A large-scale experimental landscape study was conducted to examine the use of corridors and the forest matrix habitat by the hispid cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus). The role of micro-habitat selection by S. hispidus in influencing routes of movement was also investigated. The experimental landscape consisted of ten 1.64-ha patches (each 128 x 128 m) established in a loblolly (Pinus teada) forest. Four of the patches were isolated while the other six were connected in pairs by a 32-m wide corridor. Cotton rats (N = 96) were simultaneously released into both an isolated and connected patch, and monitored by radiotelemetry for 10 days. We found that the forest matrix was not a barrier to movements of cotton rats. Fifty percent of the cotton rats moved through the matrix. Corridors had no significant effect on the number of animals leaving connected patches (60%) compared to isolated patches (50%). However, corridors were the preferred route to leave a connected patch. Colonization success for cotton rats leaving connected and isolated patches did not significantly differ. Cotton rats exhibited micro-habitat preferences and these preferences differed within patch/corridor and matrix habitats. In patch/corridor habitats, cotton rats selected sites with tall (> 1 m) shrubs and high percent cover. In the forest matrix, cotton rats selected sites with abundant cover by vines and low tree canopy cover. Movement patterns of Sigmodon hispidus are not strongly influenced by large-scale landscape spatial structures. Micro-habitat selection, however, does influence movement patterns. These findings have important implications regarding habitat connectivity for small mammals.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Nature and Landscape Conservation