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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Quality deer management (QDM) is increasingly promoted and practiced throughout the range of white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus. However, published data evaluating the effects of this management strategy are few. We compared harvest characteristics of one private property (Ames Plantation) and three Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in Tennessee before and after implementation of selective harvest restrictions and recommendations to determine effects on buck harvest rates as well as harvest age structure and sex ratio. Annual buck harvest following selective restrictions decreased on the WMAs, but was not different at Ames Plantation. Mature buck (>3.5 years) harvest increased at Ames Plantation and Catoosa WMA, but did not change at Oak Ridge or Yuchi WMAs. Annual doe and buck fawn harvests did not change at any area, but the percentage of does in the harvest increased at Ames Plantation and Oak Ridge WMA.

We investigated the feeding habits of wild northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) harvested from the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area in south Texas in October 2004 and January 2005. The contents of 200 crops were dried, sorted, and weighed to the nearest 0.0001 g. Percent dry weight was used to assess differences among season harvested, sex, and age. About 76% of the fall diet consisted of seeds, with 64 plant species represented. Croton (Croton spp.), woolly croton (Croton capitatus), and bristlegrass (Setaria sp.) composed greater than 50% by weight of seeds found in the fall diet. Fruit, almost entirely spiny hackberry (Celtis ehrenbergiana), comprised 17% of the fall diet. Invertebrates made up about 5% and green vegetative matter contributed 0.1% to the fall diet. No differences in feeding habits between sexes or age class were detected for fall. The winter diet consisted of 63% green vegetative matter, 28% seeds, 5% invertebrates, and 0.40% fruit.

Prescribed fire is a commonly used land management tool in pine (Pinus spp.) forests of the southeastern United States to control understory vegetation and enhance wildlife habitat for early successional species, but its effects on the nesting success of understory and ground-nesting songbirds are not well understood. We compared the effects of growing and dormant-season prescribed burns on the nesting success of six ground- or shrub-nesting bird species in mature pine stands at one and two years post-treatment at Fort Benning Military Reservation in Chattahoochee and Muscogee counties, Georgia, during 1995 and 1996. Apparent nest success did not differ between burn treatments during both years for eastern towhees (Pipilo erythrophthalmus; P = 0.37, P = 0.21), indigo buntings (Passerina cyanea; P = 1.0, P =1.0) and yellow-breasted chats (Icteria virens; P = 0.64, P = 0.69).

The use of game cameras for surveying and estimating populations of large mammals has become increasingly popular over the past two decades; however, few studies have examined logistics or patterns of animal detection using cameras. We monitored feral pigs (Sus scrofa) for seven consecutive 24-hour periods at 73 pre-baited camera sites on Fort Benning, Georgia, to determine the minimum length of time cameras must be deployed to attain sufficient detection probabilities for three classes of pigs (adult sows, adult boars, and juveniles). We sought to broaden this objective by examining the impact on predicted detection probabilities associated with nocturnal versus diurnal sampling. Predicted detection probabilities for each class exceeded 0.5 following the third day of camera deployment. Results suggest estimation of feral pig abundance may be improved by minimizing sampling periods to three 24-hour periods per monitoring station following a uniform pre-baiting schedule.

A rancher near Hebbronville, Texas, recently discovered that an unknown large animal had attempted to gain access to a metal outbuilding on the ranch. The metal was torn and completely bitten through in several places. Because of the strength required to inflict this damage, a large animal, such as a mountain lion (Puma concolor) or black bear (Ursus americanus), were suspects. However, insufficient evidence was available to conclusively identify the culprit. We extracted DNA from hairs found at the scene and amplified a portion of the mtDNA control region. The DNA fragment was a 100% match to sequences from domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Thus, the mystery animal was not a rare species such as a bear or an even more exotic animal such as the mythical chupacabra, but a stray dog. Our results demonstrate that molecular techniques can serve as a useful tool for answering difficult wildlife management questions.

In south Texas, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) translocations have become a common technique for non-lethal means of deer removal with the implementation of a Trap, Transport, and Transplant (TTT) permit program. However, the effectiveness of TTT as a management tool has not been evaluated. We monitored survival, movements, and body condition of 51 adult white-tailed deer from two translocations to two 2,000-ha south Texas properties, one of which was partially enclosed by a 2.5-m net-wire fence. Annual survival of all translocated deer was lower in the partially fenced property (64%) compared to the unfenced property (80%), but overall survival was similar to survival rates of adult native south Texas deer reported in previous studies (68%-74%). As expected, more deer left the unfenced property (52%) than the partially enclosed property (14%). Cumulatively, 40% of deer survived and remained on the release area after one year.

