Nest predation, the major cause of nest failure in passerines, has exerted a strong influence on the evolution of life history traits of birds. Because human disturbance during nest monitoring may alter predation rates, we investigated whether human scent affected the survival of artificial ground nests in shortgrass prairie. Our experiment consisted of two treatments, one in which there was no attempt to mask human scent along travel routes between artificial nests, and one in which we masked human scent with cow manure, a scent familiar to mammalian predators in the study area. We found no evidence that human scent influenced predation rates, nor that mammalian predators followed human trails between nests. We conclude that scent trails made by investigators do not result in lower nesting success of passerines of the shortgrass prairie where vegetation trampling is minimal, mammalian predators predominate, and avian predators are rare.
Additional Publication Details
Do mammalian nest predators follow human scent trails in the shortgrass prairie?