Date of this Version
Spanel, T., and Geluso, K. 2018. Small mammals in cornfields and associated peripheral habitats in central Nebraska, Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences 38, pp 30–35.
In the Great Plains, many native grasslands have been converted to agricultural fields during the last two centuries. Peripheral habitats along edges of crop fields generally consist of linear habitats along roads, with many of these habitats used by native fauna. Our study examined capture rates and species composition of small mammals in cornfields, herbaceous roadside ditches, and wooded shelterbelts in central Nebraska. We captured nine species of small mammals. The Prairie Vole (Microtus ochrogaster) and Western Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis) were captured almost exclusively in roadside ditches, the White-footed Deermouse (Peromyscus leucopus) was captured most often in wooded shelterbelts, and the North American Deermouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) was common to abundant in all three habitats. Capture rates of small mammals were greatest in roadside ditches and least in cornfields. Herbaceous roadside ditches contained the greatest species richness with seven species, whereas shelterbelts and cornfields each had five species. Species composition of rodents differed in shelterbelts comprised solely of eastern red-cedars (Juniperus virginiana) compared to those with a mixture deciduous and coniferous trees. Our study demonstrated that roadside ditches associated with agricultural fields serve as habitats for many prairie species whereas wooded shelterbelts along agricultural fields support both woodland and prairie species in central Nebraska. Cornfields mainly were inhabited by North American Deermice but did not support many other species of small mammals. Although agricultural practices have reduced the quantity of grasslands for prairie species across the region, habitats associated with periphery of fields appear to serve as alternative habitats for small mammals throughout the Great Plains.