Optimizing Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse Conservation Through an Investigation of Demography, Habitat Use and Multi-Species Management

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The salt marsh harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris) is the world’s only land mammal found exclusively within coastal marshes. Amazingly adapted to coastal living, the small mammal can swim (yes, swim), drink salt water, and climb pickleweed to evade high tide. This project explores novel approaches to helping the endangered species thrive within San Francisco Bay’s small, highly fragmented marshes, further threatened by sea level rise. To do this, the fellow is live-trapping, radio-collaring and monitoring the mice at six sites within Suisun Marsh monthly. Three of the study sites are managed to enhance duck hunting. The other three sites are natural tidal wetlands. A main goal of the project is to establish population sizes of the mice at the six study sites and to figure out where mice go when the managed wetlands are flooded to create duck ponds for hunters. Her work will document much needed basic biological information on the species, such as its home range size, longevity, feeding habits and reproductive cycles. Finding may illuminate ways to rebuild mice populations, protect coastal wetlands and enhance duck populations, as other research has suggested that larger mice populations can reduce predation on duck eggs and chicks.

Research mentor: Doug Kelt, UC Davis

Community mentors: Steve Culberson and Michael Chotkowski, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Laureen Barthman-Thompson, California Department of Fish and Wildlife