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Pine Barrens Wildlife Management: Exploring the Impact of a Stressor and Active Management on Two Taxa at Camp Edwards

Mandated by the Sikes Act of 1960, natural resource managers work to manage the habitats and wildlife that are found on military installations in the United States and Territories. At Camp Edwards Military Training Reservation (hereby abbreviated to Camp Edwards), (Bourne, MA), such wildlife includes the state-protected eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) and the declining prairie warbler (Setophaga discolor), which both occupy pine barrens. In 2020, natural resource managers at Camp Edwards noticed that eastern box turtles were being infected by myiasis, which occurs when flesh flies deposit larvae into the living tissue of a vertebrate host. In the literature, it has been documented that several ectothermic hosts respond to disease or parasite infection through a phenomenon referred to as ‘behavioral fever’ by moving to warmer locations to raise their internal temperature. Behavioral fever may clear the infection faster because higher body temperatures can induce parasite mortality or prevent secondary infections. However, it is unclear if myiasis induces behavioral fever in eastern box turtles or impacts other aspects of their behavior, such as habitat use. In Chapter 1, I compare behavior and habitat characteristics of myiasis infected and noninfected eastern box turtles at Camp Edwards. I radio-tracked 48 turtles weekly from May to August 2022. Upon capture, I recorded their infection status, shell surface temperature, and capture location habitat characteristics: understory vegetation, basal area, and canopy closure. I used generalized linear models and linear models to compare body condition indexes, shell temperatures, habitat use, and movement distances between infection statuses, sexes, and age classes. I found that myiasis infection had no significant effect on any variable other than shell surface temperature, which suggests infected turtles may be exhibiting behavioral fever. A second species of great concern at Camp Edwards are prairie warblers. Prairie warblers occupy early successional forests, which means that habitat management could have a direct impact on the distribution and abundance of this species. Despite declining populations regionally, prairie warbler populations at Camp Edwards have increased in the last few years. In Chapter 2, I analyze the effect of management projects (i.e., prescribed fire and mechanical projects) on prairie warbler colonization, extinction, and detection probabilities at Camp Edwards. I found that colonization was significantly predicted by the number of years since management and the proportion of the following vegetation cover types at a site: grassland, disturbed land, pitch pine – oak forest, and pitch pine – scrub oak community. I also found that extinction was significantly predicted by the proportion of pitch pine – scrub oak community at a site. Lastly, I found that detection probability was significantly predicted by the year of observation and the proportion of the following vegetation cover types: grassland, pitch pine – oak forest, and pitch pine – scrub oak community. These results can help managers predict how prairie warbler populations respond to management projects at Camp Edwards.
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