New insights into the dynamics of Apostle Islands carnivore communities

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While protected areas are often considered strongholds for wildlife populations, recent research in protected areas has highlighted that both human activity (i.e. presence) and footprint (i.e. structures) can influence wildlife.

To determine how human activity and footprint affect the spatiotemporal activity of wildlife on the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, we monitored the carnivore community for five years (2014-2018) using camera traps.

We found that all structure types had a negative impact on carnivore community relative abundance, except for campgrounds, which were positively related. However, the community level response was likely driven by the response of individual carnivore species, especially those that were most common (e.g., black bears).

Responses of individual carnivore species to anthropogenic structures varied depending on structure type, with canids and mustelids generally exhibiting negative associations with most human structures.

When examining the seasonal effects of human activity and footprint (i.e., when park visitation is relatively high or low), we found differences between the seasonal and aseasonal models, suggesting that seasonal variation in human activity influences carnivore activity.

We also compared carnivore nocturnality along a gradient of anthropogenic activity, but our results indicate that the carnivore community did not become more nocturnal with increasing anthropogenic activity as expected. However, the carnivore community did display spatial avoidance of current, historical, and private anthropogenic structures, and that avoidance was intensified when park visitors were more prevalent. Our study indicates that human footprint and seasonal variation in activity can influence wildlife activity within protected areas. 

Presenter biographies

Tim Van Deelen and Morgan Farmer (presenter), University of Wisconsin – Madison

Tim Van Deelen

Tim Van Deelen is a professor in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and has worked there since 2004. Tim is also faculty director for GreenHouse, an undergraduate learning community interested in sustainable living housed in a dorm named for Aldo Leopold and is chair of the Environmental Conservation master’s degree program in UW’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Prior to this, Tim worked as a research scientist for the Illinois Natural History Survey and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. He is a 1995 Ph.D. graduate of Michigan State University’s department of Fisheries and Wildlife with a master’s degree from the University of Montana and a bachelor’s degree from Calvin College.

Tim’s professional interest is the conservation of wildlife populations in the face of human influences and he has worked on several species including black bears, wolves, deer, badgers, sandhill cranes, turkeys, and flying squirrels.

With his background in working for state management agencies, Tim also brings expertise to designing and using monitoring systems that bridge the gap between researchers and the information needs of conservation agencies. Tim collaborates with an active group of graduate students and is author/coauthor of >90 peer reviewed papers and book chapters on various aspects of wildlife biology. 

Morgan Farmer

Morgan Farmer is a PhD student working with Dr. Tim Van Deelen and Dr. David Drake on the UW Urban Canid Project.

She first started working with coyotes during her undergraduate at the University of California – Berkeley, where she completed an independent senior thesis looking at how habitat use of urban coyotes was affected by habitat characteristics and recreation.

After completing her undergraduate education, she moved to Wisconsin to complete a MS degree at UW – Madison with Dr. Tim Van Deelen. Her research focused on competition and island biogeography as drivers of spatiotemporal activity and the effects of anthropogenic activity and structures on the carnivore community of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Her current research focuses on urban canids and their interactions with each other, their environment, and with humans.

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