Check out these recent papers from some of our grant winners on topics ranging from ants to snow leopards! These projects may be quite different but here’s what they have in common: our grassroots network of donors helped make them happen.
Observations of Snakes Associated With Active Nests of Allegheny Mound Ant (Formica exsectoides) in Northeastern Pennsylvania
Sebastian A. Harris and Amy M. Savage
Refuge availability is an important component of snake ecology and conservation, yet we have limited understanding of the extent to which snakes use the nests of other animals for refuge. Despite their ubiquity in many forests, the use of ant nests as refuge by snakes has only been reported by a few publications. Between 15 September and 14 October 2019, we set out camera traps to assess whether snakes inhabited active ant mounds and the associated habitats engineered by Allegheny Mound Ant in northeastern Pennsylvania. We recorded a total of 44 snake images captured at 2 ant mounds, representing 24 individual encounters and 3 snake species. Species observed entering and emerging from mounds included Ring-necked Snake and Red-bellied Snake. We observed both Ring-necked Snakes and Red-bellied Snakes briefly entering and exiting nests. The latter was also observed basking outside of a nest, and we observed both species enter a nest without resurfacing. These results suggest that active ant mounds constructed by Allegheny Mound Ants represent an underappreciated resource for these small-bodied snake species.
Leopard (Panthera pardus) density and diet in a forest corridor of Terai: implications for conservation and conflict management
Kandel Sagar Raj, Lamichhane Babu Ram, and Subedi Naresh
Increasing forest fragmentation and degradation has forced wildlife to live in close proximity to humans, increasing the chances of human–wildlife conflict. Leopard typifies the problem faced by large carnivores. It is a threatened species with a wide distribution, with a large part of their range outside protected areas, leaving them vulnerable to human–leopard conflict. Understanding their status and diet in such non-protected forests is necessary for their long-term conservation. Leopard density was found to be relatively low in the forest corridor compared with protected areas. Nearly one-third of leopard diet from domestic livestock and dogs suggests that human–leopard conflict could be problematic in the survey area. Increasing prey density in the forest corridor and improving livestock husbandry in the periphery will contribute to increase leopard density, reduce the human–leopard conflict and enhance the functionality of the corridor.
In the shadows of snow leopards and the Himalayas: density and habitat selection of blue sheep in Manang, Nepal
Marc Filla, Rinzin Phunjok Lama, Tashi Rapte Ghale, Johannes Signer, Tim Filla, Raja Ram Aryal, Marco Heurich, Matthias Waltert, Niko Balkenhol, and Igor Khorozyan
There is a growing agreement that conservation needs to be proactive and pay increased attention to common species and to the threats they face. The blue sheep plays a key ecological role in sensitive high‐altitude ecosystems of Central Asia and is among the main prey species for the globally vulnerable snow leopard. As the blue sheep has been increasingly exposed to human pressures, it is vital to estimate its population dynamics, protect the key populations, identify important habitats, and secure a balance between conservation and local livelihoods. We conducted a study in Manang, Annapurna Conservation Area (Nepal), to survey blue sheep on 60 transects in spring (127.9 km) and 61 transects in autumn (134.7 km) of 2019, estimate their minimum densities from total counts, compare these densities with previous estimates, and assess blue sheep habitat selection by the application of generalized additive models (GAMs). Total counts yielded minimum density estimates of 6.0–7.7 and 6.9–7.8 individuals/km2 in spring and autumn, respectively, which are relatively high compared to other areas. Elevation and, to a lesser extent, land cover indicated by the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) strongly affected habitat selection by blue sheep, whereas the effects of anthropogenic variables were insignificant. Animals were found mainly in habitats associated with grasslands and shrublands at elevations between 4,200 and 4,700 m. We show that the blue sheep population size in Manang has been largely maintained over the past three decades, indicating the success of the integrated conservation and development efforts in this area. Considering a strong dependence of snow leopards on blue sheep, these findings give hope for the long‐term conservation of this big cat in Manang. We suggest that long‐term population monitoring and a better understanding of blue sheep–livestock interactions are crucial to maintain healthy populations of blue sheep and, as a consequence, of snow leopards.