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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Anglers have become increasingly interested in pursuing trophy largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), but creating and maintaining such fisheries are often challenging. We used a low-density stocking of female-only largemouth bass in combination with forage species stocking and a catch-and-release regulation to create a trophy fishery in a 43-ha Georgia impoundment. Initial stocking of age-1 female largemouth bass occurred in spring 2005, and the population was dominated by fish ≥457 mm total length (TL) within four years. A total of 180 largemouth bass were collected in 2012; 34.4 % exceeded 3.6 kg and 8.8 % exceeded 4.5 kg. Both angling and electrofishing caught individuals ≥457 mm TL, but electrofishing collected a broader size range of bass including fish ≤237 mm TL. Size structure of largemouth bass was larger in angling than electrofishing samples in spring, but was similar between gears for bass > 457 mm TL.

Sub-adult channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) are stocked into community fishing lakes in Texas to provide anglers with the opportunity to catch fish close to home. Survival of these stocked fish is unknown, and this study was initiated to provide some information and guidance for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department channel catfish stocking program. This study was conducted on 20 lakes in Texas between 0.4 and 4.0 ha with 10 located in urban environments and the other 10 in rural locations. Lakes were stocked one time with adipose fin-clipped channel catfish and surveyed monthly with baited hoop nets for 6 months. Angler effort was estimated using game cameras. Urban angling effort was significantly higher than rural angling effort. Winter had the lowest angling effort in rural and urban lakes, and angling effort declined significantly two weeks following stocking in both types of lakes. Hoop-net catch rate was similar between urban and rural lakes.

Recreational flow releases were established within the Nantahala Bypass Reach through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing of Duke Energyâ??s Nantahala Project. In 2012-2013, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, in conjunction with other resource managers, attempted to monitor the influence of recreational flow events on wild rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and brown trout (Salmo trutta) populations within Nantahala Bypass Reach and Nantahala Tailwater. Monitoring included temperature loggers and fish population sampling. Temperature effects of release events were most pronounced during late summer and fall. Densities and standing crop estimates of wild trout > 100 mm TL did not vary substantially among the sample dates; however, rainbow trout ≤100 mm TL were not present during the last sample date at either site.

Lake Norman, North Carolina, has a popular fishery for largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), but in 2001, annual surveys by Duke Energy documented the unauthorized introduction of Alabama bass (M. henshalli). Concerns over the effects of this introduction on the existing largemouth bass fishery prompted this study, the objective of which was to use the existing standardized sampling program to document expansion of the Alabama bass population and describe changes in the population characteristics of largemouth bass in Lake Norman. Following Alabama bass introduction, the species quickly spread throughout the main channel of the reservoir, with a concomitant decline in largemouth bass abundance, although mean total length of largemouth bass increased.

Reservoir tailwaters can be an important resource for developing quality trout fisheries, especially when managed with special regulations. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a 508-mm minimum-length limit and a 1 fish day-1 creel limit on increasing abundance and size of the brown trout (Salmo trutta) in the Cumberland River below Lake Cumberland, Kentucky. Annual stockings of catchable-sized brown trout remained relatively stable throughout the study at approximately 31,000 fish (503 fish km-1). The purpose of the new regulations, which did not include gear or bait restrictions, was to increase the numbers of quality (381-507 mm total length [TL]) and trophy-size (≥508 mm TL) brown trout in the 121-km tailwater. A significant increase in brown trout electrofishing catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) was observed across years for small (< 381 mm TL), quality, trophy-size, and all sizes combined brown trout.

Practices within the Conservation Reserve Program promote planting native grasses and forbs to improve habitat for northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and other wildlife. However, native grasses often become dense and stands can be invaded by undesirable plant species that reduce habitat quality. We investigated three herbicides (clethodim, glyphosate, and imazapyr) at two rates to reduce native-grass density and five herbicides (aminopyralid, fluroxypyr+triclopyr, glyphosate, metsulfuron-methyl, and triclopyr) at two rates to control sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata), a common nonnative invasive species. We applied herbicide to reduce native grass cover at four sites in Kentucky and Tennessee in 2013-2014. We applied herbicide to control sericea at three sites in Kentucky in 2012-2013. We recorded vegetation composition at the end of the first growing season (1GAT) after treatment and the beginning of the second growing season (2GAT) after treatment.

