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David A. Eads

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Black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) excavate soil from prairie dog (Cynomys spp.) burrows, thereby creating characteristic soil deposits at burrow openings. These soil deposits have been observed only rarely in summer. We monitored adult ferrets during June–October of the years 2007 and 2008 on a 452-ha colony of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in the Conata Basin, South Dakota. We located and identified ferret excavations during nighttime spotlight surveys for ferrets and daytime sampling of prairie dog burrow openings around locations where ferrets were located via spotlight. We accumulated 48 observations of in-process or recently completed ferret excavations during spotlight surveys (21...
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We evaluated how American badgers (Taxidea taxus) might exert selective pressure on black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) to develop antipredator defenses. In a colony of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in South Dakota, badgers concentrated their activities where burrow openings and prairie dogs were abundant, a selective behavior that was exhibited by ferrets in the same colony. Badgers excavated burrows more often when in areas recently used by a ferret, suggesting that badgers hunt ferrets or steal prey from ferrets, or both. We also conducted an analysis of survival studies for ferrets and Siberian polecats (M. eversmanii) released onto prairie dog colonies. This polecat is the ferret's ecological...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Journal of Mammalogy
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Fleas (Insecta: Siphonaptera) are hematophagous ectoparasites that feed on vertebrate hosts. Fleas can reduce the fitness of hosts by interfering with immune responses, disrupting adaptive behaviors, and transmitting pathogens. The negative effects of fleas on hosts are usually most pronounced when fleas attain high densities. In lab studies, fleas desiccate and die under dry conditions, suggesting that populations of fleas will tend to decline when precipitation is scarce under natural conditions. To test this hypothesis, we compared precipitation vs. parasitism of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) by fleas at a single colony during May and June of 13 consecutive years (1976–1988) at Wind Cave National...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Ecosphere
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Plague is a reemerging, rodent-associated zoonosis caused by the flea-borne bacterium Yersinia pestis. As a vector-borne disease, rates of plague transmission may increase when fleas are abundant. Fleas are highly susceptible to desiccation under hot-dry conditions; we posited that their densities decline during droughts. We evaluated this hypothesis with black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in New Mexico, June–August 2010–2012. Precipitation was relatively plentiful during 2010 and 2012 but scarce during 2011, the driest spring–summer on record for the northeastern grasslands of New Mexico. Unexpectedly, fleas were 200% more abundant in 2011 than in 2010 and 2012. Prairie dogs were in 27% better condition...
Categories: Publication; Types: Citation; Tags: Journal of Mammalogy
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Wildlife-habitat relationships are often conceptualized as resource selection functions (RSFs)—models increasingly used to estimate species distributions and prioritize habitat conservation. We evaluated the predictive capabilities of 2 black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) RSFs developed on a 452-ha colony of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in the Conata Basin, South Dakota. We used the RSFs to project the relative probability of occurrence of ferrets throughout an adjacent 227-ha colony. We evaluated performance of the RSFs using ferret space use data collected via postbreeding spotlight surveys June–October 2005–2006. In home ranges and core areas, ferrets selected the predicted "very high"...
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