Joseph J. Fontaine
Date of this Version
Wszola, L.S. 2017. Mapping the ecology of information: hierarchical habitat selection by Nebraska pheasant hunters. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Hunting regulations are assumed to moderate the effects of hunting consistently across a game population. A growing body of evidence suggests that hunter effort varies temporally and spatially, and that variation in effort at multiple spatial scales can affect game populations in unexpected ways. We set out to determine the causes of variation in hunting effort among ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) hunters at four spatial scales: among regions within the state of Nebraska, among sites within a given region, among access points at a given site, and among habitat patches within a site. At each scale, pheasant hunters used direct and indirect information about pheasant relative abundance to make spatial decisions, but the sources of information used varied with scale. At the state scale, pheasant hunter use was positively correlated with relative pheasant abundance, and percent coverage of wetlands, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grasslands, and row crops. Within a given region, hunters were most likely to hunt CRP grasslands, as opposed to wildlife management areas, corroborating evidence that hunters associate CRP with pheasant abundance. Sites surrounded by a higher concentration of row crops, a potential food source for pheasants, also received higher use. At the access point scale, hunter space use was positively correlated with proximity to roads and public access signs, but declined near occupied structures and livestock, indicating that hunters responded to the spatial distribution and content of public access infrastructure. Within fields, hunter space use was positively correlated with pheasant detections, and negatively associated with correlates of metabolic cost and distance from crop fields. Our findings indicate that hunters are strongly influenced by cues of public land access and pheasant abundance, suggesting that if it is desirable to direct or mitigate the flow of hunter effort through public lands, this objective may be accomplished by managing the cues available to hunters without explicitly limiting access to public lands.
Advisor: Joseph J. Fontaine