We determined wounding rates of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) by bowhunters using modern (compound bow and crossbow) archery equipment. Our study relied on daily reports submitted by bowhunters who participated in managed hunts at the Naval Support Facility Indian Head at Indian Head, Maryland. Bowhunters were required to pass the International Bowhunter Education Program and an annual pre-season shooting proficiency test. During the 1989-2006 hunting seasons, 104 bowhunters failed to recover 162 of 908 deer hit by arrows or crossbow bolts, corresponding to an 18% wounding rate. There was no difference in deer recovery metrics between compound bow and crossbow users (χ21 = 0.01; P = 0.92). Bowhunters who harvested the most deer (>20 deer per hunter) had a lower pooled wounding rate than bowhunters who killed fewer deer (χ21 = 22.2; P < 0.005).

Predictive equations based on various body measurements have provided wildlife managers with practical and reliable estimates of deer mass, but have not been reported for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the Western Rio Grande Plain region of Texas, nor for male white-tailed deer in Texas. To address this need, we assessed relationships among live mass and dressed mass, chest girth, shoulder height, hoof length and width, and gross Boone and Crockett Club (BCC) score. Regression analyses indicated live mass of mature (>5.5 years old) males can be predicted with a model based on dressed mass (R2= 0.883). Chest girth (R2 = 0.486) and shoulder height (R2 = 0.397) provided less reliable estimates, whereas gross BCC score and age provided poor estimates (R2 < 0.19).

Criteria for visually estimating age of live white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the field are becoming more important as the popularity of non-traditional deer management programs increase. We measured gross Boone and Crockett Club (BCC) score, number of antler points, inside antler spread, main beam length, antler basal circumference, chest girth, stomach girth, shoulder height, head length, and interorbital width and evaluated which characteristics had the greatest potential for use as predictors of age for <766 live-captured males and live and dressed mass for <65 harvested males. Most antler measures differed (P < 0.05) for age classes 1.5, 2.5, 3.5, 4.5, and >5.5, while most body measures differed only for age classes 1.5 and >2.5. Multiple regression models incorporating gross BCC score and number of antler points, or gross BCC score, number of antler points, and stomach girth had highest R2 values.

Strength of the correlation between cover selection indices for hunters and quarry may provide information for improving hunter satisfaction and managing hunting pressure. Using radiotelemetry, we studied northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) cover selection on the Packsaddle Wildlife Management Area in western Oklahoma, during Oct-Feb periods beginning in 1991-92 and extending through 2001-02. Hunter locations were recorded by Global Position System (GPS) units for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 hunting seasons to determine hunter cover selection. Avoidance, neutral use, or selection of cover types by bobwhites was relatively consistent among years because 27 of 32 cover types had annual indices similar (P > 0.05) to the 11-year mean in ≥9 years. This yearly consistency provided support for our comparison of bobwhite to hunter selection indices recorded in separate years.

Sound management of ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) populations requires an understanding of survival and cause-specific mortality; however, these parameters have not been investigated at the southern extent of the species' range. Ruffed grouse were studied in the mountains of western North Carolina. Grouse (n = 276) were radiotagged and monitored >3 times/week. Mean annual survival was greater than reports from the northern core of the species' range. Seasonal survival was greatest in summer, followed by fall, winter, and spring. Of 155 mortalities, the greatest proportion was attributed to mammalian, followed by avian, and unknown predation, hunter harvest, and other. Scavenging prior to transmitter recovery may have positively biased mammalian predation rates. Despite long hunting seasons that extended into winter, hunter harvest rates were among the lowest reported in the literature.

Changes in white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica) distribution and habitat use have occurred in Texas since the 1940s. Breeding populations are now common in urban areas throughout Texas. These changes have resulted in unique challenges for monitoring populations in urban environments because of factors such as traffic, construction, and residential development. Delineating potential breeding habitat within urban areas may make surveys more efficient. Our objectives were to examine nest tree selection and identify habitat attributes associated with urban populations of white-winged doves. We conducted nest searches at 15 auditory-count survey points in Kingsville, Texas, in 2003 and documented trees used for nesting.

