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Keywords:

  • Adirondack Park;
  • American beech;
  • American marten;
  • Fagus grandifolia;
  • fisher;
  • harvest management;
  • Martes americana;
  • Martes pennanti;
  • seed masting;
  • small mammals

Abstract

Many forest tree species produce seed (mast) crops that are consumed by a variety of wildlife species and these pulsed resources may mediate interactions among predator and prey populations. In the northern hardwood forests of New York, we investigated interactions among mast production, prey abundance, and harvests of American martens (Martes americana) and fishers (Martes pennanti) during 1988–2009. Mast production for beech (Fagus grandifolia), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), and mountain ash (Sorbus americana) was synchronous and an alternate-year pattern in production was evident for most of the time series. We documented considerable temporal variation in summer small mammal relative abundance and our numerical response models received substantial support for 5 of the 8 species, indicating lagged responses to autumn mast crops. Trap response of martens to the autumn production of beech mast and mountain ash berries was immediate and numerical responses to the relative abundance of small mammal prey occurred during the preceding summer. The age structure of the marten harvest differed based on the dominant alternate-year pattern of summer prey relative abundance and autumn mast production (χ24 = 33.06, P < 0.001). The proportion of juvenile marten in the autumn harvest was 52% and 34% following summers when small mammal relative abundance was high and low, respectively and these differences resulted in a persistent cohort effect that was apparent until age 3.5. Trap response of fishers to the autumn production of beech mast was immediate and numerical responses to the relative abundance of Sciurid prey occurred during the preceding summer. Marten and fisher harvests fluctuated similarly among New York, Maine, and New Brunswick, which may indicate regional synchronization of mast crops and responses of martens and fishers to similar prey dynamics. A better understanding of how food availability influences demographic responses and trapping vulnerability of martens and fishers would aid our ability to manage harvests of these species on a sustained yield basis. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.