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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The State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practice of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in Tennessee is targeted to help

restore native habitats to benefit the northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and other declining early successional wildlife. A survey of a subset of

participating landowners was conducted to assess landowner perceptions of and experiences with the practice and perceived wildlife response. The sur-

vey response rate was 58% (73 of 126 surveys mailed). All respondents were owners of the CRP SAFE tracts at the time of the survey, and most (91%)

managed the SAFE tracts themselves. SAFE contracts had been active for an average of seven years and ranged from 2 to 213 ha in size, with a mean

of 21.0±30.4 ha. Most of the respondents indicated they had received about the right amount of information prior to signing the SAFE contract (over

Management of northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) commonly focuses on creating cover and food for bobwhite throughout the year. Numerous studies have addressed these management practices and their impacts on bobwhite, but few have assessed the quantity of resources they pro- duce or the associated management cost per unit of production. My study assesses three common bobwhite habitat management practices (prescribed fire, roller chopping, and food plots) on the Cecil M. Webb-Babcock Wildlife Management Area in Charlotte County, Florida. I estimated production of the most common natural bobwhite forage (slough grass [Scleria spp.]) and the most common planted species (sesbania [Sesbania spp.]) in 80 wild- life exclosures located in areas that had been managed with prescribed fire only, in those that had been managed with both prescribed fire and roller chopping, and in food plots.

Black-bellied whistling-duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis; BBWD) is a neo-tropical species distributed in coastal areas of northern South Amer- ica, Central America, and southern North America. Despite their pervasiveness, the population distribution, survival, and harvest-mortality of BBWD in the southeastern United States remains unclear. We used BBWD sightings reported to eBird to delineate range expansion from 2006–2016 in Ala- bama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. Concurrently, we used band-recovery data from 759 BBWD captured in five states (Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, and Louisiana) from 2014–2017 and Burnham live-dead models to calculate survival, recapture proba- bility, and annual recovery rate.

Waterfowl hunters participate in hunting for appreciative-, affiliative-, and achievement-oriented reasons. To investigate the influence of achievement-oriented factors on hunt quality, we analyzed post-hunt surveys completed by waterfowl hunters at four Mississippi Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), 2008–2015. We used these questions to calculate a hunt quality score for each participant and tested whether variation in hunt quality was best explained by total number of ducks harvested, number of mallards harvested, total bag weight, or palatability of ducks. Hunt quality increased with total number of ducks and mallards harvested. Hunt quality scores increased with an increasing number of ducks harvested up to six total ducks (i.e., the daily allowable bag) and number of mallards up to 3 ducks (i.e., 1 less than the daily allowable bag during study). Our results indicate that harvesting ducks, especially mallards, is important to hunters at Mississippi WMAs.

Aerial waterfowl surveys are conducted on major wintering areas to provide regional population indices and determine habitat use of non-breeding waterfowl. Coastal Louisiana supports more than one quarter of the continental dabbling duck population during winter. Thus, consid- erable effort is allocated to monitoring waterfowl abundance in coastal Louisiana with implications for future waterfowl habitat management in the region. We conducted monthly surveys on nine state-owned coastal wildlife management areas and refuges, November–January 2004–2016. Across all sites and survey years, the most commonly observed species were gadwall (Mareca strepera), green-winged teal (Anas crecca), and mallard (Anas platy- rhynchos). Despite increases in continental breeding population indices to near record highs, their populations were stable region-wide in coastal Lou- isiana, with minor declines on some heavily-hunted and unmanaged areas.

Spatial variation in landscape composition can influence phenotypic expression in wildlife species and can improve management efforts to express certain phenotypic traits. We evaluated the influence of age, landscape composition, and physiographic province on white-tailed deer (Odo- coileus virginianus) antler characteristics using data from 16,622 male deer (age range: 1.5–3.5+ years old) harvested between 1997–2016 across five physiographic provinces in Georgia. Age and physiographic province influenced antler size index (ASI; P < 0.001). ASI of yearling males was greatest (x- = 53.37; SE = 0.39) in the Upper Coastal Plain and least (x- = 46.23; SE = 0.51) in the Lower Coastal Plain physiographic province. Given the differences in ASI among physiographic provinces, we evaluated how landscape composition within each physiographic province influenced ASI of 7,325 yearling (1.5-year-old) males.

Population surveys and removal efforts for wild pigs (Sus scrofa) have traditionally used a food-based attractant. However, some situations or locations where these activities may take place may not be conducive to the logistical challenges associated with storing or hauling large quantities of bait. Scent-based lures are lighter and easier to store than baits, and may negate some of these logistical challenges. Our goal was to examine the efficacy of a urine-based lure for attracting wild pigs to and retaining them at camera sites. We compared the initial arrival time and length of visits among boars, sounders, and juveniles at sites with a urine lure, whole corn, and a combination of the urine lure and whole corn during June and July 2017 on Lowndes Wildlife Management Area, Alabama. Our results indicated that sounders arrived at URINE sites quicker than other treatment sites, although we did not find these same results among boars or juveniles.