Reliable population estimation techniques for cryptic forest predators generally are lacking. Development of an efficient and reliable technique to estimate predator abundance directly would be a valuable tool for wildlife managers concerned with predator management. We evaluated the potential for camera survey techniques to provide abundance estimates for bobcats (Lynx rufus) in southeastern forest habitats. We also determined our ability to capture other forest carnivores photographically using these techniques. We used TrailMaster 1500 active infrared-triggered cameras to estimate abundance on a 1318-ha private land holding in eastern Texas. Camera stations were located along roads and wildlife travel corridors using a 65-ha block grid overlaying the property. We established 20 camera stations yielding a mean coverage of approximately 1 camera/65.9 ha. All camera stations were baited with bobcat urine and a visual attractant and monitored for 12 weeks.

Eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) ecology in bottomland hardwood forests remains poorly understood. Specifically, managers lack basic information on spatial ecology and survival of males in these forests. Space use is an important tool to determine areas of extensive or non-use, and these areas may provide insight to managing quality habitats for turkeys. Furthermore, no information is available on potential shifts in space use by males before and during the breeding season, yet such information could help managers better understand male behavior relative to habitat management scenarios. Likewise, little information is available on survival of males in Louisiana although estimates of survival help managers balance population and harvest management. We radio-monitored 29 male wild turkeys to evaluate spatial ecology during 2005-2007 in south-central Louisiana. We used 108 males (with and without radios) to assess seasonal survival rates during 1998-2007.

We compared survival rates of eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo sylvestris) gobblers in hunted (Crackerneck Wildlife Management Area and Ecological reserve [CWMA]) and unhunted (Savannah River Site [SRS]) populations in South Carolina to assess impact of spring gobbler-only hunts. Annual survival rate of gobblers on SRS (0.71) was greater (χ2 = 5.11; df = 1; P = 0.02) than that of gobblers on CWMA (0.54). Our results indicate that spring gobbler harvests constitute additive mortality to turkey populations. However, even in years when reproductive rates were relatively low, a spring-only gobbler harvest rate of 25% appeared to have a minimal effect on turkey populations.

Playas and other wetlands of the High Plains provide important winter and migration habitats for the continental population of northern pintail (Anas acuta). Factors hypothesized to influence habitat use by pintails in the Playa Lakes Region of Texas (PLR) include wetland type, annual rainfall, and natural and anthropogenic disturbance. We assessed patterns of habitat use for 133 and 164 radio-tagged female pintails 23 October 2002-18 February 2003 and 10 October 2003-18 February 2004, respectively, in the PLR. Birds were continuously monitored for a 24-hour period at least three times a week.

We tracked male mute swans (Cygnus olor) (n = 2) in 2002 and in 2003 (n = 3) using Global Positioning System (GPS) in a 217,500-ha area of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. We quantified habitat use among four habitat categories (submerged aquatic vegetation, open water, shoreline, and upland) and between diurnal and nocturnal periods. Swans did not use habitats in proportion to their availability; they consistently used upland less often than what was available within their home ranges. Most use occurred within submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and open water, which typically were the most abundant habitat types. When SAV was used, most locations were within sparse to moderately dense vegetation (11%-70% horizontal coverage). Diurnal and nocturnal use of habitats was similar.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Inland and Coastal Fisheries Divisions have maintained a cooperative stocking program for marine red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) in six freshwater power plant reservoirs since the early 1980s. We used experimental fish enclosures to analyze the effects of acclimation time (2.5 h vs. 5.0 h) and stocking season (summer vs. fall) on post stocking survival of red drum fingerlings in two of these power plant reservoirs. Calaveras and Tradinghouse Creek reservoirs were similar in size and depth, but Calaveras maintained total dissolved solids (TDS) and salinities twice that of Tradinghouse Creek. Mean summer and fall temperatures recorded during the study were 31.3 C and 16.6 C for Tradinghouse Creek and 32.6 C and 19.7 C for Calaveras, respectively. Overall, 10% of the fingerlings tested survived the 72-h trials, substantially better than observed in an earlier study.

To determine if inbreeding was a cause of an apparent decline of large striped bass (Morone saxatilis) in Lake Texoma, striped bass sampled from four sites on the reservoir (n = 206), in the Red River below Denison Dam in 2001 (n = 58), and archived scale samples from Lake Texoma collections in 1978 (n = 44) were genotyped and evaluated at six microsatellite loci. There was evidence of weak population genetic structure among the collection sites. However, analyses of Hardy-Weinberg and linkage equilibrium within sites did not provide evidence of recent inbreeding within Lake Texoma. Consequently, recent declines in the number of large adult striped bass in Lake Texoma cannot be explained by inbreeding depression.

