mean instantaneous natural mortality was estimated to be 0.19, conferring an estimated exploitation of 10%. Only 10% of gravid females were under the existing 864-mm minimum-length limit (MLL), but changing the MLL to 889 mm would protect an additional 10%.

Accurate age and growth information is essential in successful management of fish populations and for understanding early life history. We validated daily increment deposition, including the timing of first ring formation, for spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) through 127 days post hatch. Fry were produced from hatchery-spawned specimens, and up to 10 individuals per week were sacrificed and their otoliths (sagitta, lapillus, and asteriscus) removed for daily age estimation. Daily age estimates for all three otolith pairs were significantly related to known age. The strongest relationships existed for measurements from the sagitta (r2 = 0.98) and the lapillus (r2 = 0.99) with asteriscus (r2 = 0.95) the lowest. All age prediction models resulted in a slope near unity, indicating that ring deposition occurred approximately daily.

Effective harvest management for mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) requires information regarding factors affecting harvest. We tested the effects of spinning-wing decoys (SWDs) on mourning dove harvest vulnerability on dove fields in central Tennessee during opening weekend of hunting 2007 and 2008. Use of a SWD did not affect numbers of shots red, doves harvested, doves missed, or doves crippled. Heavy hunting pressure may have limited SWD effects on dove harvest by hunters using them. Use of SWDs does not seem to increase overall harvest in mourning dove populations, so regulations prohibiting these decoys for mourning dove hunting seem unnecessary.

Concentrating hunters on dove fields could place mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) and other ground foraging birds at risk of lead poisoning. We collected soil samples during three time periods (pre-soil disturbance [i.e., disking], post-soil disturbance [disking, roller harrow, planting], and post-hunting / field preparation [i.e., mowing, raking, burning]) to determine if soil disturbance reduced the amount of lead shot potentially available to ground foraging birds in managed dove fields. We also collected soil samples in the woods adjacent to these fields. Disking and site preparation did not have an impact on the number or the mass of lead pellets found on the soil surface and to a depth of 1 cm within the dove fields. More lead pellets were collected in the soil samples in the woods adjacent to dove fields than were collected in the dove fields.

Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) provides managed dove fields that are open for public dove hunting. Our goal was to examine public mourning dove hunting demand and opportunity in Georgia along with the spatial and temporal distribution of each. We defined public fields as fields owned or operated by WRD and open to any properly licensed hunter, and we defined public demand as the number of hunters that utilized those fields. We used a hunter survey to estimate the number of public dove hunters, their county of residence, the average number of days afield, and the timing of their hunting activities. We estimated opportunity provided by WRD dove fields in hunter-days for the entire season, by season segment, and by county. In 2015-16, Georgia had 54,679 total dove hunters who averaged 4.43 days a field or 242,226 hunter-days of total demand. Public demand accounted for 33,912 hunter-days, or 14% of total demand.

Knowledge of the relationship between waterfowl hunters and harvest levels may better inform harvest management decisions. We examined frequency of different sizes of daily harvests among duck hunters, and hunters' contributions to duck harvest in the Central Flyway from 1975-1984, 1988-1993, and 2002-2011 using the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Parts Collection Survey. We stratified hunters sampled by the Parts Collection Survey into 10 equal hunter groups based on seasonal harvest. Hunter groups were ranked from 1 to 10, with hunter group 1 representing hunters with the lowest seasonal harvests, and hunter group 10 representing hunters with the highest seasonal harvests. Successful hunters attained the 5-duck (1975- 1984), 3-duck (1988-1993), or 6-duck (2002-2011) daily limit in 8%, 28%, and 13%, respectively, of daily harvests.

Anthropogenic pressure can have significant impacts on how wildlife move and how they use habitats. During 2014-2016, we deployed 41 GPS transmitters on male wild turkeys on the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Webb Wildlife Management Area (WMA) Complex to evaluate effects of hunting intensity on male wild turkey movement ecology. Daily mean movement distance was 3,254 m day-1, but there was significant variation in our mean estimate (SD = 1,478) with movements ranging from 137 to 14,599 m on any given day. Male wild turkeys slightly decreased their movements in response to hunting intensity, but differences in movement distances were <300m and not biologically significant. We found that the primary driver of male wild turkey movements was neither hunting season timing/intensity nor reproductive period timing.