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Accession Number 5001879

Title Effect of hunting on survival and habitat use by American woodcock Scolopax minor

on breeding and migration areas

Project Description The American woodcock (Scolopax minor) population has declined over the last 29 years at an

annual rate of 2.5% in the Eastern region and 1.6% in the Central region (Bruggink 1996). In 1996,

the breeding population index was 1.48 singing males per route in the Eastern region, which was

the lowest on record since the survey began. The major causes of the decline are thought to be

degradation and loss of suitable habitat on both breeding and wintering areas, caused by forest

succession and changes in land use (Dwyer et al. 1983, Owen et al. 1977, Straw et al. 1994).

Although hunting is not thought to be a cause of the decline, there is a need to determine the

effects of harvest on this declining population (USDI 1990). Under the hypothesis of compensatory

mortality, hunting and non-hunting mortality are inversely related as long as hunting mortality is

below some threshold point (harvest level) (Anderson and Burnham 1976). Yearly variation in the

size, age and sex structure of the population, and the quantity and quality of habitat may influence

what that threshold is (Anderson and Burnham 1976). Estimates of the retrieved kill of woodcock

increased from 789,000 in 1969 (Sheldon 1971) to 1,328,000 (U. S. only) in 1977 (Owen et al.

1977) to 2,000,000 in 1990 (USDI 1990), suggesting an increasing annual mortality from hunting

(Martin et al. 1977). Although harvest estimates after harvest restrictions dropped to about 1.1

million (Straw et al. 1994) and data from the Wing Surveys indicated that seasonal hunter

success has been declining during the last decade (Bruggink 1996), available habitat continues to

decline. Because habitat quality and quantity have been declining along with the woodcock

population, woodcock harvest levels may now be at or above the threshold of additivity. Because

the causes of the woodcock decline are unknown and hunting mortality can be controlled,

research on the effects of hunting mortality on woodcock populations at both local and regional

levels is needed. We will use radio-telemetry to determine sources of mortality, survival rates,

habitat use, and movement of juvenile woodcock during fall on local areas within the breeding

range of the woodcock and on staging areas during migration,. Also, we will determine effects of

fall survival on size of the spring population. This study will be a cooperative venture among

PWRC, USFWS-Region 5, Moosehorn NWR, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife,

PA Game Commission, Erie NWR, The Ruffed Grouse Society, Champion International Corp.,

Dartmouth College, New Hampshire Fish and Game, The Wildlife Management Institute and

Vermont National Guard. Results of this study will characterize natural processes and identify

factors that influence the quantity and quality of the Nations biological resources and will facilitate

sound management of the Nations biological resources by collaborating with partners in all

phases of work.

Keywords american woodcock, effects of hunting, habitat use, movements, scolopax minor, survival,

Principal Daniel G McAuley, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: dan_mcauley@usgs.gov; Jerry R

Investigators Longcore, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: jerry_longcore@usgs.gov; Greg F Sepik,

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5: r5rw_rwb@fws.gov; R. B Allen, Maine Department of

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife: brad.allen@state.me.us; Bill Palmer, Pennsylvania Game

Commission: ; John Dunn, Pennsylvania Game Commission: ;

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