The Florida subspecies of largemouth bass (Micropterus s. floridanus) has been widely stocked throughout the southern United States, including Texas. Quantifying the success of these stockings has been difficult. In this study, relationships among large scale genetic, biological, physical, and limnological variables, and measures of fishing quality and trophy were examined in 89 Texas reservoirs greater than 202 hectares. No relationships among stocking measures and any genetic variable were detected. In general, oligotrophic reservoirs in South Texas had significantly higher measures of Florida introgression compared to eutrophic reservoirs in North Texas. Largemouth bass growth rates increased from west to east and as elevation decreased. Angler success variables measuring number of bass caught were negatively related to longitude, whereas angler success variables related to size of bass caught were more influenced by local reservoir-specific variables.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) primarily stocks Florida largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus; total length range 30 to 46 mm) to influence the genetic composition of existing populations or to supplement limited recruitment. These stockings have altered the genetic composition of largemouth bass populations; however, stockings often result in variable and low contributions to cohort abundance. Potential sources of stocked fish mortality include hauling stress, lack of prey and foraging success, and predation. Previous studies indicate that predation may be the largest immediate source of mortality with estimated losses of over 25% of all stocked fish within 12-h post stocking in a Texas reservoir.

Largemouth bass virus (LMBV), a recently identified pathogen, affected largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in the southeastern United States beginning in the 1990s. Concern about the impacts of this little-known pathogen on largemouth bass populations, effects on fisheries management, and the need to provide anglers and the media with consistent and accurate information prompted a private organization (Bass Anglers Sportsman Society) to invite managers and researchers from state and federal agencies and universities to a series of five annual public workshops beginning in 2000. These workshops provided a mechanism to share information, identify and prioritize action items, and develop consensus information and outreach materials that could be provided to bass anglers and the media. Regionalizing the LMBV issue and collaboration among researchers, managers, and a fishing organization may also have allayed angler and media concerns.

At Amistad Reservoir, Texas, the National Park Service (NPS) built a 46-m long release tube for convenient return of tournament-caught largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) to the reservoir following weigh-in. Several members of the public raised concerns to NPS that use of the tube might have been leading to increased tournament-associated mortality. We simulated two largemouth bass tournaments in August 2006 and March 2007 using volunteer anglers to compare six-day delayed mortality between fish returned to the reservoir via the tube and other methods. In summer, delayed mortality averaged 56% for boat-ramp hand-released fish, significantly lower than for fish released via the tube with chlorinated tap water running through it (89%). Initial mortality in the spring trial was 5%, significantly lower than in the summer trial (14%). In spring, delayed mortality was low across treatments (<12%), and did not differ significantly between treatments.

Shoreline-set single-cod trap nets are the standard gear used by Texas Parks and Wildlife to assess crappie (Pomoxis spp) populations. In some reservoirs, standardized trap net catch is too low to provide the desired information. In 2006, we compared offshore-set dual-cod trap nets to shoreline-set single-cod and offshore-set single-cod trap nets in ten Texas reservoirs. Catch rates of shoreline-set single-cod trap nets (13.4 fish per net night; F/NN) were similar to each end of the offshore-set dual-cod trap nets (27.1 F/NN when both cod-ends were summed) and all were statistically greater than offshore-set single-cod trap nets (8.0 F/NN). In 2007, we compared shoreline-set single-cod trap nets to offshore-set dual-cod trap nets for one and three night soak times in eight reservoirs and offshore-set dual-cod trap nets only for one and three night soak times in five reservoirs.

Restrictive fish stocking policies in National Parks were developed as early as 1936 in order to preserve native fish assemblages and historic genetic diversity. Despite recent efforts to understand the effects of non-native or exotic fish introductions, park managers have limited information regarding the effects of these introductions on native fish communities. Shenandoah National Park was established in 1936 and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) restoration within selected streams in the park began in 1937 in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF). An analysis of tissue samples from brook, brown (Salmo trutta), and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) from 29 streams within the park from 1998-2002 revealed the presence of Renibacterium salmoninarum, Yersinia ruckeri, and infectious pancreatic necrosis virus (IPNv).