Clay Tiller

Small Mammal Study

March 25, 2023

This weekend at Southern 8ths was one of our lesser productive weekends because we only were able to catch one mouse the entire weekend. The mouse we caught was on Saturday night and it was most likely a white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus). This is the same mouse species that we have caught the majority of the time of our survey. This mouse and another mouse called the Cotton mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus) are impossible to tell apart in the field, the only way to see a difference is by using DNA barcoding and we are working on a way to work that into our survey. On a different note, while I had some free time on Saturday I went out near Otter Pond to look for signs of Wild Turkeys. I was unable to visually see them but I was able to hear a male turkey gobble in the distance, which I thought was pretty cool. It was a bit slower than most weekends but that is how it goes sometimes, it’s hard to predict nature and what kind of activity will happen each weekend. 

March 4, 2023

This past weekend wasn’t quite as exciting as the previous weekend but still just as fun. We arrived at the farm Friday afternoon to set out our traps for the weekend. The focus area this weekend was a continuation of the area from last weekend, so we set our traps from a little past the bent tree camera all the way to the horse bones camera. This area was primarily a hardwood forest that ran by the creek. It did not have the lower wet areas like last week, which I believe negatively impacted the number of small mammals caught this weekend. We let the traps sit for the night and came back early Saturday morning to check them came found two mice. The mice were most likely the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus). This is the mouse that we believe we are catching but it is impossible to tell apart from the Cotton Mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus). The only way to tell the two species apart is by comparing the DNA through DNA barcoding. We are working on getting the equipment and materials to do this and be able to confirm the species once and for all. Once we checked the rest of the traps we waited until later that day to come back and set them again. Sunday morning came around and we checked all the traps and came up with one mouse which, again, we believed to be the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus). That tallied up a total for the weekend of 3 mice which is a tad less than last weekend’s 15. That is the beauty of this survey, to test the habitat and just see how a few hundred feet of difference in habitat can change the outcome of the small mammals caught. It is truly mind-blowing, but this is why you conduct research to see why things are the way they are.

February 25, 2023

This weekend at Southern 8ths was an eventful one. When we first arrived, the SC Forestry Commission was doing a prescribed burn on the property called the “peninsula” because Thompson Creek surrounds it. This was a safe place to burn because the creek acted as a natural fire break therefore the fire could not spread to other areas of the property. Once we watched the fire for a little bit it was time to get to work and set all forty of our Sherman Traps. The area we selected to trap was the road that runs below Mr. Turley’s house and the woods run beside the road. Mr.Turley picked this location because he has seen raptors working in this area when they are hunting for food. We set the traps beside the road, in some of the lower wet areas, and also in woods near the creek. Once the traps were left overnight we checked them the next morning and to our surprise, we caught 6 mice that night. Most were Peromyscus species. We also caught one that we believed to be an Eastern Harvest Mouse, also one of the traps we caught was a Carolina Wren which was released without harm.  So we got all the data from these mice and let them go on their way. We later came back to reset the traps for the next night and we rebaited and reset. The next morning we caught a whopping nine more mice and that includes a Hispid Cotton Rat. The breakdown came down to six Peromyscus, two Eastern Harvest mice that were caught in the same trap, and then our one Hispid Cotton Rat. This was the first rat species of our survey. This weekend tallied up to have 15 small mammals and one bird that was caught in our traps, this was more than we caught all of last semester. I believed the weather and the location had a big impact on the results. This was due to a cold front coming in the night of our first set which would in theory have the mice moving and looking for food. Then the location was the right habitat to house all of these small mammals and we just happened to trap them when the weather was right. This coming up weekend should be another good one, let’s hope we can continue our luck.

October 21, 2022

This is my third weekend of trapping here at Southern 8ths. We are surveying an area beside the shooting stand with all the rock piles and equipment under the sheds. The first night we set traps out and watched a red-bellied woodpecker land in the old light pole beside the shoot house, this was the closest I have been watching that particular woodpecker. It was a really cool experience to see such a beautiful bird that close and see all the details of its marking features. The next morning we checked the traps and we caught one male Eastern Harvest Mouse by one of the sheds. This was a bit surprising because most of the time it takes one night for the mice to get used to the traps in the area. We got all the measurements and let him go and then we headed back to the learning center. About mid-morning we went to look at the ridge where the tire dump is to scout out other potential trapping areas, we found one spot that had a fallen shed that looked like a really good spot. We walked the entire ridge looking out over the lowland across the creek, it was really beautiful. We came back after lunch and then we went to set the traps out for Saturday night. After we set traps we went looking around for a few minutes and at a water hole was a red-bellied watersnake in the water. It slithered off before I could get a good look at it but I could tell what it was from the strips on its lips and the coloration of its belly. Then after that, we came back to the learning center to get ready for the final morning. On Sunday morning we were able to catch another Eastern Harvest Mouse that we were able to measure and collect data from. This ended our weekend at Southern 8ths but it gives us some confidence that next weekend will be even better.

September 16, 2022

This weekend was my 4th trip to Southern 8ths to continue our small mammal survey. This session we trapped by an old barn that had collapsed. This structure provides excellent cover for small mammals, especially rodents. This was in the middle of a mixed hardwood forest located on the southern portion of the property on the same ridge as the tire dump. We set the traps on Friday evening and felt confident about our chances of catching something. We returned to the learning center for supper and to get ready for the next day. On Saturday we started at daybreak to check our traps. It was a mild morning around 54 degrees, it was not hot nor too cold. While checking the traps we found that we had caught a male mouse of the Peromyscus species. This mouse we caught was either a white-footed mouse or a cotton mouse. We cannot be completely sure without doing some genetic testing but we are fairly certain it is a white-footed mouse. This is due to the measurements we took and they match up pretty well with the white-footed mouse but it also could be a smaller cotton mouse. So after we processed the mouse we checked the rest of the traps and came up with nothing else. We set back to the learning center to participate in the SC Native Plant Society meeting. This was a really cool experience because it was awesome to see so many people that want to bring back the native habitat to our area and across the state. The part that interested me was the talk about the new state park on the Black River. I enjoy going on a boat and fishing and it is exciting to know that I can now go to the Black River and fish at an SC state park. After lunch, we were able to talk about our small mammal survey to a small group of people which was really cool to see that people were interested in our project. On the field trip portion of the meeting, I went with Professor Knowles on a bird walk, we saw an American Crow, many species of sparrows, and a Dark-eyed Junco that we believed to be a western variant with a reddish back on it. After the bird walk, we went back to set the traps for the night and then came back for supper. On Sunday morning as we checked the traps for the final time we found out we had caught the exact same mouse as the night before. The Peromyscus species mouse had the same measurements and some distinct features that made us believe it was the same mouse. That concluded our session at Southern 8ths and another great weekend in the field.