Assessment of Small Mammal Demographics and Communities in the Picayune Strand Restoration Area

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The Picayune Strand Restoration Project (PSRP) is in the process of restoring pre-drainage hydrology to the southwest portion of the Greater Everglades ecosystem.

Live trapping of small mammals will be conducted within the PSRP footprint

Live trapping of small mammals will be conducted within the PSRP footprint

The Science Issue and Relevance: The Picayune Strand Restoration Project (PSRP) is in the process of restoring pre-drainage hydrology to the southwest portion of the Greater Everglades ecosystem. Surrounding natural areas are linked to this area by both hydrology and wildlife. Wildlife species are good indicators of ecosystem change and restoration, especially restoration of a more natural hydrology as is planned for PSRP. Restoration of this area will provide increased habitat for important Everglades species but is also expected to restore connectivity within and between natural areas adjacent to the project areas such as Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve and Florida Panther NWR. Restoration is also expected to improve habitat for species that thrive in longer hydroperiods such as cypress and wetlands.

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: Live trapping of small mammals will be conducted within the PSRP footprint. Focal species are Marsh rice rats, Hispid cotton rats, and Cotton mice. We have selected areas to trap small mammals within the major vegetation types within PSRP: cypress, pine, hardwood hammock, and wetland (grassland), in keeping with the methods of the early 2000s surveys conducted by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida at PSRP. We will compare ‘restored’ and ‘not restored’ survey results. For each habitat type, traps will be placed in ‘restored’ habitat and compared to ‘not restored’ habitat. Restored habitats are considered to be within 1 km of Prairie Canal which was plugged in 2007. Not restored habitats are near Miller Canal (given that Merritt Canal will be filled this year).

Future Steps: As PSRP experiences longer hydroperiods, wildlife communities and populations should rebound in response. The goal of this study is to determine whether small mammal community composition has rebounded in response to restoration project implementation. Some species, for example, Marsh rice rat, should expand in distribution into currently dry areas as they become wetter with restoration projects in place. Other species, such as the Hispid cotton rat should move into drier, upland areas as PSRP becomes wetter.

Live trapping for small mammals

Live trapping for small mammals 

Small mammals make up a large proportion of python diet

Small mammals make up a large proportion of python diet