Mixed hardwood forests of the northeast United States support a guild of granivorous/omnivorous rodents including gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus), and white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus). These species coincide geographically, co-occur locally, and consume similar food resources. Despite their idiosyncratic responses to landscape and patch variables, patch occupancy models suggest that competition may influence their respective distributions and abundances, and accordingly their influence on the rest of the forest community. Experimental studies, however, are wanting. We present the result of a large-scale experiment in which we removed white-footed mice or gray squirrels from small, isolated forest fragments in Dutchess County, New York, and added these mammals to other fragments in order to alter the abundance of these two species. We then used mark-recapture analyses to quantify the population-level and individual-level effects on resident mice, squirrels, and chipmunks. Overall, we found little evidence of competition. There were essentially no within-season numerical responses to changes in the abundance of putative competitors. Moreover, while individual-level responses (apparent survival and capture probability) did vary with competitor densities in some models, these effects were often better explained by site-specific parameters and were restricted to few of the 19 sites we studied. With only weak or nonexistent competition among these three common rodent species, we expect their patterns of habitat occupancy and population dynamics to be largely independent of one another.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences