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Wednesday, January 27 • 11:40am - 12:00pm
Response Of Semi-Aquatic Mammal Populations To Remediation Efforts In The St Louis River Area Of Concern

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AUTHORS: Bryn E.H. Evans*, University of Wisconsin Madison; Shawn M. Crimmins, University of Wisconsin Madison; Timothy R. Van Deelen, University of Wisconsin Madison

ABSTRACT: The St Louis River Estuary was designated as an Area of Concern in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1987. The estuary enters Lake Superior at the urban / industrial complex of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin and has historically experienced physical modification and chemical pollution. Degraded wildlife habitat and wildlife populations were included among the Beneficial Use Impairments to be addressed as an A.O.C., and while several remediation projects have been completed, there was no clear picture of the recovery of semi-aquatic mammals in the area. Using a combination of motion triggered cameras and aerial surveys, we are quantifying semi-aquatic mammal populations throughout the estuary as well as in two unimpaired reference sites; Boulder Lake Reservoir in eastern Minnesota and the St Croix River near Danbury in northwestern Wisconsin. Data collection began in November 2014, focusing on the occurrence of river otter Lontra canadensis, beaver Castor canadensis, mink Neovison vison, and muskrat Ondatra zibethicus. The data are analyzed in an occupancy modeling framework to assess differences in abundance between the estuary and unimpaired sites and to determine habitat relationships for these species. We are also attempting a novel approach to quantifying changing detection probabilities in response to vegetation growth by incorporating phenology data. Preliminary synthesis of early data collection indicates species recovery is occurring in the Area of Concern, and as of fall 2015 data collection is ongoing both via trail cameras and aerial surveys. Our final analysis will focus on any remaining barriers to full recovery, as well as provide a means of validating current aerial survey methods for semi-aquatic mammals in this region by comparing those results to the intensive field monitoring.

Wednesday January 27, 2016 11:40am - 12:00pm EST
Vandenberg A