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Feral swine Sus scrofa: a new threat to the remaining breeding wetlands of the Vulnerable reticulated flatwoods salamander Ambystoma bishopi

  • Kelly C. Jones (a1), Thomas A. Gorman (a1), Brandon K. Rincon (a1), John Allen (a2), Carola A. Haas (a1) and Richard M. Engeman (a3)...

Abstract

Feral swine Sus scrofa have been implicated as a major threat to sensitive habitats and ecosystems as well as threatened wildlife. Nevertheless, direct and indirect impacts on threatened species (especially small, fossorial species) are not well documented. The decline of the U.S. federally endangered reticulated flatwoods salamander Ambystoma bishopi, categorized as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, has been rapid and there are few remaining breeding locations for this species. The flatwoods salamander depends on complex herbaceous vegetation in all life stages, including eggs, larvae and adults. Historically sets of hog tracks have been observed only occasionally in the vicinity of monitored reticulated flatwoods salamander breeding wetlands, and damage to the wetlands had never been recorded. However, during the autumn–winter breeding season of 2013–2014 we observed a large increase in hog sign, including extensive rooting damage, in known flatwoods salamander breeding wetlands. Our objective was to assess the amount of hog sign and damage in these wetlands and to take corrective management actions to curb additional impacts. Of 28 wetlands surveyed for hog sign, presence was recorded at 68%, and damage at 54%. Of the 11 sites known to be occupied by flatwoods salamanders in 2013–2014, 64% had presence, and 55% had damage. We found that regular monitoring of disturbance in wetland habitats was a valuable tool to determine when intervention was needed and to assess the effectiveness of intervention. Habitat damage caused by feral hogs poses a potentially serious threat to the salamanders, which needs to be mitigated using methods to control and exclude hogs from this sensitive habitat.

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(Corresponding author) E-mail kcjones7@vt.edu

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Current address: Aquatic Resources Division, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Chehalis, Washington, USA

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