Small Mammal Study
October 28th , 2022
Southern 8ths Farm, Chesterfield, SC
Friday after we arrived, we set out our small mammal traps up near the tire dump. We found a fallen shed in the middle of the woods, a deciduous forest with some Virginia pine, oaks, and other hard woods. This habitat was different from the last few we trapped so we expected to find different species than what we had seen prior. The eastern harvest mice that we had been seeing were expected in the grassy meadow areas, but not in this forest. The area looked like a great rodent and small mammal area because of lots of fallen, hollowed trees and metal scraps on the ground. The weather was cool with light rain over the night and during the morning on Saturday. On Saturday morning we checked our traps and were thrilled to see we had a new species observed, an adult male white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus). We assume that it is a white-footed mouse and not a cotton mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus), although they look very similar and are most differentiated by size, but that is hard to compare with only one and not the other. The two species converge right in this area on the edge of the Coastal Plain and the Piedmont. This is a great opportunity for future research with genetic testing to see population interaction of the two species or if there is any hybridization in this area. On our second night we recaptured the same adult male in the same area, he likely lives in the shed where we placed the trap.
This weekend was special as we as an intern team were able to share our project with the other people attending the SC Native Plant Society annual meeting. We had great conversations with the other students and what they are doing or planning to do. I can’t wait to see what Sydney finds about the box turtle environment comparing urban and wild areas. I enjoyed listening to all the speakers at the meeting, especially about advocacy the group does in working with Native American tribes from the area and developing a new state park. Mr. Turley and Brianna gave a great presentation about the property and what they do here, highlighting his mission to give students (that’s us) an opportunity to get back in the field. In the afternoon there were several field trips held, I took the bird walk with Professor Knowles from Francis Marion. We walked down to Thompson creek and watched for birds, not much activity that afternoon but we saw some Mourning dove, Eastern Phoebe, and a red-tailed hawk.
Weekend of October 21th, 2022
Each weekend we seem to get a little more successful (fingers crossed I don’t jinx us)! This weekend Clay, Nakayla, and I set 21 traps in the rubble area near the shooting range. This area borders the prairie/grassland we trapped in last weekend. The landscape is different because it is not an untouched area of plant growth, it is more a human area where big trucks are stored and materials are dried out. We had one successful capture each night, both female Eastern Harvest Mice (Reithrodontomys humulis) each caught in different areas, and we know they are not the same individual because of our data collected (the second female was bigger than the first and likely older). Unfortunately, our second lady died after taking her measurements, likely due to stress so we will note this in our reports. We had clear skies all weekend with temperatures in the forties. This was a great weekend for our project because had multiple catches and were able to practice taking measurements in the field that will aid in creating a more detailed understanding of the small mammals present at Southern 8ths.
During the day on Saturday, Brad took us out to the tire dump below the hill overlooking the flood plains. It’s a cool spot because this land is at about 100 ft higher elevation than everything else and there are species of plants here that are nowhere else on the property, like rhododendron and Virginia pine. I would classify this as a hardwood forest (possibly something else) but the soil is more acidic than the lower regions which can aid in different species of plants taking root and living in this area. It’s a great representation of how elevation affects the biogeography of a region (thank you Alexander Humboldt). This could be a great spot for Sherman trapping around the trash dump because rodents would love this area. It may be logistically difficult to get down into, but we may end up surveying the surrounding area.
This is a great time of year to spend in the area, we can see the trees changing color and shedding their leaves as the seasons change. I did some reading and found that broadleaf trees are what we see changing color in the fall, and conifers keep their leaves because they lose less water in the winter, so they retain foliage year-round. The trees dehydrate themselves to increase the concentration of sugar in cells so they do not freeze to death, with more water the cells can freeze more easily. Talk about self-preservation.
October 15, 2022
Southern 8ths Farm, Chesterfield, SC
This was my group’s second weekend on the property continuing our small mammal trapping survey. As to not bore you with scientific jargon here is a highlight reel of our data: we set out 21 traps for two nights in the fireworks pond (a grassland prairie ecosystem). We had no captures the first night, not uncommon when introducing traps in a new area; the second night we had one capture, an adult male Reithrodontomys humulis “eastern harvest mouse”.
Now for the more interesting information, my experience. This weekend we had more time to spend observing and getting to know the property. So far, my favorite thing is how absolutely stunning the morning is. The sun rises perfectly over the dew-soaked pastures and through the trees. And it is so peaceful listening to the birds chirp, and mourning doves sitting on the fences and power lines. The weather was cool and clear skies all weekend. On Saturday after we checked our traps the other students and I went out to the mobile observation deck. It was stationed with the prairie on one side and the pond on the other, a gorgeous view all the way around. After a while, we all went out to walk the perimeter of the pond. I used the Seek app (a great app so tell your friends) to identify any species I didn’t know (plentiful). I saw blue mistflower, cross vine, ditch stonecrop, willows, pokeweed, and goldenrods. Later on Kimberly, Morgan, and I went down to Thompson Creek behind the learning center and walked along the edge. I spent an hour just observing the area, I saw what believe to be a musk turtle in the creek and lots of clam shells. On Saturday night we had a bonfire in the fire pit behind the learning center. We could see the star in the sky and a very vocal donkey in the distance.
I look forward to surveying different habitats with the possibility of comparing species population dynamics, which could also extend to using the camera traps for more information.
September 16, 2022
This weekend we visited the property as an introduction to our research on small mammals as well as to get to know the land. We stayed in the learning center which was beautiful. We went out into the woods behind the building on Friday night to set out 20 Sherman traps (for small mammals) throughout the site. Our area was from the trail down from the firepit down along Thompson creek. That area is designated as piedmont preserve on the property. I would say that the habitat type was a hardwood forest, a sparce understory with shrubs and fallen tree at varying levels of decomposition (good spots for traps). The weather was generally good, in the afternoon setting the traps it was slightly chilly and clear skies. At this preliminary survey we were not concerned with measuring and keeping a consistent distance between traps; instead, we were trying to get a read on what mammals were present in the area. For this we placed our traps, four per student, on the ground in places likely to catch a specimen. For example, along a down tree because small mammals will run along them, so they avoid being vulnerable out in the open. Each traps got bait made of rolled oats and sunflower seeds for the animals.
We checked our traps around 7:00 am on Saturday, early because mammals cannot be trapped for too long. Unfortunately, we did not catch anything, which is not unlikely for a first try because the animals may be trap shy and avoidant of the unfamiliar items. Again, good general weather, slightly warmer in the middle of the day than the previous night and clear skies. Later we got an introduction to the property. I really admire the genesis of this mission and what Mr. Brad is working toward. We stopped over Thompson creek in the flood plains where you can observe the two different areas on each side of the creek separated by about 100 feet of elevation. The different species present in both areas is very interesting to me and look forward to exploring that more over this project.