Little is known about the food habits of black bears (Ursus americanus) in Alabama. A major concern is the amount of human influence in the diet of these bears as human and bear populations continue to expand in a finite landscape and bear-human interactions are increasing. To better understand dietary habits of bears, 135 scats were collected during late August to late November 2011-2014. Food items were classified into the categories of fruit, nuts/seeds, insects, anthropogenic, animal hairs, fawn bones, and other. Plant items were classified down to the lowest possible taxon via visual and DNA analysis as this category composed the majority of scat volumes. Frequency of occurrence was calculated for each food item. The most commonly occurring foods included: Nyssa spp. (black gum, 25.2%), Poaceae family (grass, 24.5%), Quercus spp. (acorn, 22.4%), and Vitis spp. (muscadine grape, 8.4%).

Road mortality has been implicated as the most important transportation-related influence on wildlife populations; however, little is known about road mortality of carnivores in the pine-dominated landscapes of the Southeastern United States. We examined the influence of distance to vegetative cover, speed limit, distance to water, and distance to urban center on risk of road mortality to carnivores in central Alabama. We repeatedly drove an established route of six roads to search for road-killed carnivores during the first half of 2014 and used logistic regression to compare attributes of road-kill sites (n = 99) to an equal number of randomly selected sites. We found that for each 10-m decrease in distance to vegetative cover, a site was 1.21 (CL = 1.19-1.23) times as likely to be a road-kill site (P = 0.044). Our results suggest that transportation managers can positively affect carnivore mortality on roads by increasing the distance from road to cover.

Population monitoring of wildlife species requires techniques that produce estimates with low bias and adequate precision. Use of infraredtriggered camera (hereafter; camera) surveys for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus; deer) population density estimation is popular among land managers. However, current camera surveys do not provide an estimate of precision critical for accurate density estimation. We believed that incorporating spatial aspects of sampling into the analytical process would allow for both estimates of precision associated with density and an ability to calculate effective sample area. We conducted camera surveys for deer in Units 1 (1,385 ha) and 2 (1,488 ha) at Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee, in August 2010. We used 1 camera per 53 and 62 ha in Units 1 and 2, respectively, and identified individual male deer based on antler criteria.

Antler-based selective-harvest criteria (SHC) for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) management is common on public lands throughout the Southeast despite little published literature examining their effects on harvest composition, antlered harvest per unit effort (HPE), and antler scores. Particularly, SHCs may select against larger-antlered males within each age cohort, resulting in smaller antler size of the residual population. We examined the effects of SHC on harvest composition, number of antlered deer harvested per 100 days hunter effort, and antler-scores within age cohorts on 23 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in Florida. These WMAs, which had harvest regulations which required a legal antlered deer to have at least one antler ≥5 inches in length or at least one antler with two or more points, all implemented a more restrictive SHC requiring legal males to have at least one antler with three or more points between 2004 and 2008.

Understanding movement patterns of adult male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is important to explaining population dynamics, predation interactions, gene flow, and disease spread. Relatively few studies have investigated movement ecology of mature male deer, although recent trends in hunter-harvest selectivity have led to an increased representation of this cohort in many herds. Multiple co-occurring variables influence spatiotemporal variation in deer movements, but individuals should move at an optimum rate to maximize individual health and fitness while minimizing high-risk encounters. We used GPS telemetry data from 24 adult male deer (≥2.5 years old) in northeastern Louisiana to determine fine-scale movement patterns during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 hunting seasons. We calculated half-hour step lengths and performed generalized linear mixed models to examine the effects of habitat, age, breeding chronology, photoperiod, and refugia from hunting on step length.

Managed tidal impoundments are man-made wetlands constructed from natural tidal marshes and swamps with embankments and water control structures that manage water levels using tidal cycles. In South Carolina, 28,000 ha of managed tidal impoundments potentially provide important habitat for migrating and resident wildlife. The importance of traditionally-managed tidal impoundments relative to natural tidal marsh to migratory birds is poorly understood. Examining how birds allocate their time on managed tidal impoundments and natural tidal marshes can provide insight into whether birds are using these resources similarly or for different biological needs. We examined diurnal activity of greater yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) and lesser yellowlegs (T. flavipes) to determine how these focal species used managed tidal impoundments and tidal marshes along the coast of South Carolina.

