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Do small mammals exhibit road aversion?
McGregor, Rachelle*,1, Fahrig, Lenore1, 1 Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada
ABSTRACT- We hypothesize that small mammals exhibit road aversion and do not attempt to cross roads. We predicted animals that avoid roads should demonstrate two characteristics: they will not include roads in their home range and will turn back from roads (i.e., make U turns) when traveling through forested habitat. To test whether small mammals include roads within their home ranges, we established a mark-recapture protocol using three trapping grids: two adjacent to but on opposite sides of the road, and one farther into the same forest as one of the other grids. We found no difference in small mammal densities between grids adjacent to roads and those more interior (p = 0.56). However, we found animals were less likely to cross roads than expected (p <0.001), although suitable habitat across roads could be included in their home range. These results suggest that animals will use all habitat up to but excluding roads. To test for behavioural responses to roads, we translocated fluorescent-powdered small mammals across roads and within continuous forest. We recorded paths created by sloughed-off powder and found that animals translocated across roads had straighter paths, but there was no significant difference in their return rates (p = 0.18). We conclude that small mammals may prefer to exclude roads from their home ranges but will cross if necessary (i.e., to disperse).
Key words: home range, small mammals, roads, path selection