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Monday, April 16 • 4:20pm - 4:40pm
SYMPOSIA-05: A Structured Decision-Making Approach to Range-wide Monitoring of the New England Cottontail

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AUTHORS: Chadwick Rittenhouse, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation Center, University of Connecticut

ABSTRACT: Region-wide monitoring of the New England cottontail (NEC) is a multi-state, coordinated survey conducted annually. The survey objectives include: 1) Determine current occupancy rates of Eastern cottontail (EC) and NEC at locations throughout the NEC range, 2) Determine how the occupancy status of ECs and NECs changes through time via estimation of species-specific occurrence and underlying vital rates (local patch colonization and extinction), and 3) Determine how management activities influence changes in occupancy status of both species at a location. Based on data gathered in 2016-2017 from 206 plots in 5 states (CT, ME, MA, NH, and NY), I used structured decision making to evaluate two problem statements: 1) Does the monitoring effort provide the information needed to assess whether monitoring goals are being met, and 2) What changes in the monitoring protocol, survey site selection, or field data collection are needed to better meet monitoring goals? The evaluation concluded that sufficient effort, expressed as number of plots surveyed and number of visits to those plots, was made on an annual basis. The probability of detecting an NEC given one was present was 0.699 (SE 0.111). However, occupancy was too low (0.184, SE 0.039) to detect trends in occupancy over time, which means Objective 2 is not feasible. Additionally, too few managed plots were sampled to determine NEC response to management, which means Objective 3 is not feasible. The recommended changes to the protocol include increasing occupancy by sampling more plots with NEC and more plots managed for NEC.

Monday April 16, 2018 4:20pm - 4:40pm EDT
Montpelier A&B

Attendees (5)