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Translocation of an imperilled woodrat population: integrating spatial and habitat patterns

  • L. R. Gerber (a1) (a2), E. W. Seabloom (a2), R. S. Burton (a3) (a4) and O. J. Reichman (a2) (a4)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 29 October 2003

Many species have strong habitat preferences that directly influence population viability. For successful reintroduction of threatened populations that rely on habitat structures, the correct placement of artificial structures is also important to population persistence. In this paper, we present a hierarchical approach to the problem of translocating animals that rely on permanent habitat structures, in which we first use population dynamics data to identify areas of suitable habitat, and then identify optimal configuration for habitat structures. We use data collected from a non-endangered, conspecific population of the endangered riparian woodrat (Neotoma fuscipes riparia) to examine the degree to which the distribution of dens in translocation sites might influence the likelihood that animals persist in their new environment. We characterize the habitats in which dens occur, analyze their spatial clustering, and compare them to temporal changes in population status for sex and age classes. We compare the potential efficacy of translocation efforts using spatial analysis versus solely habitat-based approaches and identify the optimal spatial configuration of dens that should be considered in this translocation effort. We found that patterns of habitat use were positively correlated with overstorey cover, and animal weight was positively correlated with understorey cover. Woodrats appear to select den locations on the basis of understorey cover, but also benefit from dense overstorey cover and distance to nearest tree. Our results suggest that in translocation efforts, artificial dens should be placed in clusters within a radius of 15 m, as values above and below this value showed negative correlations with body mass. Translocations should occur after reproductive events, which occur in April and August for woodrats in southern California. Our analyses provide practical guidelines in determining appropriate timing and spacing for translocation events in the context of animal condition, minimizing disease transmission, and reproduction.

Corresponding author
All correspondence to: L. R. Gerber. Tel: 480 727 3109; Fax: 480 965 2519; E-mail:
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Animal Conservation forum
  • ISSN: 1367-9430
  • EISSN: 1469-1795
  • URL: /core/journals/animal-conservation-forum
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