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) activity patterns are predominately crepuscular. However, the general populace believes that deer activity is also influenced by lunar factors. This belief is demonstrated by the countless "solunar charts" claiming to provide peak periods of deer activity. While research has identified solar and lunar influences on behavioral patterns in some species, descriptions of solunar factors on white-tailed deer are rare. Our goal was to evaluate whether solunar charts can predict periods of increased activity in white-tailed deer. We used 38 adult male, white-tailed deer equipped with GPS collars programmed to collect locations every 30 minutes from Augustâ??December during 2010-2012. Deer were classified as active or inactive based on total distance moved between consecutive GPS fixes. We used logistic regression to estimate the odds of activity dependent on solunar events.

The loss of historic ecosystem conditions has led forest managers to implement woodland and savanna ecosystem restoration on a landscape scale (≥10,000 ha) in the Ozark Plateau of Arkansas. Managers are attempting to restore and conserve these ecosystems through the reintroduction of disturbance, mainly short-rotation early-growing-season prescribed fire. Short-rotation early-growing season prescribed fire in the Ozarks typically occurs immediately before bud-break, through bud-break, and before leaf-out, and fire events occur on a three-to five-year interval. We examined short-rotation early-growing season prescribed fire as a restoration tool on vegetation characteristics. We collected vegetation measurements at 70 locations annually from 2011 to 2012 in and around the White Rock Ecosystem Restoration Area (WRERA), Ozark-St. Francis National Forest, Arkansas, and used generalized linear models to investigate the impact and efficacy of prescribed fire on vegetation structure.

Despite decades of interest and research, many questions remain about seasonal movements and habitat use of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), particularly in the Southeast. The advent of GPS-based telemetry has made detailed studies of year-round movements feasible. We assessed monthly habitat use for adult male (n = 15) and female (n = 15) deer at Barksdale Air Force Base in northwestern Louisiana using GPS radio collars collecting locations at hourly intervals over approximately one year. Males had larger monthly home ranges (97-380 ha) than females (44-181 ha), particularly in fall and winter; however, habitat use was similar between sexes. Early-successional habitats, such as openings and shrub communities, were used more than expected by both sexes throughout the year, as were mature bottomland hardwood stands. Thinned hardwood stands and wetland habitats were used less than expected.

More than 1 million wildlife-vehicle collisions occur annually in the United States. The majority of these accidents involve white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and result in >US $4.6 billion in damage and >200 human fatalities. Prior research has used collision locations to assess sitespecific as well as landscape features that contribute to risk of deer-vehicle collisions. As an alternative approach, we calculated road-crossing locations from 25 GPS-instrumented white-tailed deer near Madison, Georgia (n = 154,131 hourly locations). We identified crossing locations by creating movement paths between subsequent GPS points and then intersecting the paths with road locations. Using AIC model selection, we determined whether 10 local and landscape variables were successful at identifying areas where higher frequencies of deer crossings were likely to occur.

Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds are shallow coastal habitats that are increasingly exposed to the effects of sea-level rise (SLR). In the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGoM), an area especially vulnerable to SLR, the abundance and distribution of SAV food resources (seeds, rhizomes, and tissue) can influence the carrying capacity of coastal marshes to support wintering waterfowl. Despite the known importance of SAV little is known about their distribution across coastal landscapes and salinity zones or how they may be impacted by SLR. We estimated SAV cover and seed biomass in coastal marshes from Texas to Alabama from 1 June - 15 September 2013 to assess variation in SAV and seed resource distribution and abundance across the salinity gradient. Percent cover of SAV was similar among salinity zones (10%-20%) although patterns of distribution differed.

Since the 1987 federal listing as threatened of western populations of gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus), tortoise population recovery and habitat restoration efforts have been implemented at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Mississippi. We studied plant community and edaphic features around tortoise burrows and at non-occupied locations in 2007. We investigated relationships between burrow presence and habitat characteristics through decision tree and logistic regression analyses. Burrow occurrence was positively related to stem counts of woody plants and species richness of native legumes and negatively related to overstory canopy coverage and maximum tree height. Cross-validation procedures predicted presence of burrows for 91% of observed outcomes. Tortoise burrows were most often found on side slopes of sand ridges where overstory canopy coverage was <60% and conditions were adequate for burrowing, nesting, basking, and establishment of food plants.

We used camera traps to estimate detection and occupancy of radio-collared and non-collared red wolves, coyotes, and red wolf-coyote hybrids (Canis rufus, C. latrans, and C. rufus x C. latrans) in Hyde County, North Carolina. This pilot study was to determine these variables among species and compare them between private and public lands. Large canids occurred throughout the public lands sampled, but occupancy of radio-collared individuals was low (0.41). Estimated occupancy of large canids throughout the study area was 0.74 with an estimated detection of 0.05. Occupancy of non-collared canids was twice that of radio-collared canids, but detection was similar. Results of these pilot efforts suggest that our sample sizes (i.e., number of cameras) were too low.

