Reduction in meso-mammal nest predators improves northern bobwhite demographics

William E. Palmer, John P. Carroll, D. Clay Sisson, Shane D. Wellendorf, Theron M. Terhune, Susan N. Ellis-Felege, James A. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Nest predation is the major cause of nest failure in northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus; i.e., bobwhites). Control of mid-sized mammalian nest predators (i.e., meso-mammals) is often conducted to increase reproductive success on lands managed for bobwhites. Nest predation by meso-mammals, however, is only one part of a complex predator-prey trophic system. There is limited understanding of the effect of nest predators on bobwhite demographics, which creates uncertainty about the efficacy of nest predator control. We quantified demographic effects on bobwhite populations from reducing meso-mammals on 4 study areas managed for bobwhites in northern Florida and southwestern Georgia, USA, during 2000–2006. After 1 year of pre-treatment monitoring (2000), we reduced meso-mammal nest predator abundance through trapping over 3-year intervals, March to September, on 2 sites using a crossover design. Efficacy of trapping was demonstrated by a 43% reduction in scent station visitation rates of meso-mammals. Meso-mammal control increased all demographic metrics including a 30% increase in nesting propensity, a 10% increase in nest success, and a 43% increase in chicks produced. Despite significant regional variation in breeding season survival rates, this equated to an average 18% increase in autumn density on trapped sites. Decision-makers should weigh the tradeoffs between bobwhite population goals and costs of meso-mammal control, where those that value maximum bobwhite density and reduced annual variation should likely implement control of meso-mammals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)646-656
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Colinus virginianus
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • nest
  • northern bobwhite
  • population
  • predation
  • predator control
  • reproduction
  • survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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