Great Plains Natural Science Society


Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist • 48(1): June 2016


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


Prairie deer mice are important predators in many agricultural systems, and through their diet they can help to regulate pest insect and weed populations. Our objective was to test whether fecal material is an effective means of detailing the foraging ecology of small mammals. We conducted three studies to evaluate the efficacy of this technique: 1) field-collected fecal material from unknown deer mice from late winter to early spring, 2) fecal material collected in an enclosure with mice fed a mix of C3 and C4 plant seeds, and 3) fecal material from tagged female mice in the field. We detected significant shifts in δ13C in one study and δ15N in another relative to spring thaw (δ13C: –13.34 vs. –10.72, P = 0.01, δ15N: 4.92 vs. 4.09, P = 0.03), a significant correlation between the relative amounts of two seed types and δ13C (slope = 5.46, SE = 1.82, P < 0.01), and a significant decrease in δ15N due to nursing (4.57 ± 0.19 vs 3.28 ± 0.47, P = 0.02). Use of this technique will help to clarify foraging of this economically important species in agroecosystems.