Mesopredators (e.g., raccoon Procyon lotor, Virginia opossum Didelphis virginiana, striped skunk Mephitis mephitis) have received considerable attention because of links to population declines in birds via increased nest predation, especially in landscapes fragmented by anthropogenic forces. Relationships of abundance of mesopredators to size of habitat patches have received less attention than relationships to other metrics of fragmentation, particularly edge characteristics. We tested the hypothesis that relative abundance of mesopredators (e.g., raccoons and Virginia opossums) was related negatively to size of forest patch. We delineated 15 patches of oak (Quercus) forest ranging from 0.2 to 55.3 ha within a grassland-woodland mosaic in the cross-timbers ecoregion of Oklahoma. Scent stations and live traps within these patches were used to index relative abundance of mesopredators in summers 2003 and 2004. Both indices of relative abundance were related weakly and negatively to area of forest patch. However, rate of capture and visitation to scent station were not correlated consistently throughout the study. Our results suggested that the two methods to index abundance provided separate information on functional and numerical responses to size of patch. Our evidence that mesopredators within the cross timbers were more likely to be in smaller patches of oak forest may have implications to success of avian nesting in these patches.
Additional publication details
Relative abundance of mesopredators and size of oak patches in the cross-timbers ecoregion