Though the eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is an important game species throughout its range in North America, little is known about environmental factors that may affect survival. We investigated survival and predation of a hunted population of eastern gray squirrels on Lown- des Wildlife Management Area in central Alabama from July 2015–April 2017. This area experiences annual flooding conditions from November through the following September. Our Kaplan-Meier survival estimate at 365 days for all squirrels was 0.25 (0.14–0.44, 95% CL) which is within the range for previously studied eastern gray squirrel populations (0.20–0.58). There was no difference between male (0.13; 0.05–0.36, 95% CL) and female survival (0.37; 0.18–0.75, 95% CL, P=0.16). Survival was greatest in summer (1.00) and fall (0.65; 0.29–1.0, 95% CL) and lowest during winter (0.23; 0.11–0.50, 95% CL).

The eastern hellbender salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) is a protected species of concern in North Carolina as well as in several other states. Despite long-term efforts by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) and cooperating partners to improve understanding of hellbender status in the state, census of all known and potential populations is lacking. The species’ dependence upon clean, cold, well-oxygenated water restricts its distribution to North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Ecoregion, overlapping much of the state’s trout fishery. This overlap presented an opportunity for the NCWRC to educate trout anglers about hellbender conservation while also offering a chance to supplement existing data of the spatial and temporal distribution of the salamander by enlisting angler help.

The shoal bass (Micropterus cataractae) is a sport fish endemic to the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Basin of the southeastern United States. Introgression with several non-native congeners poses a pertinent threat to shoal bass conservation, particularly in the altered habitats of the Chattahoochee River. Our primary objective was to characterize hybridization in shoal bass populations near Atlanta, Georgia, including a population inhabiting Big Creek and another in the main stem Chattahoochee River below Morgan Falls Dam (MFD). A secondary objective was to examine the accuracy of phenotypic identifications below MFD based on a simplified suite of characters examined in the field. Fish were genotyped with 16 micro- satellite DNA markers, and results demonstrated that at least four black bass species were involved in introgressive hybridization. Of 62 fish genotyped from Big Creek, 27% were pure shoal bass and 65% represented either F1 hybrids of shoal bass x smallmouth bass (M.

Lake Fork Reservoir, in northeast Texas, supports a nationally-recognized trophy largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides, LMB) fishery which the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has managed using restrictive harvest regulations since it was opened to public fishing in 1980. De- spite a long history of annual creel and electro fishing surveys conducted by TPWD, data on trophy fish is limited. Fisheries managers' inability to collect trophy-sized LMB using traditional sampling methods is probably the result of a combination of gear biases and low relative abundance of trophy-sized fish. We collected volunteer angler survey data on trophy-sized sh >3.18 kg, with interest in the sample above the upper bound of the protective slot- length limit (>609 mm TL), and evaluated the utility of this information to supplement creel and electro fishing survey data.

Geographical range of a species can be limited by environmental conditions such as temperature. This is important to understand when trying to establish a new fish population on the fringe of their range. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) has been stocking tiger muskellunge (Esox masquinongy x E. lucius) in Lake Carl Etling in northwestern Oklahoma since 2014 with little success. This reservoir experiences a broad range of temperatures that could affect recruitment of tiger muskellunge, especially during times of the year when prey are not abundant. To explore the possible effects of temperature and prey availability on post-stocking survival, temperature tolerances of juvenile tiger muskellunge were determined in laboratory trials using starved and fed fish (n=9 each) acclimated to temperatures of 20, 24, and 28°C.

Saugeye are hatchery produced hybrids (female walleye [Sander vitreus] and male sauger [S. canadensis]) that have been introduced to aquatic systems throughout the United States. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) stocks reservoirs throughout Oklahoma with saugeye to control overcrowded, stunted white crappie (Pomoxis annularis) populations and to provide recreational fishing opportunities. Because sacrificing fish regularly to remove otoliths for age estimation is often unpopular with anglers, a non-lethal means of obtaining age estimates for saugeye to describe population dynamics is desirable. Therefore, we compared age estimate precision between readers and structures (otoliths and dorsal spines), and compared age-based population parameters (growth, mortality, recruitment) derived from these age estimates. Structures were removed from 47 saugeye collected from Thunderbird Reservoir, Oklahoma via electro fishing.

