Effects of Urban Development on Vertebrate Wildlife Populations in Schmeeckle Reserve, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point
Engel, Thomas C.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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The influence of various urban developments upon vertebrate wildlife distributions and abundance was studied in Schmeeckle Reserve on the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point campus in central Wisconsin, Mar 1977 to Mar 1979. Developments included the completion and use of a new highway, the evacuation of an existing roadway, wetland drainage, and the construction of multi-purpose recreational trails. Breeding bird abundance was constant in 1977 and 1978 in all habitats unaltered by development. Trail construction apparently increased breeding bird abundance in pine habitat but had no effect upon birds in other habitats. Breeding bird abundance in wetlands nearly tripled in 1978 after dams were installed to restore original wetland conditions. Removal of vehicular traffic from an abandoned roadway increased bird abundance in adjacent mixed woodland habitat. The addition of traffic along a new roadway had no apparent effect upon bird abundance in adjacent habitats. Amphibians became more abundant in 1978 when wetlands were reflooded. Frog and toad breeding areas expanded to include much of the reflooded area. The new road served as a barrier to some amphibians and caused direct mortality to several species. Snakes were less abundant in the wetlands after reflooding, but other habitat alterations had no noticeable effect upon their populations. Turtles were rare on the reserve. Shrews increased slightly in abundance from 1977 to 1978 in undisturbed habitats while other small mammal species became less abundant. Severe flooding reduced small mammal populations except Sorex arcticus, less severe flooding of wetland habitat evidently allowed populations of other small mammals to increase. Wetland restoration in 1978 attracted muskrats, mink, and beaver. Skunks and weasels increased in abundance also, possibly in response to the increase in their small mammal prey on the wetland periphery. Cottontail rabbits were adversely affected by the wetland restoration. Gray squirrels declined in habitats disturbed by development. Development on the reserve increased white-tailed deer mortality but did not reduce their use of the area. Immigration of deer from adjacent areas allowed annual repopulation of the reserve. Preservation of Schmeeckle Reserve’s habitats and wildlife diversity is desirable because the area is used as an outdoor laboratory, primarily by the university’s College of Natural Resources and Biology Department. Preservation of the reserve and its wildlife depends upon its proper management by the university and regulation of incompatible uses.