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Do trappers understand marten habitat?


  • Associate Editor: Stan Gehrt


Previous studies of the effects of fur trapping on marten populations have not considered habitat variation and how trappers use available habitat. We investigated the behavior of fur trappers with respect to roads, waterways, and the forest habitats on trap lines, using registered trap lines in northern Ontario as a study system. The objectives of this study were to 1) develop models for predicting trap location based on access and habitat features, 2) determine whether trappers target the same habitat preferred by American marten, and 3) investigate effects of spatial resolution on predictive models, using a geographic information system (GIS) for coarse resolution variables and direct forest mensuration for fine resolution variables. Distance to roads and water were by far the most influential factors in logistic models for predicting trap presence, accounting for 51.2–61.7% of the observed deviance. At a coarse spatial resolution, trappers selected sites that were close to vehicular access, and in older mixed wood forest stands. Similarly, at a coarse resolution, marten selected old stands, but dominated by coniferous trees. At a finer spatial resolution, trappers selected sites with high basal area of trees, pronounced proportion of black spruce, high canopy cover, and high density of coarse woody debris, consistent with previous studies on marten habitat selection at a fine resolution. Although coarse resolution models are easily applicable because of the wide availability of GIS land cover data, fine resolution models had greater predictive power when considering habitat variables. By quantifying trapper behaviors, these results suggest that the effectiveness of marten sanctuaries used in forest management depend not only on the age and species composition of forest stands left unlogged, but also on the degree to which they are accessible to trappers. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.