In the 1970s and 1980s, blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) were introduced to the tidal rivers of Virginia. Current abundances and uncertainty about population characteristics of blue catfish generated concern for other economically important and imperiled species. We estimated natural mortality and size structure of blue catfish for four tidal river systems (i.e., James, Mattaponi, Pamunkey and Rappahannock). Using common empirical estimators with pooled data from the period 2002-2016, we calculated five estimates of natural mortality. Proportional size distributions were used to examine changes in size structure over time. Maximum observed age of 25 years indicated mature populations. Estimated mean instantaneous natural mortality (M) from five empirical estimators ranged from 0.13-0.19 in the four rivers. Temporal trends in size structure differed among rivers, likely due to differences in stocking timing and riverine productivity.

Blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) are native to the Coosa River drainage in northwest Georgia but have been widely introduced outside of this range including Lake Oconee, a 7677-ha impoundment on the Oconee River in central Georgia. Blue catfish abundance and growth rates have increased dramatically since their introduction in Lake Oconee, but their food habits are unknown. Therefore, food habits of blue catfish in this impoundment were determined by examining the stomachs of 808 specimens in the reservoir's upper and lower regions across all seasons from summer 2012 to summer 2013. Diet was summarized using the Relative Importance of specific prey by weight. In the upper region of the reservoir, Asian clams (Corbicula fluminea) were the dominant prey item during the summer (75.7%), fall (66.4%), and winter (37.6%); whereas crappie (Pomoxis spp.) was the dominant prey item in the spring (38.7%).

The New River, Virginia, supports a trotline fishery for catfish (Ictaluridae) that coexists with popular recreational fisheries for smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), and walleye (Sander vitreus), yet no studies have examined trotline catches or bycatch of these game fish. Trotline effort was estimated by conducting off-site interviews of trotline fishers and field counts of active trotlines. Catch of catfish and bycatch were estimated with experimental trotline sets that used circle or J hooks and two bait types (i.e., live or cut bait). Catch averaged 12.1 catfish 100 hook nights-1. Experimental trotline sets baited with live bait fish captured predominantly channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) and flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) but caught few smallmouth bass, muskellunge, or walleye. Cutbait caught fewer catfish, particularly flathead catfish, and fewer non-catfish species than live bait.

Stress is unavoidable in aquaculture and hence strains of fish that are resilient and adaptable to stress need to be developed. In teleosts, cortisol is considered the primary stress hormone and often increases in cortisol concentration correspond to a stress response. The objective of this study was to assess if cortisol responsiveness to stress in channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) influences susceptibility to Enteric Septicemia of Catfish (ESC) caused by Edwardsiella ictaluri under controlled conditions. Juvenile channel catfish were subjected to standardized hypoxia stress (1.8 mg L-1 of dissolved oxygen) to classify them as either low responders (LR) or high responders (HR) based on their plasma cortisol concentration. Fish in both groups were held either in individual or co-cultured in 80-L aquaria and were challenged with virulent E. ictaluri by an in situ bath immersion to evaluate their susceptibility to the pathogen.

Angling participation has stagnated or declined in many regions, threatening the political and financial support for fisheries management. Angler recruitment programs aim to counteract these trends, but most are public programs targeting public water bodies. There are about 4.5 million small ponds and lakes in the United States, most of which are privately owned. These systems may play a major yet hidden role in angler recruitment. Using an online survey of avid pond owners and managers, we explored the ideas that private waters are providing youth angling opportunities, increasing fishing participation, and contributing to angler recruitment. Survey results indicated that pond owners are engaged in angler recruitment and retention by providing youth fishing opportunities to friends and family beyond that generally available in traditional recruiting events on public waters.

A new tool to provide wetland services is the floating streambed wetland (FSW), an active hydroponic system consisting of a polymer matrix floating substrate in which living plants are established. Water is circulated from beneath the FSW and across a streambed on the upper FSW surface, coming into contact with biofilms attached to the polymer matrix and associated root structures. Research has shown that FSW technology is efficient in removing nutrients and water contaminants, and recent manufacturer reports claim that FSW technology may also increase total fish biomass in small water bodies. We evaluated this claim using a replicated small (526 m2) pond experiment and FSWs that covered 2.3% of pond surface area.

Earthen hatchery pond sediments may provide additional nutrients to the water column and act as a sink for nutrients and excess fertilizer. In 2008 and again in 2013 soil nutrient concentrations and phosphorus (P) adsorption were examined in five earthen ponds at Minor Clark Fish Hatchery, Kentucky. These ponds are annually filled with oligotrophic water from an upstream reservoir, fertilized, and drained during normal hatchery operations. Over time, pond nitrogen (N) and P additions have not kept up with soil losses. Soil extractable P concentrations decreased about an order of magnitude between 2008 and 2013. Soil %N decreased by nearly 50% over the same time period. Other soil nutrients (organic carbon, calcium, and manganese) remained the same. Soil collected in 2008 desorbed P under normal fish rearing water quality conditions.

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.