The University of Arizona

Response of cottontail rabbit populations to herbicide and fire applications on cross timbers rangeland.

R.L. Lochmiller, J.F. Boggs, S.T. McMurry, D.M. Leslie, D.M. Engle

Abstract


Knowledge of how resident wildlife populations respond to brush management strategies is especially limited for rangelands in the cross timbers vegetation type of Oklahoma. We examined how cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) density and habitat use were influenced by applications of tebuthiuron or triclopyr, with and without annual burning, on cross timbers rangeland. Line transect flush-counts, mark-recapture livetrapping, and fecal pellet counts were used to evaluate seasonal differences in population density among 5 brush control treatments. Cottontail rabbits (n = 225) were flushed along 362 km of line transects during 5 census periods. Density in winter was consistently lower than summer for all treatments, except for the untreated control in winter 1987. Line transect density estimates varied from 0 to 1.975 rabbits/ha and suggested that herbicide and annual burning treatments had a positive influence on cottontail rabbit populations compared to untreated controls. Mark-recapture density estimates did not differ among treatments. Fecal pellet counts were greater on herbicide-treated pastures than an untreated control in both spring and fall. Prairie-eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana L.) and forest-prairie ecotone habitats were utilized greater than expected by cottontail rabbits. Mature hardwood overstory and mixed-brush habitats were avoided. Tebuthiuron and triclopyr effectively deceased hardwood overstory and increased preferred habitats for cottontail rabbits.

Keywords


tebuthiuron;population density;triclopyr;Sylvilagus floridanus;ecotones;habitats;forests;brush control;population dynamics;prescribed burning;Oklahoma;prairies;range management

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