The effects of intensive predator harvest during the quail nesting season on diet, age and reproduction of meso-mammalian predators
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Lethal control of predators is a method of game promotion has become a popular part of intensive quail management on Southwest Georgia plantations. Targeted predators include opposums (Didelphis virginianus), raccoons (Procyon lotor), bobcats (Lynx rufus) and coyotes (Canis latrans). During the last few decades much emphasis has been placed on the responses of quail to predator removal, however, little research has been done on the responses of the predators and the potential impacts of predator absence on the remaining community. To address these issues, meso-mammalian predators were removed March to September for three years from four different study sites. Two sites were trapped from 2001 to 2003. In 2004, trapping switched to the remaining two sites and was continued through 2006. Lower canines from were removed and cementum annuli analysis was done to estimate age. Stomachs and reproductive tracts also were removed to obtain diet and reproductive indices. Our age data revealed a decreasing trend in the age structure of all predators as trapping duration increased, but this trend was evident in only about half of the site-by-year groupings. The stomach analyses (n=638) were consistent with current food habits literature, but there were no consistent changes evident in diets that could be related to the predator removal treatments. Litter sizes were consistent with current literature for all species; however, no trends in reproduction were related to the trapping removals. Thus, the predator removal treatments we imposed did not appear to consistently alter diets, age, or reproduction of opossums, raccoons, bobcats, or coyotes.