Despite the research on lead (Pb) shot deposition and ingestion by mourning doves (Zenaida macroura), there has been no research to determine how management practices may be used to effectively reduce Pb shot concentrations in fields managed for dove hunting. For instance, no-till cropping systems could potentially lead to accumulation of lead shot in upper soil layers compared to conventional tillage practices. We measured shot concentrations in five publicly managed mourning dove fields in North Carolina to determine if concentration levels were significantly affected by tillage. We used a complete block design with 12 plots, each of which received a combination of the following planting and management treatments: three crops (sunflower (Helianthus annuus), millet (Setaria italica or Brachiaria ramosa), or corn (Zea mays)) and two treatments (till or no-till).

The number of studies evaluating the quality and content of many types of plans have grown in recent decades. Natural resource conservation plans have been included in some of these plan evaluation studies; however, no meta-analysis of natural resource planning literature has been conducted. This focus is needed because natural resource conservation planning differs from other types (e.g., hazards mitigation, urban planning), in that planners often come from natural resource backgrounds, must plan in compliance with federal and state planning mandates, and typically operate under the assumption that natural resources have a use value and are shared resources. We selected 10 natural resource conservation plan evaluation studies in peer reviewed literature, identified the plan components being evaluated and the methods used in each study, and compared our findings to two other plan evaluation meta-analyses in the literature.

Elk were introduced in 2001 to the Cataloochee Valley area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM). In 2008, the National Park Service transferred responsibility for elk management outside GRSM to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). Expansion of elk outside of GRSM boundaries presents recreational opportunities for residents and tourists but also increases human-elk conflict and associated property damage, cost of preventive action, and administrative burden for NCWRC staff. Therefore, NCWRC commissioned an integrated biological, economic, and social assessment of the feasibility and value of maintaining a sustainable, hunted elk population outside GRSM in North Carolina. Biologically, we found that the projected population of elk would likely grow in areas where they currently exist, even with modest harvest rates of 4 to 6 males per year. This is probably because of a nearby source herd and large, less developed landscapes.

Reservoirs provide recreational opportunities along with water supplies, flood control, and hydroelectricity. Although recreational values are often considered in water management plans, reservoir regulators often lack data to evaluate the impacts of operations on fish habitat and recreational access. We partnered with the Brazos River Authority (BRA) and used reservoir bathymetry and side-imaging sonar data to investigate the effects of reservoir water-level changes on littoral habitat characteristics and boat access in 11 BRA reservoirs. Littoral area, coarse substrate, and submerged aquatic vegetation generally declined with decreasing water level. Availability of large woody debris in the littoral zone was stable as water levels declined. The magnitude of these responses varied among reservoirs, likely due to differences in reservoir morphology.

Increasing interest in conservation and management of alligator gar, a species considered at risk of imperilment by the American Fisheries Society, has made it important to ascertain angling effort and harvest for this species. Bowfishing is believed to constitute the majority of the recreational harvest of alligator gar, yet little is known about bow anglers and their fishing practices. To obtain baseline demographic and fishing information from bow anglers in Texas, we distributed surveys to 173 participants at three Trinity River bowfishing tournaments in 2011. We received 15 completed surveys for a response rate of 9%. In addition, we conducted an online survey of Texas Bowfishing Association members in 2012 and received 82 returned surveys, resulting in a 46% response rate. All survey responses were pooled for a total sample size of 97 bow anglers.

Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) angling is popular among Kansas anglers, but limited to a few areas in the state. The most popular fishery, both in terms of angler effort and harvest, is located at Chetopa Dam, a low-water bridge on the Neosho River in southeast Kansas. This fishery, as well as other paddlefish fisheries in Kansas, is only open to recreational angling. As such, maintaining accurate records of recreational harvest are important for management purposes. We summarized data from the Chetopa Dam fishery as part of a mandatory check system for harvested paddlefish from 1992 to 2006. A total of 8892 paddlefish were harvested by 5882 anglers during the study period. Angler participation in this fishery was predominately by Kansas residents (94.5%). Total number of harvested fish and mean length of harvested fish differed among years, but no trends were detected.