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J.3-1: An Assessment of Waterfowl Use of Intensely Managed Areas in Michigan

Presented by Trey McClinton - Email: mcclin73@msu.edu

Waterfowl provide significant economic, ecological, and social benefits, and management strives to provide adequate populations to support hunting and non-hunting benefits of these resources. Given their importance, there is a need to regularly evaluate waterfowl use of wetlands and to adapt management systems to changing conditions. In Michigan, public land managers conduct weekly counts to document waterfowl use. Data obtained from these counts is potentially too coarse spatially and temporally to guide management and may suffer from biases due to differing detection among habitats. As such, the objectives of this research were to: (1) evaluate waterfowl use of Michigans intensively managed waterfowl areas in response to local conditions and management regimes and (2) test camera trapping methodologies as a means to address identified shortcomings of visual counts. I maintained 80 Browning Strike Force 850 HD game cameras across 5 state operated Managed Waterfowl Hunt Areas and the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, from September through December 2018. Cameras were set to a timelapse plus setting which captured a photo every ten minutes during daylight hours and allowed waterfowl to trigger the camera by motion day and night. Assessments indicate that usage during daylight hours was highest in units that were closed to hunting. Although usage varied among wetland types (e.g., flooded corn, moist soil, etc.), detections in units open to hunting showed a stronger shift from day to night as hunting pressure increased. These results indicate that, though management has commonly focused on maximizing available food for migrating waterfowl, disturbance is also an important factor driving their temporal and spatial distribution. Additionally, our work shows that game cameras are viable tools for overcoming certain limitations of other sampling methods.
Session: Habitat Management (Friday, August 30, 13:20 to 15:00)