Habitat features and predictive habitat modeling for the Colorado chipmunk in southern New Mexico

Western North American Naturalist

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Two subspecies of Colorado chipmunk (state threatened and federal species of concern) occur in southern New Mexico: Tamias quadrivittatus australis in the Organ Mountains and T. q. oscuraensis in the Oscura Mountains. We developed a GIS model of potentially suitable habitat based on vegetation and elevation features, evaluated site classifications of the GIS model, and determined vegetation and terrain features associated with chipmunk occurrence. We compared GIS model classifications with actual vegetation and elevation features measured at 37 sites. At 60 sites we measured 18 habitat variables regarding slope, aspect, tree species, shrub species, and ground cover. We used logistic regression to analyze habitat variables associated with chipmunk presence/absence. All (100%) 37 sample sites (28 predicted suitable, 9 predicted unsuitable) were classified correctly by the GIS model regarding elevation and vegetation. For 28 sites predicted suitable by the GIS model, 18 sites (64%) appeared visually suitable based on habitat variables selected from logistic regression analyses, of which 10 sites (36%) were specifically predicted as suitable habitat via logistic regression. We detected chipmunks at 70% of sites deemed suitable via the logistic regression models. Shrub cover, tree density, plant proximity, presence of logs, and presence of rock outcrop were retained in the logistic model for the Oscura Mountains; litter, shrub cover, and grass cover were retained in the logistic model for the Organ Mountains. Evaluation of predictive models illustrates the need for multi-stage analyses to best judge performance. Microhabitat analyses indicate prospective needs for different management strategies between the subspecies. Sensitivities of each population of the Colorado chipmunk to natural and prescribed fire suggest that partial burnings of areas inhabited by Colorado chipmunks in southern New Mexico may be beneficial. These partial burnings may later help avoid a fire that could substantially reduce habitat of chipmunks over a mountain range.

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Habitat features and predictive habitat modeling for the Colorado chipmunk in southern New Mexico
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Western North American Naturalist
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Western North American Naturalist
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